The History for 2015 is currently writing itself.
336 yachts started the race, eclipsing the record set in 2011. For the first time in its 88 year history, the Rolex Fastnet Race was won by a Two Handed crew. The father and son team of Pascal and Alexis Loison from Cherbourg, France on the JPK 10.10, Night and Day, finished the race in an elapsed time 3 days 18 hours 29 minutes and 57 seconds. After time correction using IRC, Night and Day won the Fastnet Challenge Cup.
The Royal Ocean Racing Club created the first purpose built race village for the event and the winners received a five-minute standing ovation from over one thousands well-wishers at the Prize Giving in Plymouth.
A record 314 starters with high drama and new monohull and multihull records; the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race was one of the most memorable in history.
130-foot trimaran Banque Populaire V, skippered by Loïck Peyron, set a new multihull record for the race of 1 day, 8 hours and 48 minutes (an average speed of 18.5 knots).
Volvo 70 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker, set a new monohull record for the race of 1 day, 18 hours and 35 minutes.
Niklas Zennström's Ran 2 won the Fastnet Challenge Cup Trophy, the race’s first back-to-back winner in more than 50 years. Second on corrected time was Mike Slade's Maxi ICAP Leopard, which the capsized Maxi Rambler 100 had been leading until her sudden overturn at the beginning of the home leg, just around Fastnet Rock. All 21 crew were rescued safely.
The 300-boat entry limit was reached quickly, attracting boats from a wide spread of nations. The bulk came from the UK and France, but there were potent entries from the USA, Hong Kong, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands and others coming from afar afield as Chile and Australia.
Light winds at the start and end, combined with powerful spring tides, made for a tactically challenging race, and one of the longest in recent years. Niklas Zennström's Ran 2 won the Fastnet Trophy for the best corrected time under IRC, completing the course in 63 hours, 1 minute and 33 seconds.
For the first time, RORC set an entry limit of 300 boats. Due to a severe weather warning from the UK Met Office, the start was delayed for a day – the first time in the race’s history. When the forcing numerous retirements, most doing so before leaving the
For those that stayed the course, there was fast sailing indeed: Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard set a new monohull record of 1 day, 20 hours, and 18 mins at an average speed of 13.52 knots. George David’s Rambler also broke the previous record by some 8 hours. The Irish Cookson 50, Chieftain, won overall.
Camera boats and spectator boats followed the fleet all the way to the Needles, with one yacht attracting a disproportionate level of interest. This was the old 1985 Maxi, Arnold Clark Drum, skippered by Simon Le Bon. Exactly 20 years earlier, the lead singer of Duran Duran had set out on this very same race in the very same boat. But he never got to see the Fastnet Rock that year. Battling through storm-force winds near Falmouth, Drum's keel wrenched away from the hull and the Maxi capsized. Le Bon and crew were rescued by the RNLI. Twenty years later, the crew had got back together, this time determined to see that elusive Rock.
Ecover led away the Open 60's, whilst in Super Zero Charles Dunstone's Nokia had the lead start in a class that included the glamour boats, Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo and Robert McNeil's Zephyrus V. Class Zero started with the 2001 winner, Piet Vroon's Tonnerre de Breskens first across the start whilst the majority of the fleet in Classes 1, 2 and 3 had to fight to find space. The multihull start ranged from 40 foot trimarans to Tony Bullimore's 100 catamaran Team Pimsic.
Alfa Romeo rounded the Fastnet Rock on Monday at 00:37 followed an hour later by Zephyrus V. The first multihull, Team Pimsic rounded the Fastnet Rock at 11:25 on Tuesday morning. Consolidating on their breakaway tactics around Portland Bill at the beginning of the race, Jazz followed Tonnerre de Bresken around the Fastnet Rock just 60 minutes later on Tuesday morning, the smaller boat correcting out to lead by more than 2 hours at this point.
The winner of the Fastnet Challenge Cup, for Best Overall in IRC was Piet Vroon from Holland, racing his Lutra 52, Tonnerre de Breskens. Piet took 3 days 02hrs 23mins and 31secs to complete the course, winning it for the first time in 20 attempts.
The excitement of the start was heightened by 28 knots of wind and square beating conditions. A decent breeze prevailed to enable some boats to stay offshore at Portland Bill. However, the fleet split and the front of the fleet experienced totally different weather patterns to the middle and back markers.
Since this time the legendary Fastnet race has gone from strength to strength with improved communications and safety regulations in force, the race is considered a supreme challenge to ocean racing yachtsmen in British waters.
Since 1957 the Fastnet race has been the final race of the Admiral's Cup competition but in 1999, major innovations to the Admiral's Cup led the Management Committee to introduce a number of changes in the race programme. These included re-designing the event as a stand-alone series outside of Skandia Life Cowes Week, limiting the number of professionals on board each boat and incorporating the Wolf Rock Race as the principal offshore race.
The Fastnet race now retains its place in the racing calendar immediately after Skandia Life Cowes Week and is open to all but does not form part of the programme for the Admiral's Cup.
The first race catered for a new breed of yachtsman, the amateur cruising man looking for a challenge, which cruising alone could not satisfy. Typically, he would sail the yacht himself and perhaps only employ a deck hand or two, unlike the pre-war yachtsman who needed up to 30 men to sail his huge racing yacht.
After racing in the 1924 Bermuda race aboard one of the entries, Northern Light, a young Englishman named Weston Martyr was so impressed with the sport that he wrote a letter about it to an English yachting magazine. 'It is,' Martyr wrote, 'without question the very finest sport a man can possibly engage in for to play this game at all it is necessary to possess, in the very highest degree, those hallmarks of a true sportsman: skill, courage and endurance.'