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Jester, Stuart Childerly and Kelvin Rawling's J/105. Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster

Triumphant Jester

54 teams entered the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race racing in the IRC Two-Handed Class from Belgium, France, Great Britain, Holland, Ireland, Monaco and the United States of America and the winner, after over four days and nights of racing, was decided by just 23 seconds, with the top 18 yachts just 5% apart after time correction.

For most of the two handed competitors, food will have been simply fuel, and sleep will have been the ultimate luxury. Racing two handed for 603 nautical miles non-stop, spending most of the time alone on deck is tough. To perform well requires an all-round ability where both crew need to be able to accomplish any task on board. This year's Rolex Fastnet Race proved to be a long hard marathon for the 108 sailors racing in the Two-Handed Class.

The fastest yachts have taken over four days and nights to complete the course and some of the slower yachts are still out there battling against the weather and their fatigue. Tenacity, patience and a will of iron, coupled with expert seamanship and racing prowess is what’s required to take on the Rolex Fastnet Race two handed. Make no mistake, it is an extraordinary challenge.

The 2013 overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race was Pascal and Alexis Loison's JPK 10.10 Night and Day, the first ever two handed overall victory in the 90 year history of the race. Night and Day was back this year to defend their title. During the race the father and son team were very much in the running for the Two-Handed Class, even the dream of the overall win. However, the French champions were defeated by the narrowest of margins by a rookie British team.

Racing two handed in the Rolex Fastnet Race for the first time, Kelvin Rawlings & Stuart Childerley - campaigning the 20-year old J/105 Jester - won by a dramatic 23 seconds after time correction from Night and Day. Antoine Croyere and Joe Lacey's A35, Hey Joe was third. Jester was also fourth overall out of 309 yachts racing under IRC.Stuart Childerley and Kelvin Rawlings with their Class Winner Battle flag at the finish in Plymouth. Photo: RORC/ELWJ Photography

Kelvin Rawlings has competed in the America's Cup, won several Admiral's Cup campaigns and taken part in over 21 Fastnet races, but never two handed. His long-time ride has been with Mike Slade's Longobarda and Leopard, including the record run on the 100ft Maxi in 2007. Turning 65 next year, Kelvin received a proposition from his long time friend, Stuart Childerley, about a new challenge. Stuart, who turns 50 next year, has represented Great Britain twice at the Olympics, coming fourth on both occasions and has also won the International Etchells World Championship twice. Stuart has competed in seven Fastnets including several Admiral's Cups and big boat racing, including Leopard and is still a potent force in the International Etchells class. A poacher turned game keeper, these days Stuart Childerley is an International Race Officer working for the Royal Ocean Racing Club on inshore regattas, including the IRC National Championship and the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.

Kelvin Rawlings: “We were on different sides of the world and Stuart sent me a three word text: ‘Two handed Fastnet?’ I replied – ‘Yes.’ There was absolutely no hesitation at all and everybody thought I was mad. I thought we would do well, but I didn't think we would win it! Two handed is just a challenge and I had done it all in the big boats. In a big team you just do your job; in my case the pit, so I wanted to get back to all-round sailing and be involved in everything from cooking, trimming, helming, navigation and tactics. We looked at chartering a modern boat, but a lot of people in the know kept talking about the J/105, so we just bought one and worked it up. I come from a generation where there was a way forward in yachting; a structure. You learnt to sail, you found your way onto a good boat and committed yourself to a racing programme and you sailed every weekend, offshore and inshore for the ultimate goal; The Admiral's Cup, which was a stepping stone to the America's Cup. This victory is up there with winning the first race in the Challengers' finals in the America's Cup, against Australia II, the eventual winners. It is also up there with winning the 1977 Admiral's Cup with 59 boats on the start line. I have done 10 Sydney Hobarts but this is right up there.”

Stuart Childerley spoke about the logistics of organising the Rolex Fastnet Race:

“The level of detail from risk management, co-ordination of the services at two different locations and much, much more is huge when you are running an event like this. People come from all over the world to do the Fastnet and they prepare for years to take part. It is one of those races that any offshore sailor wants to do. On board Jester we have had good moments in the race and some big knocks, but we always kept fighting. We sensed we were close to victory, AIS has transformed offshore racing because you can identify who the top boats are. We didn't know the full picture but we knew that every second counts. Down to the last 10 miles, we knew we were catching up. We had the light kite up and the wind was increasing, so we made the decision to change to the heavier kite, then the wind speed decreased and we changed back. We put in two sail changes and really nice gybes and we needed to; we could have easily lost it there, but we were absolutely delighted to win. The intensity of those last 10 miles after four days racing was great. This has been a fantastic challenge and you can't live in the past, you can't trade that as a currency, you move on to your next challenge and we will both be looking for one.”

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