Banque Populaire sets record pace

AS the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet breathed a collective sigh of relief that a tragedy was averted in the Rambler 100 capsize incident, progress continued unabated in the 608-mile race that started on Sunday.

First to round the famous lighthouse off the West Cork coast yesterday morning was Loick Peyron’s Banque Populaire in starkly different conditions to those experience by the 21 rescued sailors ten hours later.

Peyron’s giant 130-foot trimaran emerged from the drizzle and gloom in winds of less than ten knots. Minutes later, the smaller Gitana 11 skippered by Seb Josse chased the leader around the rock: both were sailing at speeds close to 20 knots.

However, as the wind freed off for the leader, the boat speed on ‘Bank Pop’ rose steadily to peak at 36 knots on the sprint southwards to Land’s End and around to the finish at Plymouth.

The French G-class now has an unconfirmed outright course record of one day, eight hours and 48 minutes set at an average speed of 18.5 knots. Ironically, Rambler was ahead of the record time for a monohull yacht and had been expected to claim a new record.

Speculation now rests on the yachts keel falling off leading to the 100-footer capsizing suddenly.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the record 318-strong starting fleet had reached Land’s End off Cornwall and were beginning their stage north-westwards to the Fastnet in fresh southerly winds that are set to remain favourable and turn westerly tomorrow for their return leg to the finish.

Crossing the path of the Fastnet Race is the 46-strong group of single-handed sailors contesting La Solitaire du Figaro that departed Dun Laoghaire on Sunday morning. A French naval vessel is co-ordinating the fleet as it transits the busy shipping-lane that has been swollen by the 318-starters from the Fastnet Race.

Adrian Lee on Irish entry Lee Overlay Partners, a canting-keel Cookson 50-footer, was in regular contact with the French vessel at it chased its larger rivals in the small turnout of canting-keel boats competing under IRC handicap.

The last record fleet for this 86-year old race was in 1979 when a storm claimed the lives of 15 sailors on the Irish Sea.

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