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Irish Yachts Line Out for the Fastnet Race

26th July 2011
Irish Yachts Line Out for the Fastnet Race
In just over two weeks' time, on Sunday 14th August, the biggest fleet ever (350 boats) will set sail from Cowes to take on one of the ultimate challenges in offshore racing – the Rolex Fastnet Race – a milestone for all sailors. Among this record fleet will be ten Irish yachts - a few are highlighted here:

ARABELLA, J111, Niall Dowling

Niall Dowling and Nick Smyth will be co-skippering the J111 'Arabella' under the burgee of the Royal Irish Yacht Club. 'Arabella', the first J111 in Europe, has had an extensive offshore campaign since winning the Hamble Spring Series in April. The Fastnet Race is the focus of their 2011 campaign.

Arabella currently lies 2nd out of over 300 boats in the RORC Overall Championship Series behind Piet Vroon's Kerr 46 Tonnerre de Breskens. Crew for the Rolex Fastnet will include Class 40 sailor, John Cunningham, GBR Olympic Finn coach Matt Howard and Volvo sailor Craig Bowie. Also on board is Dowling's long term friend, skipper and double handed campaigner Michael Boyd. Boyd is a veteran of many Fastnet campaigns, the first of which was on the Irish Admirals Cup team in 1983, will further bolster the offshore experience. The dynamic duo of Peter Knight and Aaron Cooper both amongst the elite graduates of the Solent Keelboat Academy will cover roles of bowman and navigator respectively.

When asked about the campaign Dowling commented: "This campaign is all about getting a group of friends that used to sail a lot together, back out there. Nick and I used to race dinghies, instructed sailing together in Dun Laoghaire and campaigned offshore. Nick has been doing lot of competitive team racing but until this campaign, the last offshore race we did together with Michael was the Round Ireland Race in 2006."

"The RORC Eddystone Race in May definitely showed there were no cobwebs as Nick drove most of the way back from the lighthouse topping out at 22.6 knots and averaging mid teens! John, although normally based in the US, has been doing a fellowship at Cambridge University and has been on board since the boat arrived".

Irish Olympic Finn sailor Tim Goodbody and the National Yacht Club's now Brighton based boat designer Jonny Coate are also regulars on board. For the Rolex Fastnet there will be a competitive fleet of 77 boats in IRC2 where Arabella currently lies 2nd in the series behind RORC commodore Andrew Mc Irvine's First 40 La Reponse.

DINAH, JOD35, Barry Hurley

Owner and skipper Barry Hurley will also be flying the flag for the Royal Irish Yacht Club onboard Dinah, a JOD35.

Barry will be sailing with Andy Boyle and between them they have clocked up an impressive amount of racing, including three transatlantic, three Round Ireland Races, two full RORC series campaigns and many more fully crewed regattas,including Cork Week, Sovereigns Cup, etc.

Barry won his class and was fourth overall on Dinah in the 2009 OSTAR (solo transatlantic). The Fastnet Race is one of the few major middle distance

offshore races in the world that neither Barry nor Andy have completed and 2011 is the year to tick that box.

SPIRIT OF JACANA, J133, Bruce, James and Alan Douglas, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

This boat is owned by the three Douglas brothers. The brothers and most of the crew are ex Scorpion dinghy sailors from Northern Ireland. The brothers previously owned a J35 Jacana and in this were class winners at Cork Week and at the Scottish series.

This really is a family affair as two of the brothers sons are also competing, Keith and Cameron Douglas. Cameron has a busy summer as he is representing RYA Team GBR at the ISAF Youth Worlds in the Laser Radial class in July and also at the Team Race Worlds in Ireland in September.

This is the first Fastnet Race for the crew who have sailed in a number of offshore races in Ireland and Scotland. "Having competed at various racing events such as Cork Week and Scottish Series, we wanted to take on other challenges. [Our goal for the Fastnet will be] to finish the race and enjoy the experience!"

Published in Fastnet
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RORC Fastnet Race

This race is both a blue riband international yachting fixture and a biennial offshore pilgrimage that attracts crews from all walks of life:- from aspiring sailors to professional crews; all ages and all professions. Some are racing for charity, others for a personal challenge.

For the world's top professional sailors, it is a 'must-do' race. For some, it will be their first-ever race, and for others, something they have competed in for over 50 years! The race attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts, from beautiful classic yachts to some of the fastest racing machines on the planet – and everything in between.

The testing course passes eight famous landmarks along the route: The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, the Lizard, Land’s End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater (now Cherbourg for 2021 and 2023). After the start in Cowes, the fleet heads westward down The Solent, before exiting into the English Channel at Hurst Castle. The finish for 2021 is in Cherbourg via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland.

  • The leg across the Celtic Sea to (and from) the Fastnet Rock is known to be unpredictable and challenging. The competitors are exposed to fast-moving Atlantic weather systems and the fleet often encounter tough conditions
  • Flawless decision-making, determination and total commitment are the essential requirements. Crews have to manage and anticipate the changing tidal and meteorological conditions imposed by the complex course
  • The symbol of the race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point in the challenging race
  • Once sailors reach the Fastnet Rock, they are well over halfway to the finish in Cherbourg.

Fastnet Race - FAQs

The 49th edition of the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race will start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, UK on Sunday 8th August 2021.

The next two editions of the race in 2021 and 2023 will finish in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin at the head of the Normandy peninsula, France

Over 300. A record fleet is once again anticipated for the world's largest offshore yacht race.

The international fleet attracts both enthusiastic amateur, the seasoned offshore racer, as well as out-and-out professionals from all corners of the world.

Boats of all shapes, sizes and age take part in this historic race, from 9m-34m (30-110ft) – and everything in between.

The Fastnet Race multihull course record is: 1 day 4 hours 2 minutes and 26 seconds (2019, Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier)

The Fastnet Race monohull course record is: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing).

David and Peter Askew's American VO70 Wizard won the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, claiming the Fastnet Challenge Cup for 1st in IRC Overall.

Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001.

The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result.

The winner of the first Fastnet Race was the former pilot cutter Jolie Brise, a boat that is still sailing today.

Cork sailor Henry P F Donegan (1870-1940), who gave his total support for the Fastnet Race from its inception in 1925 and competed in the inaugural race in his 43ft cutter Gull from Cork.

Ireland has won the Fastnet Race twice. In 1987 the Dubois 40 Irish Independent won the Fastnet Race overall for the first time and then in 2007 – all of twenty years after Irish Independent’s win – Ireland secured the overall win again this time thanks to Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 Chieftain from the Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland in Kilrush.

©Afloat 2020

Fastnet Race 2021 Date

The 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race will start on Sunday 8th August 2021.

At A Glance – Fastnet Race

  • The world's largest offshore yacht race
  • The biennial race is 605 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Plymouth
  • A fleet of over 400 yachts regularly will take part
  • The international fleet is made up of over 26 countries
  • Multihull course record: 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (2011, Banque Populaire V)
  • Monohull course record: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi)
  • Largest IRC Rated boat is the 100ft (30.48m) Scallywag 100 (HKG)
  • Some of the Smallest boats in the fleet are 30 footers
  • Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001
  • The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result

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