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French Travel Restrictions Poses New Test for Fastnet Yacht Race Organisers

28th May 2021
The French Government this week have restricted travel between the UK and France, imposing a 7-day isolation period on travellers from the UK
The French Government this week have restricted travel between the UK and France, imposing a 7-day isolation period on travellers from the UK

The next edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race will start on Sunday 8th August and for the first time in its history, the race will finish in Cherbourg, France.

In the current health context, the organisers are taking all the necessary steps to welcome the competitors in the best conditions. The French Government this week have restricted travel between the UK and France, imposing a 7-day isolation period on travellers from the UK. Although there has been no mention of how long these restrictions may be imposed, the RORC remain hopeful that the August 8th start date is unaffected. During this period of change, the race management team are considering all scenarios and how it could affect the running of the race.

“We don't know how long these restrictions will last, but we remain hopeful that they will have little impact on the race and how we are able to welcome the fleet in Cherbourg. As with most of the pandemic, things are changing daily and we are working with our partners in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin and government authorities to create the safest race we can; on and off the water. The team will continue to monitor the situation and advise on issues and alternative arrangements, if necessary," commented Race Director, Chris Stone.

Jean-Louis Valentin, president of the Arrival Fastnet Cherbourg association said: "We will continue to adapt in order to accommodate the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race, as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic. We had already anticipated the reception of boats before the start of the race in Cherbourg, notably for the French, before reaching the start line in Cowes. As far as the finish is concerned, we will be able to respond to several scenarios, in conjunction with the race management, while hoping for a rapid evolution.”

Competitors sailing to the UK for any RORC races, including the Rolex Fastnet Race, can now do so without the need for quarantine and paying for tests on arrival in the UK, as per the UK Border Force recent advice and on the assumption that no crew touch land in the UK. “This is great news for our European sailors and should provide plenty of reassurance for the Rolex Fastnet Race competitors in their preparations. We have also decentralised our race offices, offering competitors the opportunity to finalise their registrations in either the traditional Cowes office, the Hamble office on the mainland, or for the first time, a race office in Cherbourg from August 4th. It’s a great initiative for our European competitors who can benefit from free berthing in Cherbourg throughout that period, and carry out all the registration procedures before taking the start on the 8th of August – all without having to stop over in the UK,” notes Race Director, Chris Stone.

RORC has also updated the fleet with its other races in the lead up to the Rolex Fastnet Race. The Morgan Cup Race was originally heading to Guernsey on Friday 11th June, with a finish in St Peters Port, however with the uncertainty around entry in the Channel Islands, the RORC Committee, in consultation with local authorities, have moved the finish to Dartmouth, UK. With the support of The Royal Dart Yacht Club and harbour officials in Dartmouth, the RORC are expecting a big turnout for the race.

Cherbourg-en-Cotentin will host the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race fleet © JM enault ville de Cherbourg en Cotentin Cherbourg-en-Cotentin will host the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race fleet Photo: JM enault ville de Cherbourg en Cotentin

The Cowes Dinard St Malo Race on Friday 9th July has also seen some subtle changes to accommodate fleets on both sides of the Channel. With the uncertainty around entry into France, the RORC Race team are currently formulating a plan to run a continuation race. After the finish mark for the traditional finish line outside St Malo, crew will be able to continue on for a race back to the UK. It is anticipated that many crews will take up this option and continuing to prepare and notch up valuable qualification mileage.”

Published in Fastnet
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RORC Fastnet 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 for 2021 is in Cherbourg 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 Cherbourg.

Fastnet Race - FAQs

The 49th edition of the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race will start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, UK on Sunday 8th August 2021.

The next two editions of the race in 2021 and 2023 will finish in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin at the head of the Normandy peninsula, France

Over 300. A record fleet is once again anticipated for the world's largest offshore yacht race.

The international fleet attracts both enthusiastic amateur, the seasoned offshore racer, as well as out-and-out professionals from all corners of the world.

Boats of all shapes, sizes and age take part in this historic race, from 9m-34m (30-110ft) – and everything in between.

The Fastnet Race multihull course record is: 1 day 4 hours 2 minutes and 26 seconds (2019, Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier)

The Fastnet Race monohull course record is: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing).

David and Peter Askew's American VO70 Wizard won the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, claiming the Fastnet Challenge Cup for 1st in IRC Overall.

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.

The winner of the first Fastnet Race was the former pilot cutter Jolie Brise, a boat that is still sailing today.

Cork sailor Henry P F Donegan (1870-1940), who gave his total support for the Fastnet Race from its inception in 1925 and competed in the inaugural race in his 43ft cutter Gull from Cork.

Ireland has won the Fastnet Race twice. In 1987 the Dubois 40 Irish Independent won the Fastnet Race overall for the first time and then in 2007 – all of twenty years after Irish Independent’s win – Ireland secured the overall win again this time thanks to Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 Chieftain from the Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland in Kilrush.

©Afloat 2020

Fastnet Race 2021 Date

The 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race will start on Sunday 8th August 2021.

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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