China’s Dongfeng Race Team edged out MAPFRE by just 56 seconds in a Rolex Fastnet Race thriller in the early hours of Wednesday, as an intense night of lead changes and fickle winds ended with the entire fleet separated by less than 40 minutes after more than 600 miles of racing.
The second stage of Leg Zero qualifying is the Rolex Fastnet Race, starting on Sunday (6 August), and it will present a very different challenge to the Volvo Ocean Race fleet – as well as an early chance for the chasing pack to show they can match early pacesetters MAPFRE.
Second-guessing the winner under IRC among the 340 boats competing in August's Rolex Fastnet Race is tough. The outcome of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event will depend on the weather: A brisk start should favour the big boats; a light start and lively finish the smaller ones, but it is not simple given the race's complexity with headlands and tidal gates to negotiate, shipping and Traffic Separation Schemes to avoid, the mix of coastal and oceanic sailing, amid the largest fleet of any offshore race in the world.
August's Rolex Fastnet Race remains on track for a record-sized fleet. Currently 390 boats are entered: 338 competing for the main IRC handicap prize; the remainder racing for their own trophies in the Class40, IMOCA 60, Volvo Ocean 65 and Multihull grand prix classes.