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50th edition Rolex Fastnet Race - dates for 2023 announced

Dates announced for the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race - The world's largest offshore race. Save the date: 22nd July-28th July 2023  Cowes-Fastnet Rock-Cherbourg-en-Cotentin © Kurt Arrigio/Rolex Dates announced for the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race - The world's largest offshore race. Save the date: 22nd July-28th July 2023 Cowes-Fastnet Rock-Cherbourg-en-Cotentin © Kurt Arrigio/Rolex

Following the success of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race from Cowes to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and its French partners are delighted to announce the date for the next edition of its flagship event in 2023.

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Applecart upturned in Rolex Fastnet Race’s small boat division

Overall honours in IRC Four were claimed by Alain Guelennoc’s X-332 Trading-advices.com © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Overall honours in IRC Four were claimed by Alain Guelennoc’s X-332 Trading-advices.com © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

With nine JPK 10.10s in action in IRC Four, the smart money was on a fifth in a row win for the highly successful model from Jean-Pierre Kelbert’s boatyard. However, this year’s IRC Four podium did not contain a single JPK 10.10. A ridge rolled over the fleet south of the Scilly Isles on Wednesday night forcing a race restart and, partly as a result of this, the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race podium is filled with boats of 20 years old or more, and raced by passionate amateur sailors from France and Ireland. Overall honours were claimed by Alain Guelennoc’s X-332 Trading-advices.com.

The early part of the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race was dominated by JPK 10.10s. Ludovic Menahes and David le Goff on the former’s Raphael, competing in their first Rolex Fastnet Race (after the Cap Martinique transatlantic race was cancelled), slowly ground out a lead doing a better job of playing tides along the Cornish coast. She passed up the west side of the Traffic Separation Scheme off Land’s End and remained ahead on the Celtic Sea Cross. At the Fastnet Rock Raphael was ahead on the water and held a lead of 52 minutes under corrected time from Emmanuel & Etienne Pinteaux’s JPK 10.10 Gioia.

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Sunrise wins the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race

Sunrise, JPK 11.80 of Britain's Tom Kneen has been crowned overall winner of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Sunrise, JPK 11.80 of Britain's Tom Kneen has been crowned overall winner of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise has been crowned overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race. After being confirmed as runaway winner of the IRC Two division yesterday, no other boat still racing on the 695 nautical mile course can catch the British boat for overall honours in this, the 49th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s offshore classic. Kneen is the first British winner of the race since Charles Dunstone and his maxi Nokia Enigma in 2003.

Reunited this morning with his two-year old son Sam, Kneen couldn’t hide the emotion of winning a race that has come to mean so much to him:

“I’ve had 24 hours to reflect on the race after we finished yesterday, and it really is all about the people, the amazing team that sailed with me, and my incredible partner Francesca who has done so much to make this happen.”

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Victory for Loison as IRC Three and Two-Handed goes to the wire

Victory in IRC Two-Handed & IRC Three for Alexis Loison's JPK 1030 Léon, racing with Guillaume Pirouelle © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Victory in IRC Two-Handed & IRC Three for Alexis Loison's JPK 1030 Léon, racing with Guillaume Pirouelle © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

One of the most intense battles, both on the water and under IRC corrected time, in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race played out in IRC Three. Here the scratch boat was unquestionably the JPK 1030 Léon, skippered by the defending IRC Three and Two-Handed champion and former overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race, Alexis Loison, racing yet again doublehanded, but this time with Guillaume Pirouelle.

Interesting was the diversity of crew make-ups: Fully crewed, doublehanded or mixed doublehanded, it seemed to make no difference to the competitiveness of the top boats. While the lead doublehanders in IRC Four were occasionally in the mix, it was mainly the doublehanded crews in IRC Three that held the top places in the IRC Two-Handed ranking.

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Sunrise performs a horizon job as therapy is needed after Scilly Isles ‘glass out’

IRC Two victory for Tom Kneen and his young team on the JPK 11.80 Sunrise © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com IRC Two victory for Tom Kneen and his young team on the JPK 11.80 Sunrise © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise has sewn up IRC Two in this 49th Rolex Fastnet Race. The Devonshire team crossed the Cherbourg finish line at 1004 BST this morning. Sunrise’s corrected time of 4 days, 6 hours, 45 minutes 4 seconds has given Kneen IRC Two victory by a huge margin. As Sunrise finished, her closest rival was just past the Lizard with more than 120 nautical miles still to sail.

After a hideous outbound beat down the Channel, when they never seemed to be in phase with the tide, Sunrise’s first break came after making the last minute call to go up the eastern side of the traffic separation scheme at Land’s End with Il Corvo as the majority of the frontrunners chose to go up the TSS’s west side.

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RORC Commodore first home in IRC One

Dockside celebrations as RORC Commodore James Neville and crew on his HH42 Ino XXX finish the Rolex Fastnet Race in Cherbourg and lead IRC One © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Dockside celebrations as RORC Commodore James Neville and crew on his HH42 Ino XXX finish the Rolex Fastnet Race in Cherbourg and lead IRC One © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Royal Ocean Racing Club top brass, including former Commodore Michael Boyd, out-going and in-coming CEOs Eddie Warden Owen and Jeremy Wilton, Race Director Chris Stone and former Race Director Janet Grosvenor turned out en masse on Cherbourg’s Port Chantereyne last night to welcome in the present RORC Commodore James Neville whose Judel/Vrolijk-designed HH42 finished the Rolex Fastnet Race leader of IRC One, both on the water and under IRC corrected time.

Ino XXX crossed the finish line at 22:34 BST last night with a race time of 3 days 10 hours 39 minutes and 58 seconds. At that point second placed Swede Jonas Granders’ Elliot 44 CR Matador was still north of Alderney with more than 20 miles to go. While this morning Ino XXX has yet to seal the deal in IRC One, her position is looking reasonably secure with, for example, boats like Richard Loftus' Swan 65 ketch Desperado and Chris Schram and Patrick ten Brinke's Corby 38 Double Edge having to finish by 12:23 to topple Neville’s team.

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Britain fights back

Britain's David Collins' Botin 52 Tala has a strong grip on IRC Zero © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Britain's David Collins' Botin 52 Tala has a strong grip on IRC Zero © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

In 2019 there was some embarrassment for the rest of the world with France ‘owning’ the Rolex Fastnet Race, winning nine of the 10 classes, albeit with the American Wizard team breaking the French run of overall wins in the race that had lasted since 2013.

Ironic now with the 2021 race finishing in Cherbourg, French boats may have lost their grip on several key territories within the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event. Yes, there is no chance that British or international teams will make an impression on French grand prix classes with Cammas and Caudrelier aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild having sewn up the Ultime/Open Multihull class in a similarly dominant way to Dalin and Meilhat on Apivia this morning in the IMOCA class.

But at present in the IRC fleet there are two British boats and one German looking good for the IRC Zero podium, and two Brits and one Swede for the top three spots in IRC One. IRC Two sees another Brit holding a comfortable lead over a Dutch boat, with a French boat third. Significantly a British boat is looking strong to win the coveted Fastnet Challenge Cup for the overall IRC win, but at this stage, no lead is insurmountable.

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Apivia – stand-out IMOCA performance

Rolex Fastnet Race victory in the IMOCA class for the hugely talented Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat on Apivia © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Rolex Fastnet Race victory in the IMOCA class for the hugely talented Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat on Apivia © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

An exceptional example of an extraordinary boat paired up with a hugely talented crew has been the combination of Apivia with doublehanders Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat competing in this 49th Rolex Fastnet Race. They arrived in Cherbourg early this morning scoring a resounding win in the 13-strong IMOCA fleet. This came as some small vindication after Dalin suffered victory slipping through his fingers in this year’s Vendée Globe after he was first home only to lose the top prize when Yannick Bestaven and Maître CoQ were awarded a time compensation.

Dalin, an anglophile having studied at Southampton University, enjoyed the Rolex Fastnet Race start, seeing old friends as his IMOCA milled around the Solent before the start. Once the gun had gone on Sunday, the foil-born Apivia leapt into action, and compared to her other 60ft IMOCA rivals looked like an 80 footer. Part of this was down to development work since the solo round the world race: “We have new foils and some new sails. You have to keep these boats evolving to stay at the top of your game,” Dalin explained. Passing the Needles, sailing upwind so fast they were flying, Apivia had already pulled out a two mile lead in the IMOCA class.

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Skorpios takes line honours in Cherbourg

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s ClubSwan 125 Skorpios took line honours in the Rolex Fastnet Race, completing the 695nm course in 2 days, 8 hours, 35 minutes and 5 seconds © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Dmitry Rybolovlev’s ClubSwan 125 Skorpios took line honours in the Rolex Fastnet Race, completing the 695nm course in 2 days, 8 hours, 35 minutes and 5 seconds © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s ClubSwan 125 Skorpios took line honours in the Rolex Fastnet Race this evening, after crossing the finish line in Cherbourg at 2015 BST. Their total elapsed time for completing the 695 nautical mile course from Cowes to Cherbourg was 2 days, 8 hours, 33 minutes and 55 seconds.

Competing in her first offshore race, the recently launched Skorpios came through a brutal first 12 hours of the race in good shape. As the breeze softened, Skorpios extended away from her chief rivals for line honours including previous winner George David’s Rambler 88 and the strong IMOCA fleet.

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First MOCRA multihull screams into Cherbourg

Jason Carroll's MOD70 Argo crosses the finish line off the light station on Fort De L'Ouest at 1522 BST © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Jason Carroll's MOD70 Argo crosses the finish line off the light station on Fort De L'Ouest at 1522 BST © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

While it is hard to draw attention in the Rolex Fastnet Race away from the fast and the glamorous at the front end of the fleet, we must spare a thought for the smaller boats among Sunday’s 337 starters. As the mighty Ultime trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was arriving in Cherbourg having devoured the 695 mile course in just over one day, Alaistair Cooke’s Sigma 36 Sundance was heading backwards on the tide at 2 knots, unable to round Start Point still with 570 long miles left to sail.

Over the course of today Brian Skeet and Nicolas Malapert racing doublehanded on the Sigma 38 Marta faced a similar problem as they passed Start Point, only to see it again as they were drawn backwards at the mercy of the tide.

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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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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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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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