For the 2,500 or so competitors in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the sight of the Plymouth Breakwater and lighthouse marks the end of the journey but for the finishing team it is just the start of a job that will go on all week, day and night without a break.
Ken Ryles is the Plymouth Lighthouse skipper, his previous life as an air traffic controller means he and his team have what it takes to successfully ‘land’ the 300 entries in the Rolex Fastnet Race.
“The lighthouse has no facilities and all food, water, loos, etc. have to be transported out.” Explains Ken “It also requires wiring from scratch to facilitate radios, laptops, and gun and sound systems to signal the finish. When set up and all systems checked, the remainder of the team arrive to provide two teams of three covering 24 hours in shifts. There is also a Team Leader endeavouring to oversee the smooth running throughout.
A watch system is in place and within each team, the job is split between the spotter who will first identify boats coming round Penlee Poin who passes this information to the finish line members.
The finish line team member will call the time at the line by pressing a button which initiates the hooter which will indicate to the yacht that she has finished and automatically prints a time in the computer. The third member backs up the finish team member and operates the radio.
Just like waiting for a bus; none for hours then they all come at once!
As conditions break the fleet up into groups, the work rate at the lighthouse varies from light to extremely hectic, but we try to remember the inscription on the front cover of the “Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – DON’T PANIC!
In daytime, the Lighthouse Team operates independently but during the night it is supported by the RWYC launch “Fulmar” which assists in spotting the yachts as they approach the Finish Line.
The aim of the Lighthouse Finish Team is to provide a good professional service to all crews who have participated in the Rolex Fastnet Race. If everything is going smoothly, you hardly know that this dedicated and organised team are even there.