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New Fastnet Course to Finish at Cherbourg – a Coup d’etat & a Fait Accompli?

26th November 2019
The Fastnet Rock – “Ireland’s tear-drop” - continues to be the turning point of the Rolex Fastnet Race on its new 2021 course to Cherbourg in France The Fastnet Rock – “Ireland’s tear-drop” - continues to be the turning point of the Rolex Fastnet Race on its new 2021 course to Cherbourg in France

Well, there’s been something in the air for long enough about the future of the Rolex Fastnet Race writes W M Nixon.

Back in September 2018, we were testing a few ideas about where it might go here

And on revisiting the column, we find that it has been getting hits ever since. Then the Plymouth Herald did a bit of speculation as reported by Afloat.ie’s MacDara Conroy, and there was indeed something in the wind, for as revealed today with the “sudden" announcement that Cherbourg is to be the finishing port in 2021 and 2023, we have – as the new "co-owners" of the race would put it – a fait accompli, a coup d’etat of very complete type (whatever that is in French, and whatever you’re having yourself.)

French boats have won something like three out of the last four Fastnet Races, and even though the most recent this year was won by the American Wizard, there were French boats dominant as usual in all other classes. They probably have increasingly proprietorial feelings towards the race. And with today’s bombshell definite news, the way is clear for making more of a song and dance about the new French finish port at this year’s Paris Boat Show, which starts in ten days' time. But that said, it’s still Ireland’s rock and always will be. So now that it’s apparent there’s serious new money floating around the Fastnet Race, maybe Cork County Council should be preparing an invoice for Cherbourg council, and no April Fool either.

Afloat.ie 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

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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