Ran proves cut above rest in top-class Fastnet field
THE Rambler 100 suffered a spectacular demise in the Fastnet Race, though it's unlikely it would have been in the prizes in a fiercely competitive fleet, even if hadn't crashed out early.
The keel failure, sudden capsize and superb rescue by the sailors of West Cork catapulted George David's 100ft racing machine into the headlines, and for sure, if everything had held together the big boat might well have taken line honours and established the new monohull course record.
But such was the quality of the fleet, whose results are still being analysed in Plymouth, that the Rambler would probably have been eclipsed by the competitors who got everything right to take the coveted corrected time wins.
Even among the 100-footers, Rambler had taken a while to get fully into her stride.
Rounding the Fastnet in those horribly foggy conditions on Monday evening, Rambler was leading on the water, but Mike Slade's Leopard -- sailing her last Fastnet before being converted to a cruiser -- was invisible in the murk only 35 minutes astern, which gave Slade the edge on handicap by nearly an hour.
It was an extremely fast race, with the developing wind conditions favouring big boats.
With Rambler crashing out, the veteran Leopard was being outpaced by the two leading Volvo 70s on the water, and by a very hot 72-footer -- Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom's Judel Vrolik-designed Ran.
Ran was the overall winner of the 2009 race, and emerged as the overall winner again this year thanks to excellent tactics and a brilliant performance.
They were less than three hours astern of Leopard at the Fastnet, which corrected into a clear three-hour overall lead on the entire fleet. At the rock, Leopard was second and Piet Vroon's Round Ireland 2010 winner Tonnerre de Breskens was third. There were three Volvo 70s in the race as a separate class.
Franck Cammas' Groupama (head crew Damian Foxall) was leading former Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi (bow-man Justin Slattery) by five minutes, but at the finish it was Abu Dhabi in the lead by four and a half minutes.
In the real Fastnet Race, however, it was Ran all the way, extending her margin over Leopard to nearly five hours, an extraordinary lead.
The Slade boat maintained her second overall slot, while the American Reichel-Pugh 65 Vanquish was third.
It wasn't a good day for the Irish contingent. Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners -- which as Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain was overall winner in 2007 -- had been 10th overall at the Fastnet, but like Tonnerre de Breskens, which slipped back to 32nd at the finish, the Lee boat's race went pear-shaped and she finished 57th.
The French performed well, as did the Dutch. But perhaps the most notable performance was the American 48-footer Carina. She won the Bermuda Race last year; this year in the Fastnet she placed fifth overall, and won Class 2 by nearly an hour.
Carina first sailed in 1970. To keep a boat like this immaculate and competitive, you'd think owner Rives Potts would need to run a boatyard. Well, he does.