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Leading pair round Fastnet Rock in yachting classic

Groupama Sailing Team skippered by Franck Cammas from France approaches The Needles during the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Groupama Sailing Team skippered by Franck Cammas from France approaches The Needles during the Rolex Fastnet Race.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Leading trimarans round Fastnet Rock in yachting's classic Fastnet Race
  • Loick Peyron's Maxi Banque Populaire was leading battle for line honors
  • Record 314 starters for the 608-nautical mile offshore classic
  • 15 competitors died in 1979 race as fleet hit by vicious storm
RELATED TOPICS
  • Yachting
  • Dee Caffari
  • Plymouth

(CNN) -- A pair of giant trimarans are battling for line honors in the Rolex Fastnet Race, one of yachting's classic offshore races.

Loick Peyron's Maxi Banque Populaire was leading fellow French entry, the Seb Josse-skippered Gitana 11, by eight nautical miles as they rounded Fastnet Rock off south-west Ireland and headed for the finish in Plymouth in south-west England.

Maxi Banque Populaire is considered the world's fastest offshore boat with massive 140-foot long hulls, much bigger than the 77-feet of Gitana 11, so the relatively small gap between the two was a surprise.

At Fastnet rock, which was reached early on Monday morning, there is approximately 250 miles to the finish.

The two leaders were being tracked by trimarans Veolia Environnement of France and Switzerland's Race for Water, which has round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari as a key crew member.

A record fleet of 314 starters set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight Sunday, battling it out for overall and handicap honors in their various classes.

Rolex Fastnet Race official website

Peyron and his team reached The Needles within an hour, sailing at speeds of over 20 knots.

It is the largest fleet since the 303 in the ill-fated 1979 race when the competitors were caught up in a vicious storm and 15 died.

Restrictions on the size of the fleet were introduced in the wake of that tragedy.

The Fastnet Race is the Royal Ocean Racing Club's flagship event and held every two years.

The 608-mile course goes along the south coast of England, across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock before returning around the Scilly Isles to the finish in Plymouth.

The race record of 44 hours 18 minutes is held by Mike Slade's Icap Leopard 3, set in 2007.