The 46th edition of the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race marked the bicentenary anniversary of the Royal Yacht Squadron, as well as 90 years since the Royal Ocean Racing Club was founded, following the Fastnet's first edition, in 1925. A record 356 yachts raced from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock, and back to Plymouth. Victory went to Géry Trentesaux's 35-foot Courrier du Leon. Rolex partners both yacht clubs, and the race, which it has supported since 2001.
The Rolex Fastnet Race, organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2015, with the 46th edition of this biennial 603-nautical mile offshore classic proving both intriguing and dramatic. A record fleet of 356 yachts from 25 countries competed, a clear demonstration of the event’s enduring appeal. Light conditions characterised the early part of the race, impacting the start from Cowes and the larger yachts chasing record times. Multihull line honours was claimed by the 131-ft Swiss trimaran Spindrift 2 while the 100-ft Maxi Comanche from the United States was the fastest monohull finisher prevailing ahead of fellow American yacht Rambler by a mere 4 minutes. In the latter part of the race the fleet’s smaller, predominantly Corinthian-crewed yachts, benefitted from an upturn in breeze rounding the emblematic Fastnet rock in more classic conditions. Claiming overall victory on IRC handicap was the 35-ft French yacht Courrier du Leon, whose magnificent exploits on the water were rewarded with the Fastnet Challenge Trophy and a Rolex timepiece at the final prizegiving held in Plymouth.
The Rolex Fastnet Race, the event that caused the formation of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, celebrated its 90th birthday in 2015.
How the founding fathers of the club and its flagship event would have been in awe of their creation with 300 boats signing up within just 24 minutes of the entry list opening in January, a record-sized fleet of 356 boats starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron line making the Rolex Fastnet Race by far the largest of the world’s classic 600 mile offshore races, in terms of participation.
It attracts top teams from around the world with boats ranging from Spindrift 2 and Comanche - the world’s fastest offshore racing multihull and monohull respectively - down to Contessa and Dehler 32 cruiser racers with every conceivable flavour of offshore racing yacht in between.
The upper echelons in the fleet are packed with America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race winners plus Olympic and World champions, while the bulk of entries are Corinthian with sailing school and family crews for whom the biennial race from Cowes to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland represents the pinnacle of their sailing season, if not their careers.
From some way out, the forecast for this year’s race was extremely light. In the event, the nine fastest boats made it around in reasonable order before high pressure over the Celtic Sea saw the wind disappear from the race track for 36 hours. This caused multiple park-ups, huge compression in the fleet and several attempts at deep water kedging. These conditions affected all but the smallest in the giant fleet, and continued until Wednesday when the more usual frontal systems resumed rolling through, providing a fast finish especially for the mid-fleet.
True to the forecast, among the multiple starts, that occurred at intervals from 1200-1340 BST on Sunday 16th August, those leaving earliest, including the nimble multihulls, struggled to cross the start line against the last of the flood tide. And when the tide did turn favourable, it proved disastrous for boats that were over early, taking them more than half an hour to turn around and claw their way back to the line to restart successfully.
While, thanks to the ultra-light forecast, pre-start expectations had the Rolex Fastnet Race tailenders arriving sometime in week two, in fact on the morning of day seven of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s 90th anniversary event, just five boats remain at sea. Bringing up the rear, Martin Lossie’s Dehler 32 Picolini was expected to reach Plymouth late this afternoon.
Winner in the Rolex Fastnet Race’s smallest class, IRC 4 was inevitably French, but on this occasion French boats managed to secure only 50% of the top 10 places in this 37 boat class.
For Gerard Quenot and crew, this was the second occasion he had campaigned his JPK 10.10 Alkaid III – Nautistock.com in the Rolex Fastnet Race, finishing fourth in class in 2013.
“We are very happy to win in IRC 4,” said Quenot. “It was very nice with light conditions for the first two days and then the breeze came at the Scillies. The best part for us was between the Scillies and the Fastnet because it was reaching and we got to use our magic sail – the A5.”
A memorable edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race concluded on 21 August. Géry Trentesaux’s JPK 10.80 Courrier du Léon from France has been confirmed as overall winner of the race on IRC handicap prevailing from a record-breaking fleet of 356 international yachts. As winner of the race Trentesaux and his crew received the Rolex Fastnet Challenge Trophy and a coveted Rolex timepiece at the final prizegiving in Plymouth. The 90th anniversary edition of this famous offshore classic will be long remembered for its tactical challenges, the diverse conditions experienced and the quality of the competing yachts and sailors.
Géry Trentesaux and his JPK 10.80 Courrier Du Leon have been confirmed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club as winner of the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race. For this the team will receive the Fastnet Challenge Trophy at tonight’s prizegiving, an event doubling as the 90th anniversary celebrations of the RORC’s flagship offshore race.
In this, the Frenchman’s 13th attempt at the Rolex Fastnet Race since his first in 1977, Trentesaux’s performance was exceptional, beating Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret’s second placed JPK 10.80 sistership, Dream Pearls, by 2 hours 20 minutes. And this was despite being over early at the windless start and taking 40 minutes to restart.
Courrier Du Leon was competing in IRC 3, but managed to beat all of IRC 2 on the water into Plymouth.
Personally Trentesaux is an offshore racing stalwart, who led a French team to victory in the 2006 Commodores’ Cup and was part of France’s winning Admirals’ Cup team in 1991. But he is versatile – he raced singlehanded offshore in the 2006 Route du Rhum and regularly competes inshore in one designs – he currently owns a J/80 and a Diam 24 trimaran.
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.
Gonzalo Botin, campaigning Tales II, a design by his brother Marcellino, returned to the Rolex Fastnet Race and succeeded in making reparations after finishing second Class40 in 2013.
This year’s race was no less intense for the Spanish team, who’s crew was the same as it was two years ago, including round the world sailor Antonio Piris and America’s Cup navigator Nacho Postigo.
The Class40s were once again the biggest of the non-IRC classes with 22 boats entered, the whole fleet peppered with talent and big names.
Cabinet Z of France’s Cedric De Kervenoael led the boats away from the Isle of Wight and pretty much all of the Class40s struggled to make it along the north side of the mid-Channel Casquets Traffic Separation Scheme. Some had to sail backwards to avoid being dragged into it by the tide and this immediately split the fleet in two.
After passing the Casquets it was the radical Forty(1)Design Concise 8 that pulled ahead, Tony Lawson’s boat on this occasion being skippered by young gun Jack Trigger.
Five boats competed this year in the Rolex Fastnet Race’s Figaro class, all sailed by crews that originated from the Artemis Offshore Academy. The AOA seeks to develop shorthanded professional offshore racing sailors in the UK via the Figaro class, in the hope that one day one of them will go on to go one better than Ellen Macarthur did in 2000-1 and do what to date no non-French sailor has done, and win outright the Vendée Globe, the singlehanded non-stop race around the world.
The Beneteau-built Figaro 32ft one designs are very evenly matched and typically race in a pack so it was with some surprise that in this year’s race there was such a stand-out winner.
At the end of a relatively windless overcast drizzly day in Plymouth, that better resembled November than mid-August,the Royal Ocean Racing Club officers are bracing themselves for a busy night in the Rolex Fastnet Race with around 100 boats this afternoon now past the Lizard and currently speeding towards Plymouth.
Meanwhile the class winners are firming up. In the MOCRA Multihull class it is neither Spindrift 2 nor the hotshot MOD70s that are likely to come out on top, but Californian Peter Aschenbrenner and his Irens-Cabaret designed 63ft trimaran Paradox that look set to be presented with the Croda Wave Trophy at the Rolex Fastnet Race prizegiving and 90th anniversary celebrations tomorrow night.
“The race was really interesting, with the drifting start and fun sailing up the Solent and mixing it up with Spindrift 2 and the MOD70s,” recounted Aschenbrenner who sailed the race with a crew of six. His boat differs from those he names as although ostensibly she is a racing multihull, Paradox’s interior contains mod cons, such as a cabin, a refrigerator, running water, even a proper head.
Shortly after exiting the Solent they managed to destroy their Code 0 and stowed it below expecting to relegate it to a skip upon arrival in Plymouth. In fact conditions were such that repairing the sail seemed vital so the aspirant sail makers on board managed to use up their entire sail repair kit - and more – to patch it up.