Piet Vroon has been racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club since the 1950's and at 81 years young, he is probably the oldest competitor in the race. As skipper of Tonnerre de Breskens, Piet has enjoyed tremendous success. However, the Fastnet Trophy eluded him for nearly half a century before he finally won it in 2001. Since 1955, Piet has only failed to go around the Fastnet Rock on two occasions, once when the yacht was dismasted and secondly to attend his mother's funeral:
"It is a very hard race to win overall," commented Piet. "First of all you have to have a good boat and crew but also you need to have the same wind as everybody else. Often the bigger boats get different weather to the rest, so it makes it much harder to win with a smaller boat. If we all get the same weather, then everybody has a chance. Last time was the first Rolex Fastnet with the new boat and we were second in our class. However, we would like to do better than that this year, we know the boat a lot more, we have better sails and a good crew, so I have high hopes for the race. At my age, I am old enough to be the grandfather of all of the competitors but there comes a time when I have to stop, so I will enjoy this one as if it is my last."
Jean-Yves Chateau will be racing again this year in Class Four. Chateau is one of only three sailors from France that have lifted the Fastnet Trophy, winning with his Nicholson 33, Iromiguy in 2005. The only two previous French winners were the legendary Eric Tabarly (Pen-Duick III - 1969) and Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool-Europe 2 - 1999), the only female skipper to have won the race overall.
Iromiguy's win in 2005 was quite exceptional as it was one of the smallest yachts in the fleet in a race traditionally dominated by big boats. Iromiguy's victory was a dream come true, proof that just occasionally the Corinthian weekend enthusiast can prevail in an unremarkable boat. What is remarkable is that you have to go back to 1975 for the last time that a yacht less than 40 feet long won the offshore classic.
"In 2005 I came to win my class," said Chateau. "But I didn't think it was possible to win the whole race. It was unbelievable, a childhood dream." The St. Malo skipper has owned Iromiguy for nearly 30 years. "Every year I go to the French boat show and I say I must buy a new boat, but every year I find myself sailing this one. The sails are worth more than the boat," he admitted. In any case, the sentimental value to Chateau after her memorable victory must make her priceless.