There can only be one

Two of the world’s fastest maxi-monohulls are on track to clash head-to-head in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race.

09 July 2021


A major clash between the world’s fastest maxi-monohulls will take place at August’s Rolex Fastnet Race, facing off for the Erroll Bruce Cup and a Rolex chronometer.

Rambler 88, the line honours winner of 2017 and 2019, is currently ship-bound for the UK with ambitions to snatch a hat-trick. In fact, her American owner George David would ideally make it another kind of triple – overall line and handicap honours plus a race record. Something which he achieved in the 2007 Rolex Middle Sea Race. 

To date, David has only achieved one of these in the Rolex Fastnet Race. “We have never won – the closest being second in IRC overall in the 2007 race,” he says.

“We have had shots at records, twice. In 2011 we were leading the fleet at the Rock and well ahead of Abu Dhabi who set the record that year – until Rambler’s keel fractured and the boat capsized just after rounding the Rock.

“Then in 2019 we broke our own record for first to the Rock by 88 minutes but the breeze on the return veered after Land’s End and we ended essentially downwind to Plymouth.”


In what was a terrifying episode, Rambler 100’s capsize in the 2011 race saw David, his future wife Wendy Touton and three others in the water drifting away from their upturned hull as dusk was settling. Fortunately, all 21 crew were picked up safe.

Rambler 88’s crew this year will be the same as in previous years; led by Brad Butterworth and with a legion of other America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race legends.

“It’s a tough race even in a line honours boat,” David adds.“I admire the hundreds of weekend sailors in 35–45-foot boats who come out for this race every second year. And some take a week to finish.”

David’s ambition to at least score his third line honours title has a major threat this year with a brand new supermaxi, some 37 foot longer than Rambler 88, entered.

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s Skorpios is the first example of a ClubSwan 125, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian and built by Nautor’s Swan. Recently launched, Skorpios, which runs at 42.6-metres long including her bowsprit, will overtake Nilaya as the biggest monohull ever to enter the Rolex Fastnet Race since the 100-foot limit was eased in 2017.

With a beam of 8.75 metres, Skorpios doesn’t have the huge beam to length ratio of Comanche. Her skipper Fernando Echavarri, the Spanish Olympic Tornado gold medallist and former Volvo Ocean Race skipper, describes her as being closer in this respect to the notably slender Reichel-Pugh designed Alfa Romeo.

Other than her size, what else defines the ClubSwan 125 is its appendage package. While the number of her foils is the same as Rambler 88 or a VO70 with twin rudders, a canting keel – albeit with a draft of 7.6 metres – and two foils, the latter being C-shaped. A size that’s conceptually similar to those of the ClubSwan 36. 

These foils don’t make the ClubSwan 125 a flying machine – their role simply being to prevent leeway, maintain righting moment and to reduce displacement – nor do they provide as much lift. But they’re notably less draggy than those fixated to the latest generation IMOCAs.

But whether Skorpios is the fastest monohull ever launched, as her vital statistics suggest she may be, remains to be seen.

“That is a hard one because we are facing things we have never faced before, like understanding how the wind works at very high altitudes [due to the extreme mast height]. This is something that is making us try and understand the potential of the boat,” says Echavarri.

“The numbers are pretty promising,” he adds, on the yacht’s expectation to regularly exceed 30 knots and upwind is as fast as the wind up to 14 knots.

Skorpios is due to arrive in the UK for training from mid-July with the Rolex Fastnet Race will be her first competitive outing.

Whether she or Rambler 88 score the elusive double (line and overall corrected time honours) or triple remain to be seen. The last boat to achieve the former was Ludde Ingvall’s Nicorette in 1995.

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement