A year from now the start gun will fire on what will be the most significant, historic edition of the world’s largest offshore yacht race. Setting sail from Cowes on Saturday 22nd July 2023 will be the 50th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race.
With its new course and giant fleet, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race this year provided an even greater test of racing and seamanship skill for its competitors. At 695 miles, the new course to Cherbourg was 90 miles longer than before, but as usual, required competitors to negotiate a complex mix of coastal, oceanic and tidal sailing. More extreme than usual were the conditions. For the start there was a near gale and a vicious wind-against-tide sea state to exit the Solent, but these slowly abated and later there were periods of flat calm and fog.
The move of the finish from Plymouth to Cherbourg was due to the increased facilities, including a huge marina and berthing in the heart of the city, as well as taking the world’s largest offshore race to a country where public interest and enthusiasm for this form of yachting is unparalleled. It came about thanks to the co-operation of the City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, the Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Région Normandie.
The Rolex Fastnet Race has officially come to an end. Le Loup Rouge of Cmn, the last competitor to finish, arrived in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin last night after 8 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 28 seconds of racing.
As the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race draws to a close, you can catch up on the event in several ways online
This evening is the prize-giving for the 49th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race, taking place in the race village on the waterfront at Cherbourg’s Port Chantereyne.
As overall winner of the race, Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise is going to need a bigger cabinet to store the trophies which include the Foxhound Cup for victory in IRC Two as well as the coveted Fastnet Challenge Cup for winning the Rolex Fastnet Race outright. A new prize, the David Seth Smith Trophy is also for Sunrise as the best Performance 40. The Alf Loomis Trophy goes to the navigator of the best yacht overall, although as co-navigators Suzy Peters and Tom Cheney will have to argue over who gets to take that one home. With two years until the next edition of the race, at least Tom and Suzy can keep it for a year each.
This year the Rolex Fastnet Race featured on the Classe Figaro calendar. Unfortunately the proximity of it to the mid-August start of La Solitaire du Figaro, the class’ premier event and the effective World Championship of solo offshore racing, meant that just five Figaros took part. Victory went to a rookie pairing.
Built by Beneteau and designed by VPLP, the 32ft Figaro 3 is an early generation foiler monohull that replaced the Figaro 2 in 2019. But to give some idea of its exceptional performance, the boat has an IRC TCC of around 1.115 - around the same as a Corby 38 or Ker 39.
Sadly the big 35 knot upwind, wind against tide conditions at the start put two Figaro 3s out of action. British favourites, the mixed duo of Cat Hunt and former Artemis Offshore Academy student Hugh Brayshaw aboard Ross Farrow’s Stormwave 2.0 retired after their D2 broke. Meanwhile sail damage on Eric & Denis Delamare’s Hope forced them to limp into Cherbourg.
As of dawn on the sixth day, 20 boats were still at sea, racing towards the finish in Cherbourg.
For the Paul Moxon and Steve Jones, the doublehanded team on Amokura, this race is a fascinating chapter to a story dating back to 1939, when Amokura was built in Moody’s Yard up the Hamble River in Hampshire, UK. The 50ft Fredrick Shepherd yawl competed in the 1959 Fastnet Race and in the 2019 edition, but completed neither. For the 2021 edition, Amokura crossed the finish line at 10:54, finally finishing the race she was built for 82 years ago.
1500 BST 12 August
At 15:00 BST on Day 5 of the Rolex Fastnet Race, five boats form a leading pack on the water in IRC Four. 140 miles from the finish in Cherbourg the leaders are expected to cross the finish line tonight. All of the teams racing in IRC Four are experiencing an increase in wind speed from the southwest, especially the back markers who are experiencing a Force 7 at the Fastnet Rock.
Making good progress, reaching east in a building south westerly breeze, Harry Heijst’s S&S 41 Winsome will see an opportunity to make gains. Winsome has by far the longest waterline length in the leading pack around them. To the north of Winsome and the rhumb line is Vincent & Jacques Rigalleau racing Sun Fast 3200 Enedis, Emmanuel & Etienne Pinteaux’s JPK 10.10 Gioia and Patrick Molitor & Alexis Schenker’s JPK 10.10 Fleur Du Sud. Ludovic Menahes & David le Goff, racing JPK 10.10 Raphael is the most southerly of the leaders.
1300 BST Thursday 12 August
Louis-Marie Dussere’s JPK 10.80 Raging Bee² still leads on the water in IRC Three for the Rolex Fastnet Race. Raging Bee² passed the Isles of Scilly for the second time at 20:37 on 11th August. JPK 10.30 Léon, sailed, Two-Handed by Alexis Loison & Guillaume Pirouelle was 18 minutes behind. Since rounding the Fastnet Rock Raging Bee² has extended their lead on the water by 11 minutes, posting the quickest stage time in IRC Three. Philippe Girardin’s J/120 Hey Jude continues to impress against the modern designs, passing the Scillies just nine minutes after the JPK 10.30 Léon. Olivier Burgaud & Sylvain Pontu’s JPK 10.80 Aileau is also in the leading pack bound for Cherbourg and placed third in IRC Two-Handed.
After the exceptional IMOCA win for Apivia early Wednesday morning, so there was yet more compression in the fleet astern of the race winner as the already compacted Vendée Globe 60 footers fell foul of the Alderney Race. Nonetheless the defending Rolex Fastnet Race IMOCA champions Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt on Charal managed to hang on to second.
The 84ft Nigel Irens designed catamaran Allegra, sailed by Switzerland’s Adrian Keller, finished the 695-mile Rolex Fastnet Race course in an elapsed time of 3 days 18 mins and 38 secs and looks set to win the MOCRA Class. This follows Allegra's multihull class victory in the last RORC Caribbean 600.
1200 BST Wednesday 11 August
Just before 4 am BST on the fourth day of the Rolex Fastnet Race, Ludovic Menahes & David le Goff, racing JPK 10.10 Raphael Two-Handed, rounded the Fastnet Lighthouse - the first boat to do so in IRC Four. Raphael also led the class after time correction by over two hours. Racing a 10-metre boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race is an arduous task, coupled with the brutal conditions experienced in the first 24 hours, their performance so far has been nothing short of breath-taking.
1000 BST Wednesday 11 August
Beating up towards the Fastnet Rock is making for slow going for the back half of the IRC Two fleet as the wind is blowing from an inconvenient north-westerly direction off the southern tip of Ireland. Once they're round, at least the boats will be able to free up their sails and pick up some pace.
Meanwhile the frontrunners in this division are making good ground back towards the Scilly Isles, the wind blowing from a south-west-southerly direction. While Minnie the Minx (Philip Cook’s First 40) and J’Ouvert (Simon Harris’s J/122e) are bringing up the rear of IRC Two, Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise is coming the other way, strengthening her hold on the lead.
1000 BST Wednesday 11 August
In the early hours of the fourth day of the Rolex Fastnet Race, Louis-Marie Dussere’s JPK 10.80 Raging Bee² was the first boat in IRC Three to round the Fastnet Lighthouse. Visibility was poor, the wind was strong, but the glow of light from the legendary beacon lit up the breaking waves. Raging Bee² was not alone, the Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier, was just five minutes and 24 seconds behind and it was a mere seven seconds before Alexis Loison & Guillaume Pirouelle, racing JPK 10.30 Léon, rounded the famous landmark. Philippe Girardin’s J/120 Hey Jude was the next to round, just under eight minutes behind Léon. Henry Bomby and Shirley Robertson, racing Sun Fast 3300 Swell, was to follow, posting the fastest time in the fleet from The Lizard. The top five boats on the water rounded the Fastnet Rock within an hour, after two and a half days of gruelling racing.