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Safran is One of Six IMOCA 60s to Tackle the Fastnet Race

12th August 2011
Safran is One of Six IMOCA 60s to Tackle the Fastnet Race
To the south of Ireland, on an isolated rock some five miles from land, the Fastnet Lighthouse is a mythical mark for the world's sailors. Created in 1925, the Rolex Fastnet Race brings together this summer 323 boats measuring between 10 and 40 metres, including six 60-foot IMOCA monohulls. Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès will be at the start on Safran at 1 p.m on 14th August as they prepare for the Transat Jacques Vabre...

There have never been as many entrants before for what is one of the world's oldest races. 323 crews will be setting out from the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes (Isle of Wight-GB) with a finish in Plymouth after rounding the Irish lighthouse and completing the 608 miles of the race course, in what are often windy conditions. The Fastnet, built in 1854 on the Carraig Aonar, the lone rock in Gaelic, was the final part of the European coast that the emigrants saw as they made their way to the United States in steamers... Organised every other year in odd years by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race is the 44th edition of the race, with the record time of 1d 20h 18' held by the monohull ICAL Leopard since 2007...

Time to practice

For Safran which has just completed a training period in La Trinité-sur-Mer after smashing the Round Britain and Ireland record, the Rolex Fastnet Race is above all a taster before the main event of the season, the Transat Jacques Vabre: "The five other IMOCA 60 boats will be racing double-handed, so this is a good way to see how we can do against the latest generation like PRB, Cheminées Poujoulat, Virbac-Paprec3, but also Hugo Boss and DCNS 1000. After our training in La Trinité-sur-Mer, we needed a complete change with a technical course with a range of wind, sea and tidal conditions," explained Marc Guillemot, who arrived on the Isle of Wight on Wednesday.

The 608-mile course tests not only performance capabilities on coastal courses, but also the sailors' abilities in an ocean race. It requires a lot of preparation as well as a good speed potential. "The start is to take place with a North-westerly wind blowing between 10 and 15 knots with squalls likely in the Channel Approaches. In the Celtic Sea, a front should be passing over before the Fastnet Lighthouse and then there are likely to be high-pressure conditions becoming established with an easterly wind accompanying them all the way to the finish in Plymouth. The race will essentially be an upwind affair in moderate winds locally reaching 15-20 knots... They can look forward to at least two days at sea," explained Sylvain Mondon of Météo France.

Finding their feet

Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès know 60-foot IMOCA boats and double-handed sailing well, having already sailed together in these difficult and sometimes rough seas. That was the case in the Solitaire du Figaro, at the finish or start of transatlantic races and indeed during the Round Britain and Ireland trip. "The Rolex Fastnet Race is a rehearsal for us, a mock exam, a chance to try some double-handed racing. As Safran is a demanding boat and this year's race looks like being rather rough, it means it is going to be similar to what we can expect at the start of the transatlantic race with the exit from the Channel and the voyage across the Bay of Biscay. I raced in this event in 2007 sailing double-handed: it was my first chance to get to know IMOCA 60 sailing and it was an excellent way to rehearse. The course itself is something we know well having taken part in the Solitaire du Figaro: The Fastnet Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful sights from the sea there is in Europe..." explained Yann Eliès.

In the middle of the choppy waters of the Solent, the stretch of water separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland, more than 300 boats will be setting off with a series of starts scheduled from 1200 hrs local time on 14th August. Safran and the five other Imoca 60 boats taking part will quickly be out there with the serious stuff facing the opposition: Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès will have to find their feet very quickly ...

Published in Fastnet Team

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The Rolex Fastnet Race - This biennial offshore pilgrimage 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 is in Plymouth, Devon 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 Plymouth. The lighthouse first shone its light on New Year’s Day in 1854
  • Fastnet Rock originally had six keepers (now unmanned), with four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Each man did four weeks on, two weeks off
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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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