Choppers scramble for dramatic Fastnet Race rescue


In a major rescue operation the crew of 21 on the biggest boat in the Rolex Fastnet race had to be rescued as the American-owned 100-foot Rambler capsized close to the Fastnet Rock and lighthouse off the south-west tip of Ireland. The Baltimore lifeboat was on the scene, two Sikorsky helicopters scrambled and an Irish naval vessel sent to the scene.

A miserable, cold and wet second night faced the bulk of the 314 starters in the Rolex Fastnet Race as the wind was due to strengthen from the west, the rain was driving down, and the slog to the south-west tip of Ireland, before turning for home in Plymouth, offered relief.

But, already round the rock, the French maxi-trimaran Banque Populaire, was romping home, speeding along at up to 36 knots.

Skipper Loick Peyron had flown up to Southampton on Saturday night to join a crew of 12, including helmsman Brian Thompson and navigator Juan Vila. The lucky 13 were primed to set a new record for the 608-mile classic, which started from Cowes on Sunday. The 40 hours and 27 minutes target was set by Peyron on Fujicolor in 1999. He knocked seven hours and 39 minutes off that.

Even in a softening breeze, Peyron said he was travelling at 20 knots. He is due to try and set a new record for sailing round the world non-stop and lift the Jules Verne trophy, starting at the end of October or early November.

But there had also been 12 retirements, including one where a crewman was airlifted off the 38-foot Zanzara with a broken leg and Karl Kwok’s 80-foot Beau Geste was limping back to port citing structural damage.

In a minor case of old age and treachery outwitting youth and talent, the battle between the three Volvo Ocean Race boats swung the way of Mike Sanderson and his Sanya team from China on the 2008-09 Spanish boat Telefonica Blue.

The 2004-05 winner of the Volvo race round the world managed to cut the corner at Land’s End and steal an eight-mile march on the two of the new boats in this year’s race, the French entry Groupama, skippered by Franck Cammas, and the Abu Dhabi boat Azzam, skippered by British double Olympic medallist Ian Walker.