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Fastnet Race - Not Just a Record Fleet, it's a Fantastic Fleet

12th August 2011
Fastnet Race - Not Just a Record Fleet, it's a Fantastic Fleet
With just over two days left until the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, a press conference was held yesterday in the Sir Max Aitken Museum in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. It was a case of standing room only for the international press that will be covering the Rolex Fastnet Race, the oldest and most prestigious offshore yacht race in the world.

Eddie Warden Owen, Chief Executive of the Royal Ocean Racing Club summed up the quality and quantity of this year's race: "The 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race is not just a record fleet, it is a fantastic fleet from professional high performance racing yachts to family owned production yachts raced by corinthian sailors. The biggest yacht is a 140' Trimaran, Maxi Banque Populaire and the smallest, Brightwork a 30' cruising yacht. It is an amazing array of yachts, quite outstanding."

RORC Commodore, Andrew McIrvine will be racing his First 40, La Réponse and the Commodore has had to qualify for this race just like all of the 300 hundred yachts racing under IRC.

"Besides a large fleet of professional teams racing, there are thousands of sailors competing for the Fastnet Challenge Cup. The Rolex Fastnet Race is a challenge for any of the competitors and this year, the Royal Ocean Racing Club has had a really windy season, so in qualifying for the Race, the competitors are very well prepared. This race was sold out in 11 days back in January. It looks like we are going to have a fantastic race and everybody is really looking forward to it," commented McIrvine.

George David, skipper of Rambler 100, has been enjoying an incredible season, winning the RORC Caribbean 600 overall and taking line honours in last month's Transatlantic Race. The 100' canting keel Maxi is the hot favourite to take line honours for the monohull division, but David is not taking anything for granted: "The weather forecast suggests that we should have wind for the race, there is disagreement about the direction with different forecast models, but it looks as though we should have wind of 12-20 knots, maybe more. We think we could have a shot at the record, but we will see how things go. My main concern when racing is that in order to come first, first you have to finish."

Ross and Campbell Field, the father and son team from New Zealand are both highly accomplished professional sailors, but are new to the Class 40 scene and this will be their
first race together on Hupane. There are over 20 Class 40s in the Rolex Fastnet Race, arguably the most competitive fleet assembled this year.

"I have done a lot of sailing with my Dad and we get on just fine. We are new to the class and we decided to enter this race with a very strong field to see where we are compared to the experienced and successful teams, but we are under no illusions, this is a very good fleet of Class 40s. On board, sometimes I call him Dad, other times Ross, it depends on what message we are trying to get across." said Campbell.

Henry Smith is a squad member of the British Keelboat Academy and will be skippering Yeoman of Wight, which has been loaned to the Academy for young aspiring sailors by former RORC Commodore, David Aisher: "It has always been a personal goal, it is an iconic race and one that I have always wanted to do and this will be my first time. The team on Yeoman are all young, the average age of the crew is 21 and it is very exciting for all of us to be competing, a bit of an Everest really."

In sharp contrast to the young crew on Yeoman of Wight, Ken Newman will be competing in his 27th Fastnet Race in Marinero. Ken reminisced about his first race: "I am in awe sitting here with these supreme sailors. I am glad to be here, but at the age of 82 and a quarter, I am glad to be anywhere! My first Fastnet was in 1957 when 40 boats left Cowes in a gale and by the time we got to Brixham, we had lost both halliards. I had to row ashore to get new blocks which I don't think I paid for. How times have changed since then."

The largest yacht competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race is without doubt the quickest. The 140' Trimaran, Maxi Banque Populaire is skippered by the legendary Loick Peyron and amongst the 14 crew on board is helmsman, Brian Thompson, holder of over 20 world records. "Banque Populaire is capable of reaching and maintaining a speed of nearly 40 knots for several hours. We recently completed a 360 mile race in 12 hours. My dream would be to finish the race with just one night at sea and get in late on Monday night, but the weather may not cooperate.  We would like to thank the RORC for allowing big multihulls into the race and add an extra dimension to it. This year, it is an unbelievable fleet, the best Rolex Fastnet Race ever, possibly the best ocean race ever."

The Rolex Fastnet Race starts on Sunday 14th August at 1100 BST. All of the competing yachts will be fitted with the latest tracking systems from Yellowbrick and many of the yachts are capable of sending back messages, pictures and even video of the drama as it unfolds.

Published in Fastnet
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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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