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Fastnet Race to Finish in Cherbourg, RORC Announce

26th November 2019
L to R: Benoît Arrive, Mayor of Cherbourg-en-Contentin, Marc Lefevre, Chairman of County Council of Manche, Steven Anderson, RORC Commodore, Jean-Louis Valentin, Chairman of Urban Community of Cotentin, Isabelle Vandenberghe, Elected Member of Regional Council of Normandy Geneviève Gosselin-Fleury, Chairman Tourism of Cotentin, Eddie Warden Owen (RORC CEO) L to R: Benoît Arrive, Mayor of Cherbourg-en-Contentin, Marc Lefevre, Chairman of County Council of Manche, Steven Anderson, RORC Commodore, Jean-Louis Valentin, Chairman of Urban Community of Cotentin, Isabelle Vandenberghe, Elected Member of Regional Council of Normandy Geneviève Gosselin-Fleury, Chairman Tourism of Cotentin, Eddie Warden Owen (RORC CEO) Photo: Paul Wyeth

The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), organisers of the Rolex Fastnet Race, announced at a press conference today that the City of Cherbourg will host the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race for the 2021 and 2023 editions of the biennial race. The move encourages and secures the future development of the race and will open it to more competitors; in 2019 the race had a waiting list of 150 boats.

Details of the announcement were made online today in a Facebook Live broadcast that attracted 254 viewers, as Afloat reported earlier here.

In his announcement, RORC Commodore Steven Anderson said he would consider returning to the previous finish city of Plymouth for 2025, for the 100th edition of the race, if facilities can be extended.

The new course will be 90 nautical miles longer and RORC say there is no decision yet on whether or not it will run before or after Cowes Week in 2021.

Rumours of the move to France first surfaced a year ago and were reported by Afloat here. And in September 2018, Afloat's WM Nixon blogged: Is This The Beginning Of The End Of The Fastnet Race As We Know It?

Online comments were swift and not altogether positive: Gareth Evans stating the Fastnet is "a British Tradition and British Race" and that it should really finish in Great Britain. Facebook Live Viewer Adrian Gray stated that it was 'stomach-churning' and that '96% are against this change'. Paul Browning said it was 'Terrible news. Sell out of the many for the vested interest of the elite'. But Fiona Tully remarked online: 'I can understand why they are moving it..... To facilitate the ever-growing demand for sailors that want to compete in this historic race and Plymouth perhaps just does not have the infrastructure or facilities for this demand'. Chris Shipman said: 'Fantastic idea and great to share this event with the French who are such prominent participants in the Fastnet race".

Others like Paul Cunningham said 'A precedent has now been set, that the race finish can be moved to anywhere that is approximately 600+ NM from Cowes after rounding the Fastnet Rock'. Kenneth Sharp commented 'That’s a long sail back for Irish yachts!'.  Nick Barlow said that 'given the additional distance it will definitely favour the larger boats. This supports the need for a Corinthian Fastnet run by JOG and Plymouth clubs'.

The City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region have come together to support the race finish with a package that enhances the competitor experience with increased berthing, enhanced shoreside facilities, competitor functions and events in an exciting development for the race.

Since seven boats competed in the first race in 1925, the Royal Ocean Racing Club has continued to push the boundaries of participation in offshore racing. The 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race had 388 yachts on the start line from 27 different nations. The Club’s aim is to foster greater participation and improve access to the race. The enhanced facilities offered by Cherbourg will give the opportunity for more boats and sailors to take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race in future years.

Speaking about the benefits of Cherbourg as the finish venue, RORC Commodore, Steven Anderson, said: “It is an exciting time for this iconic and extremely successful race. Finishing the Rolex Fastnet Race in Cherbourg will encourage and secure the continued growth of the Club’s most prestigious event and provide an enhanced competitor experience. The enthusiasm of the French for offshore racing is legendary, and the City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region have been hugely passionate and committed partners in this initiative.”

cherbourgThe City of Cherbourg will host the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2021 and 2023 Photo: JM Enault /Ville de Cherbourg en Cotentin

“The race has grown steadily over the past two decades and more and more people want to take part. We have had to limit entries in recent years because of berthing constraints, but Cherbourg offers significant additional berthing and improved facilities for competitors, so we will be able to take a larger number of entries and give more sailors the opportunity to compete in this very special race,” continued Anderson.

Jean-Louis Valentin, President of La Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin said: “Cherbourg is one of France’s great channel ports, closely linked to naval history and transatlantic adventures, and the Cotentin Coast is home to the many prominent water sports events. Bringing the Rolex Fastnet Race finish to Cherbourg means that the City and Cotentin are now part of the club of coastal territories linked to a mythical offshore race. The adventure of a great race, sailors in the City and beautiful entertainment, will make the finish a popular ocean racing spectacle for the public. A Race Village and many festivities have already been planned in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin to invite Normans and sailing enthusiasts to take part in this great ocean festival.”

RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen commented: “This is an exciting chapter in the history of the Fastnet Race and the founding fathers who competed in the very first race in 1925 will be proud that the race has survived all these years and seen unprecedented growth. City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region will give the sailors a warm welcome. The French are known for their passion for offshore racing and French sailors regularly compete in and have won the Rolex Fastnet Race. This is exciting times for the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Rolex Fastnet Race as we continue to evolve and expand for the benefit of our members and offshore racing sailors worldwide.”

Benoît Arrive, Mayor of Cherbourg-en-Contentin said: “Our City has a long history with the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Many sailors from Cherbourg-en-Cotentin have competed in the legendary Fastnet Race and for many of them, the RORC Season’s Points Championship remains a major competition. Several Cherbourgers have distinguished themselves in the Fastnet Race, Alexis Lioisin in particular, a recent double winner with his father. The Solent is not far from our port and I am very happy that we can bring them together by hosting this very important sailing event for the first time. Our port is used to hosting major sailing events and is looking forward to being the arrival city for the next two editions. 2021 and 2023 will be exceptional for the Rolex Fastnet Race.”

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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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