Rolex Fastnet Race News

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Day Three: British Soldier leads IRC Three into the Celtic Sea

Denis Murphy's Grand Soleil 40, sailing in IRC Three © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Denis Murphy's Grand Soleil 40, sailing in IRC Three © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

1200 BST Tuesday 10 August

At midday on the third day of the Rolex Fastnet Race, about half of the IRC Three fleet has left the Isles of Scilly to port to race through the Celtic Sea towards the Fastnet Rock.

The Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier, leads the class on the water, just under two miles ahead of Louis-Marie Dussere’s JPK 10.80 Raging Bee². Philippe Girardin’s J/120 Hey Jude is third. The leaders are still beating, but the wind has abated to about ten knots. It must feel almost serene after the pounding taken over the first two days.

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Day Three: Handbrake turns at the Rock for IRC Zero

Lady First 3, Mylius 60 sailed by Jean Pierre Dreau © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Lady First 3, Mylius 60 sailed by Jean Pierre Dreau © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

1200 BST Tuesday 10 August

The Fastnet Rock has seen a flurry of IRC Zero competitors doing the big handbrake turn this morning along with a bunch of IMOCAs. 

I Love Poland continues to set the pace in IRC Zero, Grzegorz Baranowski’s Volvo Open 70 now holding a six-hour advantage over second placed.

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Slow boats past the Scillies

Thomas Coville’s Sodebo Ultim 3 finished the Rolex Fastnet Race in Cherbourg on Tuesday morning (10 August), completing the 695nm course in 1d 20h 16m 36s © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex Thomas Coville’s Sodebo Ultim 3 finished the Rolex Fastnet Race in Cherbourg on Tuesday morning (10 August), completing the 695nm course in 1d 20h 16m 36s © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Ironic after Sunday’s brutal start, less than 48 hours in and across the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet competitors have been struggling in light winds, especially around the Traffic Separation Scheme between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles and, for those right at the front of the fleet, off Cherbourg.

Since last night’s arrival of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, to a tumultuous reception from the assembled crowds in Cherbourg’s Port Chantereyne, this morning two more Ultime maxi-trimarans have finished with Yves le Blevec’s Actual arriving in an elapsed time of 1d 18h 41m 22s, followed by Thomas Coville’s Sodebo Ultim 3 in 1d 20h 16m 36s.

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Day Three: Sunrise v The Crow in IRC Two

Astrid de Vin's Il Corvo, the name means 'The Crow' in Spanish. © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Astrid de Vin's Il Corvo, the name means 'The Crow' in Spanish. © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

0700 BST Tuesday 10 August

IRC Two is living up to expectations of being a close battle between the JPK 11.80s, a design that has proven highly potent in previous editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race. More surprising is the fact that the French teams are trailing their JPK 11.80 rivals from Great Britain and the Netherlands.

Currently heading the IRC Two standings on corrected time is Tom Kneen’s Sunrise which is engaged in an upwind duel with Astrid de Vin's Il Corvo [Spanish for ‘The Crow’] to the Fastnet Rock, with the British boat six miles ahead of the Dutch and about two hours in front on corrected time.

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Day Three: Raphael leads IRC Four at Land's End

Francois Charles’ Dehler 36 Sun Hill 3 racing in IRC Four ©Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com Francois Charles’ Dehler 36 Sun Hill 3 racing in IRC Four © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

0700 BST 10 August

By the morning of the third day of the Rolex Fastnet Race all of the boats still racing in IRC Four had passed Lyme Bay. The leaders on the water have made Land’s End and are readying themselves to pass the Isles of Scilly and into the Celtic Sea. Ludovic Menahes & David le Goff, racing JPK 10.10 Raphael are still leading on the water; an admirable achievement for one of the smallest boats in the race as well as sailing doublehanded. Harry Heijst’s S&S 41 Winsome has recorded the best 24-hour run in the class and is second on the water having skirted close to the exclusion zone overnight.

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Maxi Edmond de Rothschild establishes new Rolex Fastnet Race record

The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crew celebrate their latest victory. © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crew celebrate their latest victory. © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

The extraordinary 32m long Ultime Maxi Edmond de Rothschild showed a clean pair of heels to the rest of the fleet in the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race arriving this evening (Monday 9 August) at 20:24:54 BST, setting a new record for the race’s new longer 695 mile course to Cherbourg of 1 days 9 hours 15 minutes and 54 seconds.

As the huge blue and white trimaran arrived in Cherbourg’s Port Chantereyne, the marina was packed with cheering fans of the team and of its famous crew of six led by co-skippers Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier. Also on board were David Boileau, Erwan Israel, Morgan Lagraviere and Yann Riou.

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Skorpios fends off Apivia to be first monohull to the Rock

Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev’s brand new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios became the first monohull to round southwest Ireland’s most famous rock this evening © James Tomlinson Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev’s brand new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios became the first monohull to round southwest Ireland’s most famous rock this evening © James Tomlinson

Almost 10 hours after the lead Ultime trimaran, Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev’s brand new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios became the first monohull to round southwest Ireland’s most famous rock this evening. Due to this year’s mostly upwind conditions being more ‘typically Rolex Fastnet Race’, even the massively fast Skorpios, was unable to better the record monohull time to the Fastnet Rock of 26 hours 45 minutes 47 seconds, set in 2019 by George David’s Rambler 88. Skorpios’ time was 30 hours 38 minutes 43 seconds.

Skorpios rounded just astern of the final Ultime trimaran, the Jacek Siwek-skippered elongated ORMA 60, Ultim’emotion 2, but of more concern was a boat less than half her length nipping at her heels. Although racing outside of the IRC fleet, Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat on the 60ft IMOCA Apivia have done a phenomenal job leading the IMOCA fleet since they charged out of the blustery Solent 24 hours ago. Approaching the Fastnet Rock, the talented Frenchmen, both past class winners in this event, were leading the IMOCA class, 35 miles ahead of second placed Charal, the defending IMOCA champion, sailed by Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt. 

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Day Two: French retirements open up the competition in IRC One

Rob Bottomley's MAT12 Sailplane is second on the water to Matador. © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Rob Bottomley's MAT12 Sailplane is second on the water to Matador. © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

1800 BST Monday 09 August

The demise of some of the leading contenders in IRC One has thrown the division wide open. As the bulk of this fleet passed the Lizard and closes in on the Land’s End TSS, on corrected time Matador and Sailplane were neck and neck with barely a minute between them. 

On the water, Jonas Grander’s Elliot 44 CR, Matador, is 25 miles in front of Rob Bottomley’s Mat 12, Sailplane, with the Swedish team having already passed Land’s End and moving up the northerly side of the TSS zone, just two miles behind INO XXX, the IRC One frontrunner in terms of distance to the finish. Twice winner of "Offshore sailor of the year" in Sweden, Matador’s crew has competed in several editions of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, RORC Caribbean 600 and two Rolex Fastnet Races. So it’s no surprise to see the Swedes near the front in such a challenging first 24 hours at sea.

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Day Two: Pole Position for Baranowski in Big Boat Bonanza

I Love Poland has had an excellent start to the race, currently leading IRC Overall. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com I Love Poland has had an excellent start to the race, currently leading IRC Overall. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

1630 BST Monday 09 August

Just over 24 hours into the race and the heavy weather has made it a big boat bonanza in the race out to the Rock. The Volvo Open 70, I Love Poland, holds the lead in IRC Zero by just over three hours on corrected time. Grzegorz Baranowski’s Polish crew, the line honours winner from the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race, is also at the head of IRC Overall. 

The VO70 may be more than 70 nautical miles behind Skorpios on the water, but in terms of corrected time the Poles are doing well on the long port fetch out to the Fastnet Rock, considering the lack of waterline length compared with the two boats ahead of her. Rambler 88 is second overall under IRC, more than four hours ahead of her giant rival for line honours, the ClubSwan 125 Skorpios. Also vying for the top three in IRC Zero is Germany boat Varuna, Jen’s Kellinghusen’s Ker 56. 

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Day two: Gruelling First 24 Hours for IRC 3 and 4

Leon and Swell cross swords. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Leon and Swell cross swords. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

BST 1000 09 August

IRC Three

73 teams started the Rolex Fastnet Race in IRC Three. However, the feisty conditions have resulted in 14 boats retiring or discontinuing racing. After beating in close quarters in the Solent, the fleet braced themselves for even bigger conditions across Poole Bay. The first big headland of the race was Portland Bill, and there was a split decision in strategy to round the landmark. Alexis Loison & Guillaume Pirouelle, racing JPK 1030 Léon, led the boats on the water inshore at Portland. Offshore, a pack of three boats led the contingent: Philippe Girardin’s J/120 Hey Jude, Denis Murphy & Annamarie Fegan’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo and the Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 British Soldier, skippered by Philip Caswell.

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Ultimes round the Rock as the majority tackle Start Point

Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was first round the Fastnet Rock at 0800 BST in the Rolex Fastnet Race © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was first round the Fastnet Rock at 0800 BST in the Rolex Fastnet Race © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Despite a blustery start and first night at sea in the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race, competitors have been making good progress west down the English Channel, with the bulk of the fleet at breakfast time this morning south of Start Point.

Since yesterday’s dramatic, brutal departure from the Solent for the 337 entries in 25+ knot southwesterly headwinds and violent wind against tide seas, overnight the wind has slowly eased. It is still gusting to the early 20s, especially around headlands, but is dropping the further west the competitors sail, with 15-20 knots off the Lizard and 13-15 off Land’s End.

While the majority of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is still toughing it out in the Channel, at 0800 BST this morning Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was the first Ultime to reach the Fastnet Rock. While not a record time – in 2019 she led around the Rock at 0633, less than two minutes ahead of Francois Gabart’s MACIF – her time of just 20 hours 50 minutes is almost three hours slower, but nonetheless highly impressive given that this time the boats have been upwind down the Channel and then fetching across the Celtic Sea. This time is also not as close with Thomas Coville’s second placed Sodebo Ultim Voile some 43 miles astern of her.

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Lumpy Solent takes its toll as 49th Rolex Fastnet Race sets sail

A fleet of 337 boats leave the Solent, bound for the Fastnet Rock in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex A fleet of 337 boats leave the Solent, bound for the Fastnet Rock in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
The Rolex Fastnet Race has a reputation for the severe weather that it can throw at its competitors. Still strongly remembered is the 1979 race that cost 19 lives. Today the 49th edition of the 96-year-old offshore racing classic lived up to its fame as the first of seven starts got underway at 15 minute intervals starting at 1100 BST. Over the last three days strong southwesterly winds have been blowing up the Channel and competitors in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event were treated to these same headwinds gusting into the 30s and, as the tide turned off the Needles and in the western Solent, a building wind-against-tide sea state developed.
 
COVID, international travel restrictions due to COVID, plus Brexit have resulted in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race being a unique affair. This along with a lively forecast for the race’s first 24 hours caused entries to drop as start day approached. Nonetheless crossing line today off Cowes was still a highly impressive turn-out of 337 boats from 24 nations including Japan, Mexico and eight from the USA, but the majority from Europe, including the largest ever turn-out from France.
 
Despite winds gusting to 35 knots, the starts got away well. Among the multihulls, it was the favourites and defending champions, Volvo Ocean Race winners Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier on the Ultime trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild that pulled the trigger most rapidly. They were followed by Thomas Coville’s Sodebo Ultim 3 and the Yves le Blevec-skippered Actual, but with the two MOD70s Maserati and Argo of Giovanni Soldini and Jason Carroll respectively, leading the charge in the MOCRA fleet. Incredibly just three hours after starting the Ultimes had already crossed the Channel and were putting in a tack to the west of Cape de la Hague, setting themselves up unusually to pass south of the Casquets TSS.

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One day to go

The international flotilla has been slowly leaving Cherbourg and other ports on the continent ready to arrive off Cowes prior to the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race © RORC The international flotilla has been slowly leaving Cherbourg and other ports on the continent ready to arrive off Cowes prior to the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race © RORC

Like a trial run for tomorrow’s start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, today the Solent has been in blustery mood with an overcast sky, rain and perpetual gusty winds. The forecast for the start of the 49th edition of the world’s largest offshore race remains for winds of 20-25 knots with gusts into the 30s, although the rain is set to subside.

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Big or a small boat race?

The Sun Fast 3200 Cora was top British boat in IRC Four in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Rick Tomlinson The Sun Fast 3200 Cora was top British boat in IRC Four in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Rick Tomlinson

The start of the Rolex Fastnet Race will take place from the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes on Sunday, with a first warning signal for the multihull classes at 1100, followed at 15 minute intervals by the IMOCAs/Class40s, and then the five IRC classes starting with IRC Four and finishing with IRC Zero at 1230.

The largest offshore race in the world, the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet represents a complete pantheon of almost 350 yachts, ranging from giant Ultime trimarans and brand new 125ft monohulls, down to 30 footers. Usually, 48 hours out from the start of this race the weather forecast provides some indication of whether it will favour a particular part of the fleet, such as the fastest or slowest boats. Sadly, due to a complex, volatile weather scenario over the southwest United Kingdom, the forecast remains uncertain, and predicting if any part of the fleet could be favoured is far from easy.

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