While the Rolex Fastnet Race's top prize is the Fastnet Challenge Cup and Rolex chronometer for the first of the 302 boats competing under IRC Rating, another significant battle will be between the most high profile monohulls and multihulls, gunning for line honours into Plymouth.
Leading the charge among this year's record breaking entry (currently standing at 350 in total) will be two of the world's fastest offshore racing monohulls, the maxis Esimit Europa 2 and Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard. Of these the European-flagged Esimit Europa 2 is the clear favourite: Both boats are fitted with canting keels and are 100ft long, but she is some 40% lighter than ICAP Leopard.
However Esimit Europa 2's skipper, German three time Olympic medallist Jochen Schümann, observes that the 100ft maxis don't have the greatest record on this course. Rambler 100 broke her keel and capsized just after rounding the Fastnet Rock in 2011 while, in her previous life as Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo, Esimit Europa 2 was forced to pull out while leading the 2007 race.
"We are unbeatable unless we break the boat," admits Schümann, adding that Esimit Europa 2's ideal conditions are light to medium. "From 12-14 knots we are fully loaded and then we start reefing and slowing down the boat. In more wind than that the VO70s could be faster reaching or downwind than we are. In heavy breeze, it will be a really tough competition."
Schümann competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race during the 1990s aboard the ILC40 Aerosail and on the IMS50 Rubin XV. He is a big fan of the event: "350 boats - it is great. It shows what sailing can provide from racing to cruising, big boats to smaller boats. Only the very best boats and crews can win, but it is good to have such a strong competition in terms of numbers."