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Irish Fastnet Race Contender Nieulargo from Royal Cork is Ahead of the Game for Souped-up Performance

10th August 2021
Rugged sailing exiting the Solent for the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo during the early stages of the Fastnet Race - the crew have been performing well in as much comfort as possible, while being notably well-fed
Rugged sailing exiting the Solent for the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo during the early stages of the Fastnet Race - the crew have been performing well in as much comfort as possible, while being notably well-fed Credit: RORC/Rick Tomlinson

Day 3 1900: The early stages of the Fastnet Race 2021 on Sunday went from rugged to very rugged, and not surprisingly there were many retirals before the day was out. But aboard Nieulargo from Crosshaven, ace sailor Nicholas "Nin" O'Leary has since found the time today to give an insight today of what it had been like to slug down channel in severe wind-over-tide conditions in a boat which is a heavy cruiser-racer by comparison with the latest designs: "It was a tough exit out of the Solent past the Needles Fairway, wet'n'wild and we lost wind instruments for 24 hours, but thankfully the four dinghy sailors and small keelboat drivers on board have a natural feel while sailing blind. We had a nice battle with Shirley Robertson and Henry Bomby on the Sun Fast 3300 Swell which kept us on our toes, and Annamarie is keeping the troops fed'n'watered with her famous vegetable soup. We expect it to be lighter across to the Fastnet Rock. ETA 03:00 in the small hours of Wednesday morning".

In much of the current spell of weather whether afloat or ashore, who could resist the thought of a nourishing helping of classic vegetable soup? So much so, in fact, that there's arguably a market opportunity for Mrs Murphy's Special Vegetable Soup for Sailors, if Annamarie Fegan could only be persuaded to use her married name just the once……

Meanwhile in IRC 3 generally, the leading places have been permutated from time to time as they make their way from the north side of the Isles of Scilly toward The Rock, with the wind now just aft of the beam, as forecast. The formidable Alexis Loison in the JPK 10.30 Leon has regained the lead despite being two-handed (he also leads the two-handed division), but although approaching 1900 hrs Nieulargo is shown as being 7th in the class of 73 boats, she's very much in contention.

In a different world towards the finish at Cherbourg, the majestic 140ft Skorpios should be finished just before dark to take mono-hull line honours, and it may well be that the much-discussed final tide gate off Cap de la Hague will have turned in her favour by the time she gets there, so we'll need to wait a little for a full analysis from subsequent finishers of the adverse gate effect.

On down the line, the Imoca 60 Apivia (Charlie Dalin) is holding on to her very clear class lead, but George David's Rambler 88 is doing everything possible to make her third on the water, though it's now only an off chance as they're both getting up towards Start Point with Apivia 18 miles clear ahead

But in any case in Cherbourg, the talk of the town is the emergence of Poland as a force in front-line offshore racing. In this morning's bulletin we outlined how the former Volvo 70 I Love Poland has been at the centre of a comprehensive Polish offshore training programme based around a winter berth at Cascais in Portugal.

But this afternoon the Polish breakthrough has become even clearer – I Love Poland has been in the overall lead for some time, but second overall is now being filled by another Polish-ensigned veteran Volvo 70, in this case Sailing Poland which – with both boats south of Western Cornwall and a dozen miles between them - is sailing slightly faster at the time of writing.

The Lombard 46 Pata Negra when she brought RORC Caribbean 600 success for Howth YC. This evening at 18:10 she rounded the Fastnet Rock lying first in IRC Class 1 with Andrew Hall of ISORA and Pwllheli SC in command.The Lombard 46 Pata Negra when she brought RORC Caribbean 600 success for Howth YC. This evening at 18:10 she rounded the Fastnet Rock lying first in IRC Class 1 with Andrew Hall of ISORA and Pwllheli SC in command.

All this is of almost academic interest to the majority of the fleet, who still have to round the Fastnet Rock. But that historic turning point has become increasingly busy as today progressed, and at 1810 this evening there was a rounding of very special significance, as Andrew Hall of ISORA and Pwllheli SC's recently-acquired Lombard 46 Pata Negra put the Fastnet astern and herself into first place in IRC 1 after a wellnigh perfect race from the Isles of Scilly.

Just ahead of Pata Negra on the water is the 1961-vintage 74ft ketch Stormvogel, beautifully restored and in such flying form that she lies 6th on corrected time in IRC 1. The result of a design co-operation for Dutch timber magnate Cess Bruynzeel by Laurent Giles, John Illingworth and Ricus van de Stadt, in many ways Stormvogel still looks as modern as tomorrow, with a rudder separate from her keel in a way that didn't become generally accepted until the mid-60s, yet Bruynzeel had been racing boats like that offshore for years.

Stormvogel's hull profile was ahead of its time when she first appeared in 1961.Stormvogel's hull profile was ahead of its time when she first appeared in 1961.

In IRC 4, Irish Offshore Sailing's veteran Sunfast 37 Desert Star has slipped from fourth to 13th after electing to go eastward of the large TSS immediately off Land's End. That said, her crew won't have known that the losing move was about to be exacerbated by a local calm right off the Longships Rocks on the very point of Land's End itself.

Meanwhile, with the wind settled in slightly abaft the beam for the long haul to the Fastnet, it looks as though Kenneth Rumball and Pamela Lee's Fiagro 3 RL Sailing is finding enough power for the foils to start being useful, as they're showing better than ten knots and have confirmed their position as leaders of the admittedly much-reduced Figaro 3 Class.

Tracker below

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.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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.

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Fastnet Race 2023 Date

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


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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