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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

Record Rolex Fastnet Race fleet departs Cowes

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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The Rogers family's Contessa 32, Assent, and crew before the start of the 48th Rolex Fastnet Race The Rogers family's Contessa 32, Assent, and crew before the start of the 48th Rolex Fastnet Race

Smallest boat, biggest message

A key part of the famous Rogers Lymington yacht design/boat building dynasty are sailing what they describe as a ‘museum piece’ in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race. The sons of Jeremy Rogers, creator of the Contessa range - Kit who has taken over the reins of the family firm and renowned yacht designer Simon plus their respective eldest, Jonah and Hatty - are sailing the 1972 vintage Contessa 32 Assent.

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Meteorologist Libby Greenhalgh's routing map Meteorologist Libby Greenhalgh's routing map

Big or small boat race? The 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race remains wide open

Whether to go inshore or offshore, how long will it take, will it be a ‘big boat or small boat’ race, how to handle the powerful tides and will I need an anchor and an umbrella? The answers for this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race are profoundly different according to whether you are on an Ultim trimaran or one of the fastest monohulls like Scallywag and Rambler 88 or on Assent, the Rogers family’s well-travelled Contessa 32 or one of the 390 or so boats in between.

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Matt Sheahan comperes the Press Conference, asking questions of Alexis Loison of Léon, Didier Gaudoux of Lann Ael 2 and Paul Moxon of Amokura © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Matt Sheahan comperes the Press Conference, asking questions of Alexis Loison of Léon, Didier Gaudoux of Lann Ael 2 and Paul Moxon of Amokura © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

Cowes Parade is packed for Press Conference and Skippers' Briefing

The great and the good of the 48th Rolex Fastnet Race appeared on a specially prepared stage set up for the public on Cowes Parade this afternoon.

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The UKSA free paddleboard around the "Fastnet Rock" is one of several attractions open to public and competitors at the Fastnet Race Village © Trish Jenkins The UKSA free paddleboard around the "Fastnet Rock" is one of several attractions open to public and competitors at the Fastnet Race Village © Trish Jenkins

Cowes Fastnet Race Village Open

For the first time the Rolex Fastnet Race will be operating a pop-up Fastnet Race Village on Cowes Parade ahead of the 48th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Open from 11am - midnight onThursday 1st August, for one day only, the Fastnet Race Village will be open to competitors and the public alike with free attractions, food and entertainment!

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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

Winners return to the Rolex Fastnet Race

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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Luke Berry's Sam Manuard-designed Mach 40.3 Lamotte - Module Création will be one of 22 Class40s competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race this year © Pierre Bouras Luke Berry's Sam Manuard-designed Mach 40.3 Lamotte - Module Création will be one of 22 Class40s competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race this year © Pierre Bouras

Offshore racing's most successful class

In the 15 years since the Class40 box rule was unveiled, an unprecedented 169 examples from early racer cruisers, to fully wicked-up grand prix race boats have been built, making it the most successful 40 foot racing yacht of all time. 

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Video: Preview of the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race Video: Preview of the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race

Video: Preview of the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race

See the Preview Video of the world's largest offshore race, the biennial #RolexFastnetRace. An established fixture on the ocean racing circuit since 1925.
2019 marks the 48th edition of the epic offshore race, starting on Saturday 3rd August in Cowes, UK.
© ROLEX

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In 2013, Alexis Loison and his father Pascal were the first doublehanded team to win the Rolex Fastnet Race. This year, Alexis will race on the  JPK 10.30 Léon © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com In 2013, Alexis Loison and his father Pascal were the first doublehanded team to win the Rolex Fastnet Race. This year, Alexis will race on the JPK 10.30 Léon © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Doublehanders on the rise

Perhaps it is because people are becoming increasingly time poor, or because it neatly side-steps the problem of keeping a large crew together, but one area of offshore racing undeniably gaining popularity is doublehanding.

This unique discipline of our sport has been recognised by World Sailing with the announcement that a ‘Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore’ event will be introduced to the Olympics for Paris 2024.

Over the last few editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the IRC Two Handed class has shown steady growth from 45 entries in 2013 to 53 in 2015 and 57 in in the last race. At the time of writing, 63 doublehanded competitors were entered this year.

The range of boat performance in IRC Two Handed spans James Heald's Swan 45 Nemesis (although the longest boat is American Mark Stevens’ Hinckley 51 Kiva, a recent arrival in the Transatlantic Race 2019), down to Will Sayer's Sigma 33 Elmarleen. In between there are Sun Fast 3200s and 3600s, JPK 10.10s and 10.80s plus J/122s, J/109s and J/105s and A-35s plus, among others, Sigmas, Swans, Figaro IIs and Figaro 3s.

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Race Office at the Finish

  • Shaw Way, Mount Batten, Plymouth
  • +44 (0) 1983 295 144
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Partners & Suppliers

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Race Office at the Start

  • 82 High Street, Cowes
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