French double-handed pairing Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat on Apivia has convincingly won the IMOCA 60 class in the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race.
Dalin, an anglophile having studied at Southampton University, enjoyed the Rolex Fastnet Race start, seeing old friends as his IMOCA milled around the Solent before the start. Once the gun had gone on Sunday, the foil-born Apivia leapt into action, and compared to her other 60ft IMOCA rivals looked like an 80 footer.
Part of this was down to development work since the solo round the world race: “We have new foils and some new sails. You have to keep these boats evolving to stay at the top of your game,” Dalin explained. Passing the Needles, sailing upwind so fast they were flying, Apivia had already pulled out a two mile lead in the IMOCA class.
While the Ultims led the charge south across the Channel, Apivia led the IMOCAs but went even further towards France before tacking. This was because, uniquely, they managed to link up a series of benefits – positive tide at the Alderney Race, then a wind shift and then more positive tide off Brehat.
“There was a very small window to get the combination exactly right. Our timing was perfect,” said Dalin. Their tack north was timed so that not only did they lay the west side of the TSS at Land’s End, but could stay on course to lay the Fastnet Rock.
Amazingly, at the TSS Apivia converged with the ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, a boat more than twice her length. The two boats then match raced across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock, Apivia doing an impressive job to keep up. “That was good,” said Dalin. “It was a shame because if the wind had been maybe 15° left and 2-3 knots more we would have overtaken them for sure. At 60° TWA we were faster.” Such are the performance gains of the new generation foilers.
However this was not to last. After rounding the Fastnet Rock 49 minutes astern of Skorpios and cracking sheets, the big boat sped away. The remainder of the race for Apivia was a complex case of playing tides and staying in the best breeze. This involved initially hugging the Cornish coast before ducking south of the Casquets TSS.
The trickiness of the situation in the Channel, from Bishop Rock on, was best demonstrated by the boats astern. When second placed IMOCA Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt on Charal passed Bishop Rock at 1340 BST yesterday they held a 125 mile advantage over 10th placed HUGO BOSS. By 0500 this morning huge compression in the fleet had occurred and HUGO BOSS had closed to 28 miles of them.
Dalin and Meilhat finished at 0416 local time in Cherbourg today in a total elapsed time of two days, 16 hours, 51 minutes. Over six hours later Jeremie Beyou and Christopher Pratt brought Charal home in second place, narrowly edging out 11th Hour Racing Team’s Simon Fisher and Justine Mettraux by just 27 seconds.