While the Judel-Vrolijk 115 Nikata will be the largest yacht competing among the 350 or so yachts starting the Rolex Fastnet Race on Sunday 6 August, the battle for line honours glory looks set to be between two titans of the grand prix racing world.
Finnish Whitbread Round the World Race legend Ludde Ingvall returns having previously put in one of the most exceptional performances in the 92 year history of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s flagship event.
Firstly in 1985, the same year Simon le Bon’s Drum famously capsized, Ingvall raced on the Whitbread maxi Atlantic Privateer when it won her class. But the race which has gone down in history was a decade later, when he skippered Nicorette, the former 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race maxi Charles Jourdan but much modified, to line honours, finishing a massive 24 hours ahead of the next boat. But significantly that year Nicorette not only claimed line honours but victory on handicap as well.
That race, 22 years ago, was the last occasion someone won the Rolex Fastnet Race line honours and handicap ‘double’.
This time Sydney-based Ingvall is back with another weapon, and again one which is heavily modified. CQS was originally built in 2004 as the 90ft canting keel Simonis Voogd-design Nicorette aboard which Ingvall claimed line honours in that year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart.
During 2016, this boat underwent major surgery extending her to 100ft by fitting a new bow. Small wings were added at deck level to widen her shroud base to accept a larger, more powerful rig and she was also fitted with retracting lateral Dynamic Stability Systems foils to provide lift to leeward.
Since competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race, CQS has arrived in Europe and, weekend before last, set a new course record in Sweden’s AF Offshore Race (Round Gotland), breaking the existing record which Ingvall had established on his previous Nicorette.
CQS will face stiff competition from American George David’s Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed Rambler 88. She may have a shorter waterline but in her long career racing Jim Clark’s 100ft Comanche, this has seemed to have made little difference: In the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race, Rambler 88 crossed the finish line just four and a half minutes behind Comanche.
According to tactician Brad Butterworth, their fight with CQS is likely to come down to the weather. “If there is any breeze it will make a big difference as to who wins across the line. If there are any powered up situations then Rambler will do pretty well, but if it is light airs running or even upwind, it will be a struggle. The modern maxis like Comanche and Rambler have huge wetted surface so when they are not heeled you are carrying a lot of viscous drag around with you.”
The Rolex Fastnet Race starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes at 1100 on Sunday 6th August.