Already a veteran of his third Rolex Fastnet Race, yet Irishman Matt Beecher is still in his early twenties. “When I was younger I read this book about the 1979 Fastnet Race, Left for Dead, and ironically it made me want to do this race. I was 14 years old, I read the book, and I was in awe of the story. I told myself one day I would do the race and somehow I achieved it when I was 19. I did it fully crewed, then did it doublehanded when I was 21 years old and now I’ll be 24 this year and I’ve done it for the third time on Darkwood.”
A last-minute recruit on to Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood, Beecher says this was his toughest race to date.
“The first two days were really tough, really windy, a lot of suffering. I was seasick, four hours with my head in the bucket, but came back into it towards the end.”
However hard it gets, Beecher sees a long line of Rolex Fastnet Races ahead of him.
“Personally it’s my goal to do every Fastnet for as long as possible. I want to do it doublehanded next time, because long term I want to be a shorthanded sailor and to become a professional sailor. My five-year plan is to be in The Ocean Race. Shorter term I want to go and do the Solitaire du Figaro in France, but for now the goal is to do as much racing in the UK offshore series because it’s amazing. There are all kinds of opportunities for youth sailors like me, whether it’s coaching beginners in the class or sailing with the more senior members in the doublehanded class. We train all year to be better at shorthanded sailing.”
Not that Beecher is turning down any opportunity to get on an offshore race boat and he really enjoyed his experience on the six-man J/121.
“It slotted in nicely sailing on Darkwood because the boat runs a three-handed watch system, so it’s good training for shorthanded. But the highlight of the race for me was when we had everyone on deck on the last night, about 22 knots of breeze and we did a gybe at 17 or 18 knots. It was one of those moments where everyone was working perfectly together and it all came together in that one moment. That really put a smile on everyone’s face.”
By Andy Rice