Round the island record broken during Cowes Week


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The Independent Online

There are no speeding tickets awaiting racing yachts on the south side of the Isle of Wight but, if there were, the traffic cops would have had a field day as two of the new ocean greyhounds which are MOD 70 trimarans both smashed the old round the island record.

First across the Royal Yacht Squadron line was the French yacht Foncia, skippered by round the world wizard and double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux. He arrived back of Cowes in just 2 hours, 21 mins 25secs, beating the record of 2hr 33 min 55 sec that has stood since 2001 and was set by Steve Fossett in the 125-foot Playstation.

Just one minute and 28 seconds astern and also beating the record but not setting the new one, was the French-skippered Oman Sail Musandam, Sidney Gavignet running the show with the close collaboration of Britain’s Brian Thompson.

Thompson, still recovering from four days in hospital to deal with an arm infection, also featured in other Playstation triumphs but one slow manoeuvre approaching the Needles Lighthouse at the western end of the island let Foncia sneak through and the chase was on.

Both were flying down the back of the island, spray everywhere and green water occasionally hosing the deck with the speedo constantly between 25 and 30 knots.

Turning the corner at the eastern end and negotiating numerous lobster pots the speeds at times increase to 34 knots –well, 33.9 – and the underwater hazard of lobster pots turned into harder hazard of several fleets of boats making their way in the opposite direction as they raced in Aberdeen Asset management Cowes Week.

Some clearly has hearts in their mouths as they saw the two speed machines approaching, others were revelling in the spectacle.

It was a day to remember – well, two hours and 20 minutes – for all on board but the thought of making such hectic progress for days on end, 24 hours a day, as they did recently when making their ocean debut from New York to Brest is a little boggling.

In the Solent they were matched by two Open 60s, Mike Golding’s Gamesa and Joff Brown skippering Artemis, some Olympians and some celebrities to give a new twist to the Artemis Challenge, named after the Scottish-based financial investment institution, not the Swedish inspired America’s Cup challenger.

For the MOD 70s this was, in part, an opportunity to show off a new class which starts its European circuit in Kiel at the end of this month, progressing to Dublin, Cascais, Marseille and Genoa.

And for the winners, Desjoyeaux and Golding individually plus jointly as a team, there were equal shares for charity of a GBP12,000 prize pot, Desjoyeaux designating the Institut Curie, Golding Save the Children.