Rolex Fastnet Race 2019

Wind direction as much as strength defined the 48th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race.

A rare southeasterly for start day, which held through most of the first night, saw competitors sailing a straight line down the western Solent and out into the Channel.

When the new breeze filled in from the southwest, it never veered much further right than due west making for a tight reach across the Celtic Sea. This was anything but the typical ‘300 mile beat to the Fastnet Rock’ but made for a fast race with records tumbling from the Ultims to the Sigma 38s.

It also confirmed the Rolex Fastnet Race’s position as the world’s largest offshore race with 388 starters, setting a new record, up from the 362 of 2017.

As usual the race was a magnificent showcase of the complete range of offshore racing hardware, from French state of the art racers like the Ultims, IMOCA 60s and Class40s, to the bulk of entries in the huge IRC fleet, competing for the race’s top prize - the Fastnet Challenge Cup. These ranged from the world’s leading maxis, to top pro-am teams, to family and yacht club or charity or sailing school entries, for many of whom the Rolex Fastnet Race would represent the pinnacle of their sailing careers.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

France galvanised its reputation as the world’s greatest offshore racing nation by dominating the results across the majority of the classes in the Rolex Fastnet Race for a third consecutive occasion. Of the 11 main prizes, French boats failed to win just three, and of these one (Dongfeng Race Team) was raced by a largely French crew.

The Royal Ocean Racing’s biennial flagship event this year attracted another record-sized fleet of 362 boats, six more than 2015. It continues to be the world’s largest offshore yacht race, and also the most popular – when registration opened, the IRC fleet’s maximum limit of 340 boats was reached in just 4 minutes and 24 seconds!

As ever the course took the giant fleet west down the English Channel, either side of the prohibited ‘traffic separation scheme’ zone between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles, across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock, four miles off southwest Ireland, back south leaving Bishop Rock and the Scilly Isles to port and then, on past the Lizard, to the finish off Plymouth – in total 605 nautical miles.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2013

L-R: The RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen congratulates IRC Overall winners of the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race, Alexis and Pascal Loison. Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo L-R: The RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen congratulates IRC Overall winners of the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race, Alexis and Pascal Loison. Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

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.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2011

The fleet docked in Sutton Harbour Marina. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi The fleet docked in Sutton Harbour Marina. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

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.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2009

Trophies at the Prizegiving of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race Trophies at the Prizegiving of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race

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.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2007

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 English Channel. Of the starting fleet, less than a quarter finished the race.

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.

Rolex Fastnet Race 2005

In a series of seven starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron, staggered at intervals of 20 minutes, the 283-boat fleet got away in sparkling conditions - blazing sunshine but with a little less wind than most would have wanted. Nevertheless, the strong current was soon working in the fleets favour and propelling the fleet out of the Solent.

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.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2003

The 245 strong fleet, split into seven classes, started in a 12 knot Easterly winds and a building West going tide in the Solent. These conditions resulted in a downwind start, the entire fleet setting spinnakers for the run West down the Solent.

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.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2001

The 2001 Rolex Fastnet attracted 229 yachts from over 9 countries to take part, including several world famous yachts including Giovanni Agnelli's Frers One-off Stealth and Ludde Ingvall's Nicorette.

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.

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