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Press Releases 2009

Conditions come good for spinnaker start

thumb_11991_3_FSTN09cb_1583Morning dockside rumours of delays and divisions of boats having to kedge on the start line were roundly proven wrong as the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet, as well as spectators along the Cowes shoreline, enjoyed a magnificent, colourful spinnaker start. Thankfully the unfavourable forecast for the start – no wind followed by a south westerly filling in from the west – had not panned out, with instead a welcome 10 knots from the east propelling the 300 strong fleet westwards down the Solent.

First away, punching into the last of the flood tide, were the IMOCA 60s. With their ‘big gear’ unfurled seconds before the start, it was Dee Caffari’s Aviva that made the most positive start towards the pin end. However she was soon overhauled by Seb Josse on BT IMOCA 60 sailing in slightly better breeze on the island side of the course. By the 1430GMT position report, the leading IMOCA 60s were already halfway across Christchurch Bay with Mike Sanderson’s Pindar leading, narrowly ahead of Aviva, BT and Arnaud Boissieres’ Akena Verandas.

With the tide having turned favourable to flush the remaining classes west, it was the small IRC classes that were next up. By the 1430 update they too were out through the Needles, with David Lees’ High Tension 36 Hephzibah leading from the 2005 Rolex Fastnet Race winner Iromiguy, Jean-Yves Chateau’s Nicholson 33 in IRC 3B, just ahead of David Collins’ Swan 43 Cisne, leader in IRC 3A.

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International sailing stars gear up for challenging classic

Torben Grael, Luna Rossa Crew MemberSince it was first run in 1925, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial Rolex Fastnet Race has earned a reputation for being one of the toughest events in the international yacht racing calendar. This has come about from the brutal conditions it can occasionally throw at competitors, as well as the complexity of the race course. Over the 608 mile long course, crews must negotiate tidal gates off the numerous headlands along the English south coast, as well as the open ocean as they cross the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock, 10.8 nautical miles off the coast of southwest Ireland, before returning around the outside (west side) of the Scilly Isles to the finish in Plymouth.

The Rolex Fastnet Race this year has attracted A-list sailors from around the world, and the strongest international line-up of grand prix race yachts amongst the 300 boats setting sail from Cowestomorrow, Sunday 9th August. Peppered throughout the fleet are stars from the America's Cup, plus the Volvo Ocean Race and Vendee Globe round the world races.

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Rolex Fastnet fast approaching

The start of a raceWith just under forty days to the start of the Rolex Fastnet on Sunday, 9 August, the 300 registered crews are hard at work completing their qualification miles and other prerequisites. The 608 nautical-mile offshore classic has a fearsome reputation - not always lived up to - but one which deserves respect by all involved; especially in the year marking the thirtieth anniversary of the saddest chapter in the race's illustrious history.

The fleet is in excellent shape. With participants from sixteen different nations on the start-line, it will be an international gathering of the yacht-racing fraternity. The British and French make up the bulk of the fleet, but entries have been received from Hong Kong, Australia and the USA too, proving the lure of the Rolex Fastnet still crosses the oceans as it did in its earliest days.

The Americans are fielding half-dozen entries, including 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, Rosebud/Team DYT, owned and campaigned by Roger Sturgeon. The STP65 is an out-and-out racing machine with a pro-crew onboard, a far cry from Australia's most famous entry this time around: Alex Whitworth achieved notoriety in the sailing world for undertaking a circumnavigation of the globe with Peter Crozier that coincidentally started with the 2005 Rolex Sydney Hobart and ended at the finish of the 2006 edition of the race, after taking in the 2005 Rolex Fastnet en-route. All this in the tiny, but robust, Brolga 33, Berrimilla, a different proposition to the carbon machine that Sturgeon has at his command, but certainly an indication of the diverse nature of the competing boats.

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A Full House for the Rolex Fastnet Race

Leopard and Rambler approaching the Fastnet Rock. Photo by Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiA sound guide to the success of any yacht race is when the entry limit is exceeded. Once again the Royal Ocean Racing Club has managed this with their biennial flagship event, the Rolex Fastnet Race, where the 300 boat maximum has been comfortably reached.

The make-up of this year's Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is one of the most international ever with entries from 16 countries. While the UK and France comprise the majority, this year the line-up includes boats from as far afield as Australia, with the much-travelled Rolex Sydney Hobart entrant Berrimilla 2, sailed by Alex Whitworth and Peter Crozier, to the Chilean Class 40, Desafio Cabo de Hornos, recently second round the world in the Portimao Global Ocean Race, to Karl Kwok's Beau Geste from Hong Kong. A number of boats are also making the journey all the way to the start in Cowes from the US, such as Roger Sturgeon's Rolex Sydney Hobart-winning STP65 Rosebud/Team DYT, or up from the Mediterranean, such as the Italian America's Cup team Luna Rossa with their STP65 led by four-time Olympic medallist, Robert Scheidt.

The line-up this year is as spectacular, as it is diverse, with a huge spread of boats, from the 100 footers - Mike Slade's line honours hunting ICAP Leopard, and the more comfortable Performance Yachts 100, Liara of Tony Todd - down to the smallest class 3 yachts, the shortest being the Polish 30-footer, Four Winds, belonging to Wieslaw Krupski.

The RORC's IRC handicap system is used to level out the widely differing performances found across this range of boats as best indicated by their IRC time correction factors: Leopard's stands at 1.868, while Tony Harwood's comfortable Nicholson 38 Volante is the lowest rated boat entered with a TCF of 0.863. This means that to beat Volante, Leopard has to sail 2.16 times faster than her or when Leopard crosses the finish line, Volante could still be ahead of her if she were only half way across the Celtic Sea outbound to the Fastnet Rock with more than 325 miles of the 608-mile long race still left to sail.

With such a large fleet, the boats are divided up into classes: SZ, Z, 1, 2 and 3 with a special class SZCK, for the canting keel yachts such as ICAP Leopard and the Open 60s such as Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss. In addition, one of the most competitive classes this year will be the Class 40 of which 20 examples are racing, including Giovanni Soldini's Telecom Italia, winner of last year's Artemis Transat.

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Rolex Fastnet Race set to attract diverse fleet

Monohulls and Multihulls, Maxis and Super-Maxis, Open 60s and Class 40s all prepare to make their mark

Entries are streaming in for the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race; the 608-miler considered one of the world's classic ocean races. The 2007 fleet will start on 12th August from the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes, then race out through the Solent continuing westward down the English Channel to Land's End and then across the Celtic Sea, before rounding the Fastnet Rock off the south-west tip of Ireland and returning to the finish off Plymouth.

The fleet is expected to be both diverse and large, ranging from 100-foot super maxi monohulls to 60-foot multihulls to 35-foot cruiser-racers. And, with interest in offshore racing at a high, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) believes that to ease some of the logistical issues, a cap on entries at 300 boats is a prudent measure. In 2005, the fleet numbered 283 and the RORC race management are optimistic that this figure will be exceeded by close of entries on 27th July.

The bulk of the fleet will race under IRC where the star attraction is likely to be Mike Slade's Farr-designed Leopard 3 due to be launched early summer. Said Slade, "We had a fantastic time with Leopard of London (the old Leopard boat) in the 2003 Rolex Fastnet and it was a great moment to win the Fastnet Rock Trophy (best overall in IRM) in that event. This year, with the new boat, we will be aiming for line honours but it will be a tough race. In light winds we are likely to struggle against some of the other super maxis like Alfa Romeo and Rambler, but given a bit of breeze I think we will be able to get going and show how fast she will be."

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