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49th Rolex Fastnet Race - One Year to Go!

6th August 2020
Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 - With the finish in Cherbourg, more French entries are anticipated but the majority are still likely to be from the UK Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 - With the finish in Cherbourg, more French entries are anticipated but the majority are still likely to be from the UK Photo: Kurt Arrigo

In one year’s time, a new era will begin for the world’s largest offshore yacht race. On 8 August 2021, the Rolex Fastnet Race will set sail from Cowes bound for the Fastnet Rock as usual, but then, once the boats have rounded Bishop Rock, they will, for the first time in the race’s 96 year history, point their bows towards Cherbourg, the new finish for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event.

Announced last November, the change in finish venue to Cherbourg comes thanks to the joint co-operation of the City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, the Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Région Normandie with the event’s organiser, the RORC. The Rolex Fastnet Race’s giant fleet will face no berthing shortage when they reach Cherbourg where they will be moored in Port Chantereyne and the Bassin du Commerce.

Well used to hosting large sailing and other sports events, the historic naval port at the top of the Cotentin Peninsula, will provide shoreside spectacle and razzamatazz on an unprecedented scale for Rolex Fastnet Race finishers. Most unexpected for competitors from outside of France will be the degree of interest taken in yacht racing by the local community. Thanks to events such as the Vendée Globe and the Route du Rhum professional sailing is a top tier sport in France and its top players, many of whom will be competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race, are household names. In addition to its long history and its massive fleet, one of the attractions of the race, that draws competitors from across the globe, is the opportunity for not just the general offshore racing community, but also Corinthian family, friends and sailing school entries to be on the same start line as legends of our sport.

Among the stars will again be Charles Caudrelier and Franck Cammas on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. The massive 32m long 23m wide flying trimaran is one of the world’s fastest offshore race boats and famously in the last race overtook Francois Gabart’s MACIF on the last gybe to win by less than a minute.

“It was a similar difference between Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE in the race before,” recalls Caudrelier, who went on to skipper the Chinese VO65 to victory in the subsequent Volvo Ocean Race. “I love the race because I think the south coast of England and the north coast of Brittany are most complicated to manage which makes them the best places for racing. I really enjoy the passage between Cowes and the Lizard playing the sea breeze and the current. The Rolex Fastnet Race is a mix between a coastal race and an offshore in the Irish Sea - it is very interesting.”

Rolex Fastnet Race - the last three editions have seen record breaking fleetsRolex Fastnet Race - the last three editions have seen record-breaking fleets Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Caudrelier is naturally pleased that the next edition will end in Cherbourg. He has raced in and out of there many times, most recently in the Drheam Cup which Maxi Edmond de Rothschild won. “It is a good place for racing - very tricky with a lot of current. Each time I’ve visited it was a nice place with great parties and people – I have a lot of good memories.”

It remains unconfirmed if 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race overall winner David and Peter Askew’s VO70 Wizard will return to defend their title, however, their sailing master, Volvo Ocean Race skipper Charlie Enright will be back, this time as skipper of 11th Hour Racing Team aboard his new generation IMOCA 60, that will be competing in The Ocean Race in 2022-23.

Enright is a fan of the Rolex Fastnet Race: “It is certainly one of the more complex races as from a course perspective it has so many different features and you never know what it is going to throw at you. Also, you can count on the competition year in year out - that makes it hard to win, so when you do it does feel good.”

Currently based in Concarneau, Enright appreciates what a difference the Cherbourg finish will make. “In France, they like their boating and the finish should be more spectacular I imagine.”

With the finish in Cherbourg, more French entries are anticipated but the majority are still likely to be from the UK. Last year David Collins was the top British finisher under IRC, his Botin IRC 52 Tala’s time correcting out to third overall behind Wizard and Nicolas Groleau’s Mach 45 Bretagne Telecom. Having come so close in 2019 and after not racing this season, Collins says the Rolex Fastnet Race will be Tala’s main event in 2021, in what will be a UK-only season.

CEO of the RORC, Eddie Warden Owen adds: “The coronavirus pandemic has left us already looking towards 2021 and a racing season - the highlight of which will be the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race.

“The last three editions have seen record-breaking fleets attracting enthusiastic amateurs, seasoned offshore racers as well as out-and-out professionals from all corners of the world, all captivated by the challenge of racing to the Fastnet Rock, battling the strong currents and headlands off the south coast of England, followed by the open ocean in the Celtic Sea, while enduring the changeable weather en route.

“For the 2021 and 2023 races the finish will be in Cherbourg and we are excited at working with our colleagues in France where offshore racing is a national sport and where competitors can expect a wonderful welcome and warm hospitality.”

Published in Fastnet
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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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