Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Fastnet Race’s Historic Battle for Line Honours

6th July 2021
The new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios will be the largest monohull ever to have entered the Rolex Fastnet Race
The new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios will be the largest monohull ever to have entered the Rolex Fastnet Race Credit: Eva-Stina Kjellman

A major clash of the titans will take place between two of the world’s fastest maxi-monohulls at August’s Rolex Fastnet Race. While the most sought-after victory is, of course, the overall win under IRC, for the monohull that is first home into Cherbourg there is also plenty at stake. The kudos and personal satisfaction that come with winning on the water are as significant as the more tangible rewards: the Erroll Bruce Cup and, since the Swiss watchmaker partnered the race some twenty years ago, a Rolex chronometer.

Part of this kudos is that alongside the race’s overall winner, the monohull line honours winner is also remembered in the history books. These date back to the first Ocean Race (as it was originally called) in 1925, won by the Le Havre pilot cutter Jolie Brise campaigned by the future first Commodore of the Ocean Racing Club (as it was known until 1931), Commander EG Martin.

Since then some of the world’s largest and most magnificent racing yachts have claimed line honours.

Isaac Bell's Camper & Nicholson 63 footer Bloodhound was first home in both 1937 and in 1953 (before being bought by Prince Philip). The 1960s to the end of the 1980s was the era of the mighty IOR maxis such as Edmond de Rothschild's Gitana IV (1965), Ted Turner's American Eagle (1971), Marvin Green's Nirvana (1985) while, spectacularly, Bob Bell's Condor won line honours in three consecutive races over 1979-1983.This period appropriately was rounded off by the late Sir Peter Blake’s ketch Steinlager 2 (1989) arriving home first immediately prior to her exceptional Whitbread Round the World Race victory.

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of her line honours victory - the Italian owned 1961 van de Stadt-designed 73ft ketch StormvogelCelebrating the 60th anniversary of her line honours victory - the Italian owned 1961 van de Stadt-designed 73ft ketch Stormvogel

Ian Walker-skippered VO70 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing which romped round the course in record time in 2011 © Daniel Forster/ROLEXIan Walker-skippered VO70 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing which romped round the course in record time in 2011 © Daniel Forster/ROLEX

One of the most famous line honours winners will be back on the start line this year in the 74ft Stormvogel. She will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of when her original Dutch owner, Cornelius Bruynzeel claimed Fastnet Race line honours in 1961. (Read more about her here).

This century it has been the turn of the 100ft maxis such as Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo 1 (2001), Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard 3 (2007 and 2009), plus the very latest iteration - the VPLP 100 Comanche. Exceptions have been the Ian Walker-skippered VO70 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing which romped round the course in record time in 2011 and defending champion, George David's Juan K-designed Rambler 88, the line honours winner in 2017 and 2019.

Will Rambler 88 score the elusive double (line and overall corrected time honours) or achieve her third line honours on the new 695 nm course in this August's Rolex Fastnet Race? © ROLEX/Carlo BorlenghiWill Rambler 88 score the elusive double (line and overall corrected time honours) or achieve her third line honours on the new 695 nm course in this August's Rolex Fastnet Race? © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

George David's Rambler 88 rounds the legendary Fastnet Rock © ROLEX/Carlo BorlenghiGeorge David's Rambler 88 rounds the legendary Fastnet Rock © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

Rambler 88 is currently on a ship bound for the UK and returns to the Rolex Fastnet Race attempting to make it a hat-trick. In fact, her American owner George David would ideally make it another kind of triple – overall line and handicap honours plus a race record, something which he achieved in the 2007 Rolex Middle Sea Race. To date he has only achieved one of these in the Rolex Fastnet Race. “We have never won - the closest being second in IRC overall in the 2007 race,” says David.“We have had shots at records, twice. In 2011 we were leading the fleet at the Rock and well ahead of Abu Dhabi who set the record that year – until Rambler’s keel fractured and the boat capsized just after rounding the Rock. Then in 2019, we broke our own record for first to the Rock by 88 minutes but the breeze on the return veered after Land’s End and we ended essentially downwind to Plymouth.”

In a terrifying episode, Rambler 100’s capsize in the 2011 race saw David, his future wife Wendy Touton and three others in the water drifting away from their upturned hull as dusk was settling. Fortunately, all 21 crew were picked up safe and sound by the Irish Coastguard and local boats.

Rambler 88’s crew in 2021 will be the same as in previous years, led by Brad Butterworth and with a legion of other America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race legends.

“It’s a tough race even in a line honours boat,” David continues.“I admire the hundreds of weekend sailors in 35-45ft boats who come out for this race every second year. And some take a week to finish.”

David’s ambition to at least score his third line honours title has a major threat this year with a brand new supermaxi, some 37ft longer than Rambler 88, entered.

Skorpios resembles a VO70 until you notice how tiny her crew appear © Eva-Stina Kjellman   Skorpios resembles a VO70 until you notice how tiny her crew appear © Eva-Stina Kjellman  

ClubSwan 125 - The record breaker changing the rules of the sailing world

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s Skorpios is the first example of a ClubSwan 125, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian and built by Nautor’s Swan in Finland. Recently launched, Skorpios at 42.6m long including her bowsprit, will overtake Nilaya as the biggest monohull ever to enter the Rolex Fastnet Race, since the 100ft maximum length limit was eased by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in 2017.

While very long, Skorpios is in other ways not overly extreme. With a beam of 8.75m for example she doesn’t have the huge beam to length ratio of Comanche. Skorpios’ skipper, Fernando Echavarri, the Spanish Olympic Tornado gold medallist and former Volvo Ocean Race skipper, describes her as being closer in this respect to the notably slender Reichel-Pugh designed Alfa Romeo.

Other than her size, most extreme about the ClubSwan 125 is her appendage package. While the number of her foils is the same as Rambler 88 or a VO70 with twin rudders, a canting keel (albeit with a draft of 7.6m) and two foils, the latter foils are C-shaped, conceptually similar to those of the ClubSwan 36. These foils do not make the ClubSwan 125 a flying machine - their role is to prevent leeway, maintain righting moment and to reduce displacement. The foils don’t provide as much lift, but are less draggy than the foils fitting to the latest generation IMOCAs, says Echavarri. Also helping her righting moment and fore and aft trim are her aft and mid ballast tanks capable of loading on seven and eight tonnes of water respectively.

All the sail controls on board Skorpios are push-button © Eva-Stina KjellmanAll the sail controls on board Skorpios are push-button © Eva-Stina Kjellman

Whether Skorpios is the fastest monohull ever launched, as her vital statistics suggest she may be (such as her displacement of 58.8 tonnes of which 23.2 are in the fin and bulb, and downwind sail area of 1961 sqm), remains to be seen.“That is a hard one because we are facing things we have never faced before, like understanding how the wind works at very high altitudes [due to the extreme mast height]. This is something that is making us try and understand the potential of the boat.” Performance-wise, the yacht should regularly exceed 30 knots and upwind is as fast as the wind up to 14 knots. “The numbers are pretty promising.”

Inevitably on a boat of this size, all sail controls are push-button. “The power you need to move everything is huge,” says Echavarri. And yet, Skorpios will still require a crew of 23-24 to move big gear like sails around.

Perhaps most exceptional is that Nautor’s Swan in Finland, plus Echavarri and his team and all the suppliers were able to get this extraordinary boat created despite daily problems and delays thrown up thanks to the global pandemic. “There were issues every day but there were no excuses – we were going to make it happen. It was like an America's Cup or the Volvo spirit,” states Echavarri.

Skorpios is due to arrive in the UK for training from mid-July. The Rolex Fastnet Race will be her first competitive outing.

Whether she or Rambler 88 score the elusive double (line and overall corrected time honours) or triple remain to be seen. The last boat to achieve the former was Ludde Ingvall’s Nicorette in 1995.

Published in Fastnet

Fastnet Race Live Tracker 2021

Track the progress of the 2021 Fastnet Yacht Race fleet on the live tracker above 

The 49th edition of the 700-mile race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club starts on Sunday, August 8th from Cowes.

Afloat.ie Team

About The Author

Afloat.ie Team

Email The Author

Afloat.ie is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating