After completing nine Rolex Fastnet Races, it was only in this year’s 50th edition that Jim Driver at last managed to see the Fastnet Rock, rounding it in the daylight aboard his Sun Fast 3300 Chilli Pepper which he was racing doublehanded with his daughter Ellie.
This is the second Rolex Fastnet Race that Jim and Ellie have sailed doublehanded together, after they finished 16th in a 59-boat fleet in 2019. Comparing this race to the last one, Jim described the start as "being harder this year as it felt windier, but I think we were better prepared for it.
"I feel grateful to have finished the race in one piece. It was probably the toughest Fastnet race I have done out of the nine others. Doublehanded is always tough as there is another dimension added by there being only two of you, but having three fronts come through, and starting in fairly cheeky weather made it extra hard."
Looking back to their start strategy, Ellie emphasised the importance of their goal, which was to get out of the Solent in one piece. This would put them in a position to fight their way back through the fleet when the conditions became calmer.
"I think for us it was just about getting through it; it wasn’t about racing through it. So, we took it very steady, we had two reefs in the main and had no jib up. We were still doing the same boat speed but 5-8° lower than we normally would. But the boat was in one piece by the end, which meant by the time we began racing we weren’t completely shattered, and we were able to pick up with the rest of the fleet."
For Jim, the end of this Fastnet race was the most challenging part.
"The start, you know what you are going to do and you get into it, so you set yourself up for the race”, but sailing through three squalls and a shutdown, he described as “four days of misery!"
Ellie and Jim were welcomed into Cherbourg-en-Contentin by Driver mother Lesley, who had been cheering them along for the entire race. Ellie described their doublehanded campaign as not just being the two of them as it involves “everyone around you as well. It builds up to quite a big team, whether that is the people who help you get the boat ready, help you get your kit ready or just support you from the sidelines on social media. Everyone is as important as each other and we couldn’t do it without all of them.”
By Abby Childerley