Line Honors to Rambler in Fast Fastnet

George David's Rambler 88 continues its winning streak with line honors in the iconic offshore race.

2019 Rolex Fastnet Race
George David's Rambler 88 starts the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race.Paul Wyeth/RORC

Rambler 88 won monohull line honors this morning, after crossing the Plymouth finish line at 09:55:02. American Owner George David and his all-star crew were delighted to have beaten their rivals on the 100-footer SHK Scallywag to the punch.

For a while it looked like breaking the outright monohull race record was on the cards, especially after Rambler 88 set a new record from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock, George David beating his own record by 88 minutes, which he set on Rambler 100 in 2011. The race back across the Celtic Sea towards the Scilly Isles was also very quick with straight-line sailing at speeds of around 20 knots. But it was the final run into Plymouth from the Scillies that put paid to any race record hopes. In the end, Rambler 88 finished in a time of 1d 19h 55m 2s, 1 hour and 16 minutes off the record set by the Volvo Open 70 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in 2011.

Not that George David was complaining. This was his fifth assault on the Rolex Fastnet Race and he has succeeded in repeating his line honors victory from two years ago. "We're delighted to have that outcome. It was a contest this year because we had the big hundred-footer Scallywag and they had some, should we say, strong statements ahead of the race about how good they were! And so we were especially motivated to get here 10 or 12 miles ahead of them, which we did. And we were in heavy competition right from the start."

Rambler 88 crew
George David and team on Rambler 88 - Rodney Ardern, Scott Beavis, Curtis Blewett, Brad Butterworth, Antonio Cuervas Mons, Rodney Daniel, Simon Daubney, Jan Dekker, Brian Giorgio, Jerry Kirby, Tony Langley, Will McCarthy, Mark Newbrook, Dean Phipps, Aaron Reynolds-lovegrove, Julian Salter, Joca Signorini, Peter van Niekerk, Stuart Wilson.Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Passing the Rock was an emotional moment for David, with Rambler 88 encountering very similar, rough conditions that had befallen the ill-fated Rambler 100 there eight years ago. As the boat reached the Rock this time, David had no idea that he'd just set a new record to the Fastnet lighthouse. "I had some other things on my mind - from 2011 when we were up there in comparable conditions, 25-30 knots in really lumpy seas a few miles west of the Rock. The keel came off, the boat rolled over and that was the end of that. So we have some special memories. At least I did personally.

"My wife Wendy wasn't on the boat this time. She was in 2011 and she and I spent three hours in the Celtic Sea courtesy of that little issue. Baltimore lifeboat was there yesterday, to meet and greet and wave and say hello. We know those people pretty well. We've been back to Baltimore four or five times since." David paid tribute to everyone who helped in that rescue operation and remains grateful to this day for an outcome that could have been a lot, lot worse.

Once past the Fastnet, the New Yorker's mind turned towards the possibility of breaking the race record. It was looking good until the final run in from the Scillies. "Our route plan at the rock was we would finish at six or seven this morning, which would have been ahead of the record. The problem was we turned the corner at the Scillies and came down the Channel and it was VMG the whole way. So we sailed probably an extra 40 or 50 miles. And that extra distance sailed added maybe another two or three hours on to our time."

Rambler 88's navigator, Jules Salter, had just completed his 14th consecutive Fastnet Race but said this was one of the best. "That was a great run on board a fantastic boat with a really good bunch of guys. It would have been great to have beaten the record, but at least I've still got the record because I was on board Abu Dhabi in 2011. We'll have to come back for another go."

SHK Scallywag
SHK Scallywag, Seng Huang Lee's Maxi Dovell rounding the Rock in the early hours of the morningKurt Arrigo/Rolex© Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

SHK Scallywag finished just 27 minutes after Rambler 88. "It was a very close, exciting race," said owner Seng Huang Lee. "We had a little bit of everything - fine weather, rough sea and a squall just before we rounded the Rock. But these were the conditions that Rambler was designed for, so congratulations to them."