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Fastnet Race 2019 Has Seen The “Wimbledon Effect” Rampant

7th August 2019
 It may be Ireland’s Fastnet Rock at dawn, but it’s yet another successful French boat greeting the new day as veteran French sailor Catherine Pourre in her French-designed and French-built Class 40 Earendi races on to place third overall in Class40 in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 It may be Ireland’s Fastnet Rock at dawn, but it’s yet another successful French boat greeting the new day as veteran French sailor Catherine Pourre in her French-designed and French-built Class 40 Earendi races on to place third overall in Class40 in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 Photo: Rolex

The “Wimbledon Effect” is pretty well complete with the Rolex Fastnet Race generally, and with the 2019 event, in particular, writes W M Nixon. As with Wimbledon tennis itself, the English organize a jolly good event with this classic offshore challenge, though in the case of the Fastnet Race it’s with a little help from the Irish and our very useful rock, not to mention our weather - and welcome to it.

But in the end, all the main prizes have gone abroad, in the Fastnet Race’s case either across the Channel or across the Atlantic. They certainly haven’t come to Ireland. And yet it’s only a dozen years since Ger O’Rourke of Kilrush was totally triumphant every which way in winning overall with his Cookson 50 Chieftain.

"All the main prizes have gone abroad, in the Fastnet Race’s case either across the Channel or across the Atlantic"

Our only last hope is with the Roger Justice Trophy for the best sailing school boat, and our two contenders in this – both from Irish Offshore Sailing in Dun Laoghaire - are at the time of writing still racing, with the Sun Fast 37 Sherkin 2, skippered by Daniel Smith, slightly ahead of his boss Ronan O Siochru sailing sister-ship Desert Star, both with around 37 miles to go to the finish at Plymouth, and both sailing at 6.3 knots.

sherkin two2Irish offshore sailing’s Sherkin 2, skippered by Daniel Smith, is currently narrowly ahead of sister-ship Desert Star, skippered by Ronan O Siochru. Photo: O’Brien

Meanwhile, the rest of the results are more than clearcut in their message for Irish and UK sailors:

American boat first to finish? Check. It’s George David’s Rambler88.

American boat first overall on IRC? Check. It’s Peter and Dave Askew’s former Volvo 70 Wizard, skippered by Charlie Enright.

French boats dominating most of the other classes? Check. Here’s the Roll of Honour of French boats in the top three in all classes:

Class 0: 2nd Bretagne Telecom (French-designed and built Mach 45)

lange de milon3Jacques Pelletier’s Milon 41 L’Ange de Milon is winner of Class 1. Photo: Rolex
Class 1: 1st L’Ange de Milon (Milon 41), 2nd Lann Ael (Jnd39, overall winner in 2017, 3rd Tonnere de Glen

Class 2: lst Courrier Recommende (JPK 11.80), 2nd Nutmeg Solidaire En Peleton (MC34)

Class 3: 1st Leon (JPK 10.30), 3rd Dream Pearls (JPK 10.80)

Class 4: 1st Foggy Dew (JPK 10.10), 2nd Gioia (JPK 10.10), 3rd Sun Hill 3.

IRC Two-handed: 1st Leon (JPK 10.30), 3rd Raging-bee (JPK 10.80).

MOCRA: 1st Guyader Gastronomie

Open Multihull: 1st Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Gitana XVII), 2nd Macif, 3rd Sodebo Ultim

IMOCA 60: 1st Charal, 2nd Prb, 3rd Banque Populaire

Class40: 1st Lamotte-Module Creation, 2nd Beijaflore, 3rd Earendi.

We can draw all sorts of conclusions from this, but if you think it must be something to do with a rigidly-controlled society, perish the thought. On the contrary, it seems to be the result of a society of hugely individualistic people who - in the case of sailing and particularly offshore racing – share a desire to create innovative boats and race them in the most skilled possible way.

jpk workshop4The essence of French enthusiasm – Jean-Pierre Kelbert in his boat-building workshop in Lorient.
The classic case in point is Jean-Pierre Kelbert, creator of the JPK range of successful offshore racers which really do perform as good and comfortable cruisers as well. In industry terms, his company is small. But with the Rolex Fastnet Race, JPK Yachts is global in its impact, and we can only hope some venture company doesn’t somehow get its mitts into it and spoil the magic with excessive expansion.

As it happens, the company’s successful boats are the saving of it. If you have a JPK yacht, you have absolutely no excuse for not winning. By buying one, you’re either going to race determinedly, or cruise far and wide with style. There’s no place for limp performance with a JPK. There’s no point in everyone trying to have a JPK.

leon finish5Enthusiasm afloat – Alexis Loison (left) and owner-skipper-builder Jean Pierre Kelbert after the JPK 10.30 Leon had crossed the finish line yesterday at Plymouth to achieve multiple wins. Photo: Rolex

The man himself seems to be super-human in his energy and enthusiasm, yet modest with it. He came to sailing through wind-surfing in which he was European champion in 1988 and 1999. But by the turn of the millennium, he was thinking about proper boats and found a kindred soul in designer Jacques Valeur, who designed the first JPK boat when the firm started in 2002, and continues to design a balanced range of performance boats in which the JPK 10.30 – introduced in April this year – is at one end and the JPK 45 – a lift-keel fast cruiser – is at the other.

Even today, Jean-Pierre Kelbert seems to be very personally involved in a direct hands-on way with every boat which his small but select workforce creates. But his enthusiasm doesn’t stop there, for he still relishes sailing.

Thus we watched with interest as the new JPK 10.30 Leon started in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 racing in both the Two-Handed Division and Class 3. And as she appeared with more regularity at the front of both fleets, we wondered who might be sailing her. It was the man himself, no less, sailing with Alexis Loison.

jpk fortyfive6 Another aspect of a remarkable product line – the JPK 45 fast cruiser has a lifting keel.

They just went better and better, putting in a stellar performance on the fast leg from the Fastnet to the Bishop, and at the finish not only had they stayed in front to win the Two-Handed Division and Class 3, but they shot up to sixth overall just behind Gery Trentesaux in the JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommande, and otherwise surrounded by much bigger boats.

Monsieur Jean-Pierre Kelbert, we salute you. Meanwhile, here’s a vid of George David’s Rambler 88 doing great things at the other end of the size scale:


Published in Fastnet
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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

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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