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Go Star Go! Hopes of Ireland Ride With Veteran Desert Star for a Class Place in Fastnet Race

12th August 2021
Desert Star of Irish Offshore Sailing – battling on several fronts to retain a podium position in IRC4 in the 2021 Fastnet Race
Desert Star of Irish Offshore Sailing – battling on several fronts to retain a podium position in IRC4 in the 2021 Fastnet Race

Day 5 1900:  With the JPK 11.80 Sunrise (Tom Kneen GB) named as overall IRC winner and first in IRC2 at the 2021 Fastnet Race finish in Cherbourg - thereby confirming France's Jean-Pierre Kelbert of Lorient as one of this generations's most formidable creators of excellent all-round race-winning boats - the focus now swings to the lower-rated and generally smaller craft still at sea, racing for the honours in IRC 4 on a run up the English Channel.

They may have started with 70 boats – the second-largest class – but attrition of various kinds has taken its toll, and 16 have retired. However, the pace among the leaders of the 54 still racing is mustard-keen for those coveted podium places. The well-used Jeanneau Sunfast 37 Desert Star from Dun Laoghaire's Irish Offshore Sailing – driven on by IOS principal Ronan O Siochru and Conor Totterdell (National YC) and their team – has been hanging on to the advantage she gained during the night and early this morning, when she leapt up from 13th to 2nd thanks to judicious choices in the flukey sailing conditions around the Isles of Scilly and south of Land's End.

Currently at 18:30, she is shown as back in third, as they elected to take a downwind tack on port in towards the English coast in order to minimize contact with the area of lighter wind which has persisted close north of the Channel Islands and in towards the finish at Cherbourg. It was a calculated risk, as the southwest to west wind is forecast to spread eventually across the entire Channel, but experience indicates that despite the very turbulent weather off the west and northwest coasts of Ireland, down at Cherbourg things are much more sedate and significant wind changes – if any – have been taking place more slowly.

The positioning tack to port means that while the X332 (Fr.) continues to lead, second place is now held by the Sigma 38 With Alacrity (GB) while Desert Star in third is having to keep an eye on the next in line, the classic Dutch S&S 41 Winsome which has been noted in times past for success with Irish helm Laura Dillon.

But having returned to running on starboard, Desert Star found a useful line of wind which pushed her speed above 7 knots, and the race computations showed her as now harrying With Alacrity for second, while taking off the pressure from Winsome with 115 miles to go to the finish.

The overall winner – Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 SunriseThe overall winner – Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise

Meanwhile in IRC 3, there's a real battle between the two top Two-Handers, Shirley Robertson in the Sun Fast 3300 Swell and Alexis Loison in the JPK 10.30 Leon, with the latter currently with a narrow lead. But with fifty miles and more to go – albeit with fair tide – it's too close to call any time soon, for if anything has been learned from the new course, it is that the final swoop into Cherbourg can be a very difficult little trick to get right.

As for the three remaining Figaro 3s still being raced, Ireland's RL Sailing (Kenneth Rumball & Pamela Lee) now has a very substantial lead over AD Fichou/Innoveo, in fact RL have just 50 miles to the finish whole AD have precisely twice as much, which I think we can reasonably claim is a significant margin.

And if by any chance you haven't heard why George David's Rambler 88 suddenly retired after she got to the finish in Cherbourg with seemingly second place in line honours close ahead of the brilliantly sailed Imoca 60 Apivia, it's because they went to the greatest possible trouble to leave that benighted TSS south of the Fastnet Rock clear to starboard while tacking downwind after rounding The Rock, the Brains Trust on board being apparently unaware that it's a mark of the course, to be left to port.

It's not a mistake anyone will ever make again - not ever never.

And as for the Sunrise win being good for business with JPK – we just can't be too sure. For with all those major successes now augmented with another Fastnet overall win, if you do have an excellent JPK boat, what on earth would be your excuse for not winning all the time…..?

Race 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.

©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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