Rolex Fastnet Race News

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Rolex Fastnet – more than a race

RORC photographer Paul Wyeth captures teams at the prizegiving as they express their joy after successfully completing the Rolex Fastnet Race - for many it will be their greatest personal challenge © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com RORC photographer Paul Wyeth captures teams at the prizegiving as they express their joy after successfully completing the Rolex Fastnet Race - for many it will be their greatest personal challenge © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

While this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will be highly competitive at the front of the fleet, for many among the record-sized entry of 453 yachts (at present), the objective of tackling the 695 mile course from Cowes to Cherbourg via the legendary rock off southwest Ireland is just to get round successfully. For many, personally, they are taking part to experience the challenge, a lifelong ambition, an adventure, a bonding experience with family and friends, to improve on a previous result or because, this year’s race will be historic, for the first time in its 96 years finishing in Cherbourg. There are many reasons crews will be setting off from the Solent on the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event on 8 August other than to come first. 

Several yachts are entered with crews from the British Armed Forces, competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race for their own trophies – the Inter-Regimental Cup: Best Service Boat under IRC and the Culdrose Trophy for the top Service Boat to the Fastnet Rock. The most high profile service entry is the Army Sailing Association’s Fujitsu British Soldier. This team has enjoyed considerable success, notably in 2018 when their X-41 won the RORC Season’s Points Championship. They have since changed to the Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier which despite owning her since the end of 2019 they have yet to race it offshore due to the pandemic.  

In addition to providing a sports activity for their soldiers, the ASA also views it as training, helping to improve teamwork, and operational effectiveness in their soldiers which encouraging their most promising sailors to progress up the sport.

Across the fleet many are using the event to raise awareness for charities and causes.

Most notable is this year’s youngest competitor 12-year-old Zoe d'Ornano, who will be on one of the Tall Ships Youth Trust’s two Challenger 72s entered. A keen dinghy sailor and an experienced crew cruising with family and friends, she will use the race to raise awareness of the work of the TSYT while fundraising to give some of the country’s most disadvantaged young people a life-changing experience at sea. Founded in 1956, the Tall Ships Youth Trust has supported over 120,000 young people, aged 12-25, the majority disadvantaged or disabled. It also helps young people redefine their horizons through adventure learning at sea.” Zoe's Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/ZoeFastnet

Zoe d'Ornano's fundraising page for the  Tall Ships Youth Trust: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/ZoeFastnet © Lay Koon TanZoe d'Ornano's fundraising page for the Tall Ships Youth Trust: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/ZoeFastnet © Lay Koon Tan

The Dutch Childhood 1 project is entered, aboard the former Team Brunel VO65. They race to raise awareness of children's rights while fundraising for the Childhood Foundation. In 2019 Childhood 1 participated in the RORC Transatlantic Race, winning the International Maxi Association Trophy for line honours.

For those without their own boat, many take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race aboard charter boats or with a crew from a sailing or race training school. For example, Jonathan Moon from Chandlers Ford will be racing with the Sail Racing Academy on board their First 40.7 Escapado, skippered by Germaine Williams. Moon chose to do this to coincide with the 40th anniversary of when his father Paul competed on the UFO 31 The Happy Return: “I still recall going to watch the start and feeling excitement and worry, after all this was my Dad - my hero - the man who taught me how to sail, heading off into a race that two years before had taken the lives of 15 sailors.”

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Sadly, his father now suffers from Lewy Body Dementia – the same form that caused the death of actor/comedian Robin Williams.  During the race, Jonathan will be raising money for St Cross Grange, the Winchester-based care home specialising in dementia, where his father resides. Funds will go towards the purchase of a Tovertafel, an interactive games device that breaks through apathy by stimulating both physical and cognitive activity. (To support visit https://gofund.me/a0602f45)

Also celebrating a family anniversary is German skipper Kai Greten whose beautiful wooden hulled Gerhard Gilgenast One Tonner Oromocto turns 50 this year. Oromocto was left to him by his grandfather upon his death in 1999 and since 2010 Greten has been campaigning her hard out of Kiel. His greatest success to date was winning the Pantaenius Rund Skagen race in 2014.

British Vendée Globe skipper Sam Davies has just entered her Initiatives Coeur in the 13 -trong IMOCA class. Sam will be continuing her extraordinary fund raising efforts supporting the French charity Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque either through direct donations or, the cleverest part, from her three sponsors, each of whom donates 1 Euro whenever a member of the public clicks ‘like’ on the Initiative Coeurs Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/initiativescoeur) or Instagram pages (https://www.instagram.com/initiativescoeur/). Do it now!

The charity saves children from poor countries born with heart defects, by bringing them to France to be operated on. Every 12000 Euros raised saves one child’s life. During her Vendée Globe Sam’s fundraising efforts saved an incredible 103 children. As she puts it: “Every time I look up and I’m having a bad day, it reminds me what I am really out there doing this for. It is pretty motivating.”

From Honfleur, Pierre-Louis Attwell is racing his Class40 Vogue avec un Crohn, with which he will be spreading awareness of Crohn's disease, from which he suffers. His team includes a mix of pros and amateurs, including Maxime Bense with whom he will race this autumn’s doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre. This will be Attwell’s first Rolex Fastnet Race: “We can't wait to be at the start of this legendary sailing race, to face the best sailors in the world and to live a unique experience.”

Romain Pilliard is using Dame Ellen MacArthur's ex-trimaran to promote circular economy and ocean protection on Use it Again! © Imbaud Verhaegen Romain Pilliard is using Dame Ellen MacArthur's ex-trimaran to promote circular economy and ocean protection on Use it Again! © Imbaud Verhaegen

One of the largest yachts to be promoting a cause is Romain Pilliard’s Use it Again!, familiar to UK sailing fans as the former B&Q, the trimaran on which Dame Ellen MacArthur sailed singlehanded non-stop around the world in record time in 2005. Pilliard has recycled the famous Irens-designed trimaran and appropriately is now using her to promote the circular economy, a cause championed globally by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.  “I wanted to experience the Rolex Fastnet Race and highlight my Use It Again! campaign to promote circular economy and ocean protection,” says Pilliard, who adds: “The Rolex Fastnet Race is a legendary race with high level sailors competing in it and the race course is incredible. I'm looking forward to going fast in the Celtic Sea.”

Providing offshore racing miles to young sailors is the remit of the Dutch Ker 46 Van Uden Rotterdam skippered by former Volvo Ocean Race sailor Gerd-Jan Poortman, with a crew of 18-25 year olds from the Rotterdam Offshore Sailing Team. The team’s goal is to participate in The Ocean Race (ex-Volvo Ocean Race) and the sailors are therefore being given full responsibility to prepare and maintain their boat, plus its navigation, tactics, training, fitness and PR.

“I am looking forward to gaining experience in offshore sailing, taking part in my first major sailing competition with multiple days at sea, and competing against top notch sailors from different nations,” says Laurien Waller, one of her crew. “A highlight of the course will definitely be the Fastnet Rock and I think if we do a good job and work well as a team, reaching the finish line in Cherbourg will feel amazing. The most difficult part will be choosing the optimal route and maintaining team fitness and tackling fatigue.”

Many boats will compete with family members as part of the crew and these include Christophe Declercq’s Contessa 32 Lecas - the lowest rated boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race © Sportography.TVMany boats will compete with family members as part of the crew and these include Christophe Declercq’s Contessa 32 Lecas - the lowest rated boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race © Sportography.TV

Far in the majority are those with family entries such as Christophe Declercq’s Contessa 32 Lecas, the lowest rated yacht in the fleet. She will be sailing by Declercq with his wife, two children and a family friend. He has raced previously in several Fastnets aboard Sigma 38s and Contessa 32s: “Unfortunately we had to abandon the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2019 because I broke a rib and was in too much pain to continue, so we are really looking forward to the race this year. We are looking forward to fun racing with the family in this fantastic race. For us having a small and rather slow boat, it's a longer race and the weather is more unpredictable, but the vibe around the race and the fact that we can compete against professional boats and crews is amazing.”

Rolex Fastnet Race doublehanding goes supernova

Rounding the Fastnet Rock: Cherbourg-based Alexis Loison and Jean Pierre Kelbert on JPK 10.30 Léon - back this year to defend their Two Handed title © Carlo Borlenghi/ROLEX Rounding the Fastnet Rock: Cherbourg-based Alexis Loison and Jean Pierre Kelbert on JPK 10.30 Léon - back this year to defend their Two Handed title © Carlo Borlenghi/ROLEX

Doublehanded offshore racing had been gaining popularity with the Rolex Fastnet Race’s IRC Two Handed class almost doubling in size between 2009 and 2019. But for this year’s edition of the world’s largest offshore yacht race its entry has soared to 89 yachts, a giant step up from 2019’s 64.

Long term this trend has been attributed to owners finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a full crew. Over this time shorthanded offshore racing has become more accepted, no longer seen as being on the fringe of the sport, certainly helped by boats and gear becoming better tailored to this discipline. Extra exposure has caused more people to become intrigued by this uniquely challenging form of yacht racing.

Social distancing requirements enabled this to be the first type of racing to be reintroduced by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in 2020, with doublehanders enjoying the most days out on the water over the season. But the most significant boost internationally has come from the possibility of mixed doublehanded offshore racing being introduced to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Whether this will happen awaits a final decision by the International Olympic Committee due soon.

With events like the Route du Rhum and Vendée Globe and classes like the Figaro, Class40 and IMOCA, France is the world’s stand-out nation when it comes to shorthanded offshore racing, but  surprisingly in recent Fastnet races, it is the IRC Two Handed class where French teams have faced some of the toughest competition. In 2019, of the top 10 in IRC Two Handed only five were French compared to eight in IRC Four and seven in IRC Three. This was probably because the A-list French talent mostly has confined itself to the Ultime, IMOCA and Class40 and not the IRC fleet. However one consistently has.

2013 Fastnet Challenge Cup winner, Alexis Loison will race once again Two Handed with Jean Pierre Kelbert on JPK 10.30 Léon © Paul Wyeth/RORC2013 Fastnet Challenge Cup winner, Alexis Loison will race once again Two Handed with Jean Pierre Kelbert on JPK 10.30 Léon © Paul Wyeth/RORC

Cherbourg-based Alexis Loison has finished in the top ten in yacht racing’s unofficial solo offshore world championship, La Solitaire du Figaro no less than six times, which makes him one of the best offshore sailors in the world. However Loison’s father Pascal is a keen IRC racer and father and son entered the history books in 2013 when they became the first doublehanded crew ever to win the Rolex Fastnet Race outright, ahead of the fully crewed fleet. Alexis holds the record for the most victories in the IRC Two Handed class. He won it three times with Pascal and is its defending champion after winning it for a fourth time sailing with Jean Pierre Kelbert on the French boatbuilder’s latest JPK 10.30 model Léon.

“I love the Rolex Fastnet Race, it is special,” says Loison. “I have participated five times and won [my class] on four of them and overall once. I am trying to keep my record for winning the Two handed division!

“I love this kind of race where professionals are on the same course as amateurs. I prefer to do this race in the two handed class with an IRC boat [rather than the Figaro]. This year is special because it will finish in my home town of Cherbourg, which is good news for me.”

JPK and Loison return accompanied by three other French JPK 10.30s. Two – Francois Moriceau’s Mary 3 and Gerard Quenot’s Mecanique Expertises - finished just inside the top ten of the UNCL’s Manche-Atlantique two handed series in 2020, while Yves Paul Robert’s Very Good Trip - Septieme Ciel was fourth in IRC Two Handed in the last Rolex Fastnet Race.

A formidable duo Henry Bomby and Shirley Robertson compete on the new Sun Fast 3300 © Tim Butt/Vertigo FilmsA formidable duo Henry Bomby and Shirley Robertson compete on the new Sun Fast 3300 © Tim Butt/Vertigo Films

In the 2019 French domination at the top of IRC Two Handed was partly halted by British Figaro and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Henry Bomby and Hannah Diamond, who finished second. This time Bomby returns with a familiar figure, but one largely new to offshore racing, in double Olympic gold medallist turned TV presenter, Shirley Robertson.

Having only taken up doublehanded offshore racing last season, Robertson is looking forward to getting back on to the water. They are racing a new Sun Fast 3300, provided by Sea Ventures, the UK dealer for Jeanneau, which numerically has managed to make great inroads into the class: this year their turn-out exceeds even the JPKs with twelve Sun Fast 3200s, ten 3600s and twelve 3300s (plus two more racing fully crewed) entered.

“I really enjoy it, it’s great, it came at the right time - I was ready for something different, but similar,” explains Robertson of her latest venture. “I was a bit undecided what to do and where to go and this really fitted the bill. I’m impressed by Henry. We get on well and I enjoyed the boat from the get-go. It was small enough that I could do everything physically on it. I instantly felt I could make the boat go fast.”

This will be Robertson’s third Fastnet having previously competed on Ludde Ingvall’s maxi Nicorette and with fellow Olympian Ian Walker on Eamonn Conneely’s TP52 Patches. “I’d done a bit of offshore, but generally I steered or trimmed the main, but on this I am busy all the time,” Robertson continues. “Even when you sleep you are listening out for the call to come and help up on deck. And there are periods when you are on your own - or sort of on your own - at night on deck, looking for ships, trying to keep your numbers up and keeping the big idea of where you are going next, etc. I enjoy the intensity of it and also the real partnership. We have to look after each other and work together and be honest if the boat isn’t going well, or if you feel nervous about something.”

Despite being an accomplished sailor, it has been back to school for Robertson to learn about the vital rules of the road when sailing offshore and a new style of boat. Fortunately her highly accomplished co-skipper has all the skill-sets necessary. 

Another duo returning to the race having successfully taken on the French are Kelvin Rawlings and Stuart Childerley. Childerley has two Olympic Games and two Etchells World Championship titles to his name, while Rawlings was “watch captain on Noah’s Arc” with a giant sailing CV that includes winning the Admiral’s Cup. In the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race they entered Rawlings’ J/105 Jester and proceeded to beat the Loisins into second place (albeit by just 14 seconds) in IRC Two Handed, and across the fleet were top British finishers, coming home fourth overall under IRC.

In 2015 Childerley admits they toughed it out with a boat lacking good comms (for downloading forecasts) and an effective autopilot, but this time they have a tricked-up Sun Fast 3300, Aries: “When we saw the course change [finishing in Cherbourg] and the first opportunity to race on it we thought it would be a great challenge and we had to have a go.”

In the intervening six years the standard of doublehanded racing in the UK has leapt, Childerley observes, but this too was a big attraction along with the opportunity to race in the sizeable fleet of Sun Fast 3300s - a modern IRC boat, tailored for shorthanding in terms of its cockpit layout, sail controls, ballast, twin rudders and much better equipment. However they too are having to get up to speed with technology, with Rawlings mastering the routing software. Childerley says they are keen not to get bogged down in this. So for example they are taking asymmetric kites, but no symmetrics. “If we over-complicate things we are just going to confuse ourselves. We are trying to stick with our principles in keeping it simple, progressing through the race, making decisions and sailing the boat so as not to lose the race. If we can be in a good position in the last quarter of the race, we’ll be very happy with that.”

 Winning last year's IRC Two Handed Nationals, James Harayda's Sun Fast 3300 Gentoo, will be competing with round the world sailor Dee Caffari in the  2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.comWinning last year's IRC Two Handed Nationals, James Harayda's Sun Fast 3300 Gentoo, will be competing with round the world sailor Dee Caffari in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Other notables in the Sun Fast 3300 fleet include James Harayda and round the world legend Dee Caffari on board the former’s Gentoo, winner of last year’s IRC Two-Handed Nationals. Then there is regular competitor Ed Broadway with his latest Hooligan VIII, Sea Ventures’ own Nigel Colley aboard Fastrak XII and Irish former Mini and Class 40 sailor Cian McCarthy aboard his latest Cinnamon Girl. A similarly tough group are the Sun Fast 3600s. They include Rob Craigie and Bellino, who finished third in 2017 with Deb Fish (the subject of this week’s Time Over Distance series – link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb8tbTBGpvU), when they went on to win the Two Handed class for the season. Then there is Nick Martin whose J/105 Diablo J was RORC Yacht of the Year and the season’s IRC Three winner in 2012.

Other British contenders to watch out for are Richard Palmer and Jeremy Waitt on their JPK 10.10 Jangada. Jangada was the RORC’s 2020 Yacht of the Year following a big season that started with outright victory in the Transatlantic Race and ended with their winning the IRC Two-Handed Autumn Series. At the IRC Two-Handed Nationals Jangada was beaten to the podium by Mike Yates and Norwegian sailmaker Eivind Bøymo-Malm on the J/109 Jago. Eighteen J/109s are competing in this year’s race, five of them doublehanded, Jago among the top tipped.

Richard Palmer and Jeremy Waitt on JPK 10.10 Jangada - RORC 2020 Yacht of the Year following a big season that started with outright victory in the Transatlantic Race and ended with their winning the IRC Two-Handed Autumn Series © Arthur Daniel Richard Palmer and Jeremy Waitt on JPK 10.10 Jangada - RORC 2020 Yacht of the Year following a big season that started with outright victory in the Transatlantic Race and ended with their winning the IRC Two-Handed Autumn Series © Arthur Daniel

UK leads France numerically in the IRC Two Handed class, but the line-up is international with 12 nations represented, including two from the USA, one apiece from Hong Kong and Poland. Top contenders again returning from the Netherlands include local champions Robin Verhoef and John van der Starre aboard their trusty J/122e Ajeto! They finished second in IRC Two Handed in 2017 and on their previous J/111 J-Xcentric were third in 2011.

The IRC Two Handed fleet largely comes from IRC Three and IRC Four, but the biggest racing is Richard Tolkien’s Open 60 Rosalba while the smallest (also in the IRC fleet overall) is once again Neal Brewer’s modified Humphreys 30, Bespoke.

The IRC Two Handed class will also see a return to the race course for two notable solo offshore sailors. Alex Bennett was for a while the top ever British finisher in the Mini Transat when he came home fifth in 1999. He was one of Pete Goss’ crew on the ill-fated mega catamaran Team Philips. He has since been through an Open 50 and the Class40 Fujifilm (back this year as Fuji with Finnish sailor Ari Kaensaekoski) in which he came within a minute of winning the two handed Round Britain & Ireland Race in 2010.

Alex Bennett will race his Swan 46 Mk1 Ginny B doublehanded with fellow solo offshore sailor Conrad Humphreys © Ginny BAlex Bennett will race his Swan 46 Mk1 Ginny B doublehanded with fellow solo offshore sailor Conrad Humphreys © Ginny B

In 2019 Bennett acquired a Swan 46 Mk1 and has spent most of lockdown pampering her. Now a family man with two sons, he says Ginny B fulfils his needs for a boat on which to teach his family sailing and he can race. However he admits lacking time on the water with her - to date their only outing was a delivery from Dartmouth to Plymouth.

Bennett is racing with another solo sailor, former Vendée Globe and winning BT Global Challenge skipper Conrad Humphreys. “The challenge is always bigger when you go shorthanded and it offers the greatest challenge over this kind of course,” says Bennett, who is in awe of the IRC Two Handed fleet. “It is huge - like the Mini Transat fleet in terms of numbers.”

The Swan 46 is a cruiser-racer and a very different prospect from the nimble thoroughbreds Bennett is used to racing. “She is a big heavy boat, not set up for shorthanded sailing - you can do it, but it will be a challenge. The reality is that we are we are up against some hot modern designs and really good sailors in Sunfast 3300s and JPKs, so it is a very diverse fleet. It will be interesting to see where we fit in.”

Bennett first sailed the Fastnet in 1995, when, aged 19, he led the Fastnet Youth Challenge to second place in class aboard a Sigma 36.

Ginny B is by no means the oldest boat in the IRC Two Handed fleet: This is Paul Moxon’s 50ft yawl Amokura, launched in 1939.

Current Two Handed Entry Lists HERE

Full entry list: https://www.rolexfastnetrace.com/en/follow/follow-the-race/entrylists

Classic Fantastics

The oldest boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race - the 1939 Amokura will be raced two handed by owner Paul Moxon. Photo credit: © Nic Compton The oldest boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race - the 1939 Amokura will be raced two handed by owner Paul Moxon. Photo credit: © Nic Compton

As the Rolex Fastnet Race approaches its 50th edition in 2023 and the 100th anniversary of the Royal Ocean Racing Club two years later, so we can expect to see more classic yachts taking part with ancient associations to what has grown into the world’s largest offshore yacht race.

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Performance 40s head offshore in the Rolex Fastnet Race

Over fifty Performance 40s will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. The class will run its first offshore series in conjunction with the RORC  © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Over fifty Performance 40s will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. The class will run its first offshore series in conjunction with the RORC © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

In this August’s Rolex Fastnet Race, one of the most popular ‘classes within a class’ will be the Performance 40. 

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IRC winners return

Past winners return to challenge for the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, including 2017 overall winner, Didier Gaudoux with his JND39 Lann Ael 2  © Kurt Arrigo/ROLEX Past winners return to challenge for the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, including 2017 overall winner, Didier Gaudoux with his JND39 Lann Ael 2 © Kurt Arrigo/ROLEX

With the Rolex Fastnet Race having so many boats, so many classes and a 96-year history, it is inevitable that many past winners, be they of line honours, individual classes or of the main IRC overall prize, the Fastnet Challenge Trophy, should be among the record 400+ strong entry in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s flagship event in 2021.

In fact among the overall winners, 2017’s victor Didier Gaudoux, with his trusty JND39 Lann Ael 2, is at present the only one returning with the same boat and a similar crew. On board again will be family members, including his daughter Coralie and possibly son Thomas, as well as veteran Figaro ace Fred Duthil. Lann Ael 2 hasn’t changed apart from a new paint job.

Of course the big unknown at present is the same for everyone, warns Gaudoux: “It will be a very special campaign because we don’t know when we can start to sail and we don’t know what our preparation for the campaign will be. I intend to do a few RORC races if it is possible.”

In 2020 Lann Ael 2 competed in just a few races but made the most of them, winning the IRC class in the Drheam Cup, ahead of Eric Fries' JPK 11.80 Fastwave 6 and Laurent Charmy's J/111 SL Energies, both of whom are also due on the start line off Cowes in August. That event also provided good preparation, starting from Cherbourg where this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will finish for the first time.

“It will be a new challenge tactically between the Scilly Islands and Cherbourg with the tide,” continues Gaudoux. While his boat is based in southern Brittany, his crew, and especially Duthil, know the complex waters around Cherbourg well. The city is planning for the arrival to include COVID restrictions for the many visitors from the local region. “A lot of people will be coming and the harbour is very close to the downtown so it will be a special welcome.”

2015 overall winner, Géry Trentesaux is returning aboard Antoine Carpentier’s latest generation Class40 Courrier Redman. Kurt Arrigo/ROLEX2015 overall winner, Géry Trentesaux is returning aboard Antoine Carpentier’s latest generation Class40 Courrier Redman © Kurt Arrigo/ROLEX

While he is not competing on his JPK 10.80, the 2015 overall winner Géry Trentesaux is returning aboard Antoine Carpentier’s latest generation Mach 40.4 Class40 Courrier Redman which finished runner-up in this year’s RORC Transatlantic Race. Alexis Loison, who became the race’s first doublehanded overall winner with his father Pascal in 2013 aboard their JPK 10.10 Night And Day, is back to defend his title in the IRC Two Handed class on board the JPK 10.30 Léon with Jean Pierre Kelbert, proprietor of the successful French Chantier JPK. Loison has won IRC Two Handed in three of the last four races and only was displaced into second in 2015 by Kelvin Rawlings and Stuart Childerley on  their J/105 Jester, who that year were fourth overall under IRC and top British finishers. Rawlings and Childerley are back to try their hand again, this time with their newly acquired Sun Fast 3300 Aries.

Defending their 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race IRC Two Handed title - Alexis Loison and Jean Pierre Kelbert on JPK 10.30 Léon  © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.comDefending their 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race IRC Two Handed title - Alexis Loison and Jean Pierre Kelbert on JPK 10.30 Léon © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

“We look forward to the new Fastnet course - it will be a hard fought contest all the way to the finish line,” says Childerley. The big draw is both the heightened competition in IRC Two Handed, with all of the podium finishers from the last two races returning, including the Sun Fast 3300 Fastrak XII, sailed by Henry Bomby and Hannah Diamond two years ago, and Louis-Marie Dussere’s JPK 10.80 Raging-bee², second and third respectively in 2019. This is bolstered by Two Handed racing being on the Olympic roster for Paris 2024. “Doublehanded sailing continues to inspire and provide a challenge that is complimented by the Rolex Fastnet Race,” concludes Childerley.

Many class winners are returning. Among the most successful is the La Trinité-sur-Mer old guard on boat builder Nicolas Groleau’s Mach 45 Bretagne Telecom, one of several Sam Manuard designs his company JPS Production builds. Bretagne Telecom is one of 13 boats entered this year to have competed in the last six consecutive Rolex Fastnet Races, but she is by far the most successful. 2019 was the canting keel speedster’s most successful year, finishing second to winner Wizard, both overall and under IRC Zero. Previously she has twice won her class and podiumed on all but one occasion.

Thomas Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise - hoping to secure a podium place again in IRC Two © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.comThomas Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise - hoping to secure a podium place again in IRC Two © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Jacques Pelletier’s Milon 41 L'Ange De Milon, which beat Lann Ael 2 into second place in IRC One two years ago, is back. While Trentesaux is not returning to defend his IRC Two title, Francois Lognone’s MC34 Nutmeg Solidaire En Peloton and Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise, the other 2019 podium placers, will be. Nutmeg has a strong track record having won IRC Two in 2015 when she was fifth overall, while Lognone was eighth overall and third in IRC Two aboard his previous J/122 Nutmeg IV in 2011.

Jacques Pelletier’s Milon 41 L'Ange De Milon topped IRC One in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race - ©️ Paul Wyeth/RORCJacques Pelletier’s Milon 41 L'Ange De Milon topped IRC One in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race - ©️ Paul Wyeth/RORC

Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret who finished on the IRC Three podium in the last three editions, winning in 2017 aboard their JPK 10.80 Dream Pearls, will be sailing on Christian Maby’s Sun Fast 3300, Spoutnik. At the time of writing one of the  most successful sailors in IRC Four, Noel Racine and his JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew was not returning to defend his title. Racine, a retired Le Havre pilot, has won his class in three of the last five races and podiumed in all. However the remaining IRC Four podium placers from 2019 are back in Emmanuel Pinteaux’s sistership Gioia and Francois Charles’s Dehler 33, Sun Hill 3.

The non-IRC classes had a later deadline to enter than the IRC fleet but already Anglo-Frenchman Luke Berry was signed up to defend his Class40 title aboard the Mach 40.3 Lamotte - Module Création. At the time of writing, 31 Class40s were already entered, including Morgane Ursault-Poupon (daughter of Vendee Globe sailor, Solitaire du Figaro and Route du Rhum winner Philippe Poupon) on board UP Sailing, formerly Tanguy de Lamotte’s Class40 winner in both 2009 and 2011. Tales II, which won in 2015 and was second in 2013 in the hands of Gonzalo Botin, also returns but under new Italian skipper Andrea Fornaro.

While this sounds like yet another dominant French entry there are some potent campaigns from the UK. In addition to those already mentioned is the top British boat from 2019, David Collins’ Botin IRC 52 Tala (ex-Spookie), having finished third both overall and in IRC Zero. Never to be discounted is Ross Applebey’s Scarlet Oyster which was third in IRC Two in 2013 and won her class in 2007. Other potent doublehanders include Rob Craigie and Deb Fish on board the Sun Fast 3600 Bellino, which finished third in both IRC Three and Two Handed in 2017.

A strong track record in IRC One for Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43 Codiam © Kurt Arrigo/ROLEXA strong track record in IRC One for Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43 Codiam © Kurt Arrigo/ROLEX

Many winners from long ago are also returning. Another team to have competed in the last six races is Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43 Codiam. Their track record is strong including IRC One victories in 2009 and 2011 and overall finishes of tenth and seventh in 2017 and 2011 respectively. Also likely to be strong will be Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia, which won IRC Two and was fourth overall in 2017, while American Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer is due a top result having finished eighth overall in 2019, second in 2017 when she won IRC Zero and a second place in IRC Canting Keel in 2015.

A number of yachts and crews are returning who did well in earlier editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race, especially, for some reason, from 2005. Jonty and Vicki Layfield, who sailed their Swan 47 Sleeper to seventh overall then, will be racing their Swan 48 Sleeper X. Similarly Ed Broadway, who was third in IRM that year on his Hooligan V (and again in 2007 on Hooligan VI) is back sailing doublehanded on his Sun Fast 3300 Hooligan VIII. Beating Sleeper 16 years ago, in fourth and sixth overall were Xara, Jonathan Rolls Swan 38 and Harry J. Heijst’s S&S41 Winsome, both of which are entered again. Thunder 2, Robert Boulter’s Mills 37 IRC 0 winner that year, returns but now in the hands of Vladimir Phillips, while Guy Sallenave’s X-442 Ster Wenn 5, which was second in IRC One is this year being campaigned by his son Pierre.

The Goubau family from Belgium taking part in their 7th consecutive Rolex Fastnet Race on their First 47.7 Moana  © Paul Wyeth/RORCThe Goubau family from Belgium taking part in their 7th consecutive Rolex Fastnet Race on their First 47.7 Moana © Paul Wyeth/RORC

No Rolex Fastnet Race is complete without the Goubau family from Belgium taking part aboard their faithful First 47.7 Moana. They have competed in the last six editions and finished third in class in 2005, 2011 and 2013. Longue Pierre, David Cooper and Paul England’s Dehler 38 is back too, having the same participation record, her best result coming in 2005 when she was ninth overall. 

Further back, Vendée Globe skipper Conrad Humphreys has teamed up with another solo offshore racer and former Team Philips crewman Alex Bennett on board the latter’s Swan 46, Ginny B. Humphreys won the 1991 Fastnet Race overall with a young Matt Humphries aboard the David Thomas-designed half tonner Min-O-Din. Returning from the 2001 race are Cracklin’ Rosie, ninth overall and third in IRC Zero in the hands of original owner Roy Dickson and now being campaigned by former RORC Commodore Steven Anderson and RORC Treasurer Derek Shakespeare. Present Commodore James Neville is entered aboard his HH42 Ino XXX having finished six overall and third in IRC One in 2017 and RORC Vice Commodore Eric de Turkheim is back with his lighter and faster NMYD 54 Teasing Machine which finished seventh in IRC Zero and eleventh overall in 2019

Given this vast experience due on the start line, we can look forward to one of the most competitive Rolex Fastnet Races on record.

Rolex Fastnet Race entry numbers smash all records

Another bumper year looks set as entries opened and registrations hit record numbers for the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race  A massive fleet make their way out of the Solent in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Carlo Borlenghi/ROLEX Another bumper year looks set as entries opened and registrations hit record numbers for the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race A massive fleet make their way out of the Solent in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Carlo Borlenghi/ROLEX

Like tickets to Glastonbury, registration opened on the dot of 1000 UTC today for this summer’s Rolex Fastnet Race and speedily sold out.

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One week to go - Rolex Fastnet Race entry opens

The Fastnet Rock © Daniel Forster/ROLEX The Fastnet Rock © Daniel Forster/ROLEX

Registration for the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race begins at 1000 UTC on Tuesday 12th January 2021.

Enter the race HERE: https://www.rolexfastnetrace.com/en/enter-race

  • Get ready to register on 12 January 2021 @ 1000hrs GMT

  • The RORC Race Team are here to help: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

49th Rolex Fastnet Race – one year to go!

The Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland is the symbol of the  Rolex Fastnet Race. The 2021 edition will be the 49th © Kurt Arrigo The Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland is the symbol of the Rolex Fastnet Race. The 2021 edition will be the 49th © Kurt Arrigo

In one year’s time a new era will begin for the world’s largest offshore yacht race. On 8 August 2021, the Rolex Fastnet Race will set sail from Cowes bound for the Fastnet Rock as usual, but then, once the boats have rounded Bishop Rock, they will, for the first time in the race’s 96 year history, point their bows towards Cherbourg, the new finish for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event.

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ROYAL OCEAN RACING CLUB TO FINISH ROLEX FASTNET IN CHERBOURG

Port of Cherbourg ©JM Enault /Ville de Cherbourg en Cotentin Port of Cherbourg ©JM Enault /Ville de Cherbourg en Cotentin

The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), organisers of the Rolex Fastnet Race, announced at a press conference today that the City of Cherbourg will host the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race for the 2021 and 2023 editions of the biennial race. The move encourages and secures the future development of the race and will open it to more competitors; in 2019 the race had a waiting list of 150 boats.

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