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New Fastnet 2021 Race Course Gets Dry Run With Virtual Regatta

27th July 2020
The new Fastnet Race Virtual race starts on August 3rd The new Fastnet Race Virtual race starts on August 3rd

Just over a year out from the August 2021 start of the race proper, potential competitors, armchair sailors and gamer enthusiasts from all over the world will have the opportunity to try their hand at competing on the new course for the Rolex Fastnet Race, in the online game created by Virtual Regatta.

The first part of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's premier offshore event remains the same - leaving Cowes, heading west down the English Channel, passing Land's End and crossing the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland, before returning to the Channel, leaving Bishop Rock to port. But, for its next edition, the finish has moved to Cherbourg at the top of the Cotentin Peninsula, some 70 miles due south of Cowes. This change to the world's most popular offshore race increases its distance to 695nm.

Following the new course, Virtual Regatta's Rolex Fastnet Race will set sail at 1200 UTC on 3 August 2020. It will provide players with the opportunity to compete against friends, family, colleagues or fellow sailing enthusiasts in a race based on real weather data aboard their own Class40. The game is free to play, but the more competitive can pay a small fee to upgrade their equipment. While the 'real' Rolex Fastnet Race is the world's most well-subscribed offshore race with more than 350 entries expected on the start line in 2021, ranging from 100ft Ultime maxi trimarans to mums and dads on their 30ft family cruisers, the Virtual Regatta fleet will dwarf this, their offshore events regularly seeing more than 30,000 entries.

Among the virtual competitors, this year will be two-time Volvo Ocean Race winner Phil Harmer. The Australian was part of Ian Walker's crew that set the present monohull Rolex Fastnet Race course record aboard the VO70 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in 2011. Despite his vast offshore experience and having competed in at least six Rolex Fastnet Races, Harmer is new to Virtual Regatta offshore events. "When lockdown started I downloaded the app and played a few dinghy races, but I haven't done any offshores. There's nothing like a Fastnet for a baptism of fire! It will be fun to do. It will keep me busy."

Harmer will be competing from his base in Sydney where his night shift will be made easier as he will be up, in any case, tending his newborn child. He is looking forward to going to Cherbourg. "Sometimes things just need a little change to get people interested in doing it again."

Former RORC Commodore and Admiral Andrew McIrvine intend to race his new La Réponse, a Ker 39, in next year's Rolex Fastnet Race. He advises that the Virtual Regatta race will provide a good opportunity to walk the course: "This course will be a new challenge for all of us - even those who have done more than enough Fastnets! It will be good to try it out 'virtually'. A number of friends and I have been having fun doing VR races during lockdown. Planning the weather routing is remarkably realistic and educational - highly recommended for budding navigators!"

Also on the virtual Rolex Fastnet Race start line will be Sonar world champion Hannah Stodel, who has her sights set on competing in the new mixed doublehanded offshore class for the Paris 2024 Olympics. "I've done a couple of Virtual Regatta races for fun, but nothing like the Fastnet," she says. The virtual Rolex Fastnet Race will have the benefit that it will be sailed in Class40s, the class in which Stodel had been hoping to compete this season. She is looking to do the virtual race with some of her crew who sailed the real Rolex Fastnet Race previously. "They are quite excited about it and there's even talk of a watch system. Anything that gets you looking at weather data and making strategic decisions is good practice, even if it is on the computer. It'll be a learning experience."

The virtual Rolex Fastnet Race can be played on a computer at: (www.virtualregatta.com) and on a smartphone via the Virtual Regatta Offshore App available for download from the Apple Store / Google Play Store. Those wishing to play must register with Virtual Regatta.

Published in Fastnet, Esailing
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Fastnet Yacht Race 

This race is both a blue riband international yachting fixture and a biennial offshore pilgrimage that 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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