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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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Multihulls earning their stripes in the Rolex Fastnet Race

Five Dazcats, built in Plymouth, took part in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, including Nigel Passmore's Apollo and Simon Baker's Hissy Fit © Dazcat Five Dazcats, built in Plymouth, took part in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, including Nigel Passmore's Apollo and Simon Baker's Hissy Fit © Dazcat

Twenty years ago the Royal Ocean Racing Club allowed multihulls to participate in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Today, while the numbers remain relatively small compared to the giant IRC fleets, the quality and diversity of the multihull fleet is of note.

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US Rolex Fastnet Race winner breaks French winning streak

David and Peter Askew's VO70 Wizard is the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race winner, claiming the Fastnet Challenge Cup for 1st in IRC Overall © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex David and Peter Askew's VO70 Wizard is the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race winner, claiming the Fastnet Challenge Cup for 1st in IRC Overall © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

An American VO70 has continued its phenomenal winning streak to claim the Fastnet Challenge Cup, the overall prize for the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race. David and Peter Askew, aboard their VO70 Wizard, came out on top under IRC corrected time, beating French boat builder Nicolas Groleau’s perennial entry on their canting keel Mach 45 Bretagne Telecom by 45 minutes. This was despite the 2019 race being the Askew’s first attempt at the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s pinnacle 600 mile offshore.

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Big boat race on the cards as the Plymouth deluge begins

Dominique Tian's Tonnerre de Glen rounds the Fastnet Rock at sunset © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex Dominique Tian's Tonnerre de Glen rounds the Fastnet Rock at sunset © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

Like a tap slowly being turned on, the quantity of Rolex Fastnet Race boats arriving in Plymouth has been steadily increasing since yesterday afternoon, with crews clambering off boats into the welcoming arms of the race office before heading for a beer in the race village.

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Charal shakes off competition to claim Rolex Fastnet Race honours

IMOCA 60 Charal, skippered by Jeremie Beyo, takes the hard-fought class win in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com IMOCA 60 Charal, skippered by Jeremie Beyo, takes the hard-fought class win in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

While IMOCA 60s are renowned for racing non-stop around the world in the Vendée Globe, the doublehanded crews of these extraordinary space-age craft appreciate the Rolex Fastnet Race as it offers most conditions of a round the world race within just a few days.

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Rambler 88 claims consecutive monohull line honours

Rambler 88 set a new monohull record from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock and finished to claim monohull line honours © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex Rambler 88 set a new monohull record from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock and finished to claim monohull line honours © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Rambler 88 has won monohull line honours this morning, after crossing the Plymouth finish line at 09:55:02. American Owner George David and his all-star crew were delighted to have beaten their rivals on the 100-footer SHK Scallywag to the punch.

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MACIF pipped at the post by Maxi Edmond de Rothschild in Ultim competition

The crew of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild celebrate their record-breaking race today © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com The crew of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild celebrate their record-breaking race today © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

The 32m long Ultim trimarans laid on a spectacular finish in this 48th Rolex Fastnet Race resulting in MACIF, the leader since rounding the Fastnet Rock earlier this morning, being beaten to the finish line in the last breath of the race by her arch-rival Maxi Edmond de Rothschild.

As Maxi Edmond de Rothschild’s skipper Franck Cammas explained: “Just after they gybed onto the layline for the finish we crossed them and decided to overlay. It was our last chance to see if there was something still possible. But until five minutes before we finished we never thought it was possible!”

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The Hare and the tortoises

Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild sets a new record to the Fastnet Rock © Yann Riou Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild sets a new record to the Fastnet Rock © Yann Riou

Day One - Morning report

Overnight in this 48th Rolex Fastnet Race, the much forecast park-up caused by the wind transition between the southeasterly and southwesterly gradient breezes created a driftathon and a major compression in the fleet between Start Point and the Lizard. This meant a park-up for the majority of the fleet…but for some more than others.

Across Lyme Bay the majority of the fleet took a southerly course, passing closer to the Casquets traffic separation scheme than to Start Point, the idea being that the all-important transition zone leading to the new southwesterly breeze would be at its narrowest here. As they were headed and tacked, the boats most fully committed to the south – especially the IMOCA 60s PRB and Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco - had sailed as far south as the Channel Islands before the breeze shifted enough for them to tack.

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Record Rolex Fastnet Race fleet departs Cowes

Sorcha and Wizard exit the Solent after the start of a record-breaking Rolex Fastnet Race from Cowes,  Isle of Wight, UK© Paul Wyeth/RORC Sorcha and Wizard exit the Solent after the start of a record-breaking Rolex Fastnet Race from Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK© Paul Wyeth/RORC

A record fleet of 388 yachts set sail this afternoon from Cowes on the Rolex Fastnet Race.

From the outset this 48th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s pinnacle event was unusual. Whereas in most ‘normal’ Rolex Fastnet Races, the giant fleet embarks on a highly tactical race, tacking down the Solent and out into the English Channel, then having to figure out how to make the best of the strong tide, instead today they were treated to a southeasterly wind allowing them to broad reach in a straight line down the western Solent and through the usual bottleneck at Hurst Narrows and on past the Needles.

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Winners return to the Rolex Fastnet Race

Didier Gaudoux and the crew of his JND39 Lann Ael 2 return as the defending champions  © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex Didier Gaudoux and the crew of his JND39 Lann Ael 2 return as the defending champions © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

While the toughest competition in the Rolex Fastnet Race will be within the individual classes, the ultimate kudos comes from winning the Fastnet Challenge Cup, the outright prize for IRC corrected time for the world’s largest offshore yacht race. The challenge will be all the harder for this year’s race has an immense fleet of 336 boats (excluding the 60 racing in the non-IRC fleet).

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