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Changes to British Travel Restrictions Mean Relaxed Rules for Fastnet Race Competitors

6th August 2021
Watch the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race
Watch the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race this Sunday whether you’re in Cowes or anywhere else in the world Credit: RORC

Organisers of the Rolex Fastnet Race have welcomed the British Government’s easing of travel restrictions between the UK and France which come into affect hours before the race start in Cowes this Sunday 8 August.

For the crews of the 355 participating yachts in this year’s race, Britain’s downgrading of France’s COVID status to ‘amber’ from 4am on Sunday will have two welcome effects:

  • British competitors who are double vaccinated can now stop in Cherbourg at the end of the race (where there is free berthing at Port Chantereyne) and then return home to the UK at their leisure, where they will no longer be required to quarantine.
  • Due to the COVID travel restrictions, most non-British competitors previously weren’t able to touch land in the UK prior to the start of the race. However, the new rules now mean that overseas yachts can stop in the UK prior to the start, from 4am on Sunday morning, provided that their crew is double vaccinated.

Commenting on the changes, race director Chris Stone said: “The COVID restrictions relaxing in the UK comes as a great relief, even so close to start day. It is symbolic of a cross-Channel handshake, a coming together of English and French competitors in a great sports event.

“It will definitely make the race more enjoyable for the crews — overseas crews can now stop in Cowes just before the start and we are expecting a greater portion of the fleet to stop in Cherbourg.

“It means we can achieve our vision for the Cherbourg Race Village with English competitors finishing and enjoying all the festivities there, which is a key part of this event.”

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, more than 300 yachts from 31 countries will compete in the 49th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race, which finishes in Cherbourg for the first time in its 96 years.

For those following the race from afar, you can watch the start online at the Rolex Fastnet Race website, as well as the RORC’s channels on YouTube and Facebook.

The livestreamed Start Show, with commentary from on and off the water, begins at 10.30am BST. Expert commentators Pip Hare, Abby Ehler, Matt Sheahan, Louay Habib and Simon Vigar will talk through all the action from the start of the world’s biggest offshore yacht race, with analysis and interviews from competitors and organisers in build-up to the race.

The first warning signal is at 1100 (first start 1110) and the fleet is divided into seven groups, each starting at a different time and heading west down the Solent toward the Needles: 1110 Multihull, 1125 IMOCA 60, Class40, 1140 IRC 4, 1155 IRC 3, 1210 IRC 2, 1225 IRC 1, 1240 IRC Z.

For those fortunate enough to be in Cowes on the day, the best vantage points of the start will be along Cowes Green and Egypt Esplanade. As the fleet funnels west out of the Solent there will be lots of chances to see the yachts from Yarmouth as well.

From the mainland you can view the yachts on their outbound leg; the best places to watch are from Hurst Castle, Anvil Point, St Alban’s Head and Portland Bill.

Listen to the commentary of the race on 87.9FM locally or online at coweslive.co.uk or through the speakers if you are sitting watching the spectacle from Princes Green or on The Parade in Cowes.

All yachts are fitted with a YB Tracker so you can follow an individual boat, a class or the whole fleet. The race tracker will be up on the official site closer to the start.

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.

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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 2023 Date

The 2023 50th Rolex Fastnet Race will start on Saturday, 22nd July 2023

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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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