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The Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association Has Had An Excellent Fastnet Race

13th August 2021
Pata Negra (Andrew Hall, Pwllheli SC), the latest addition to the ISORA fleet, has made her debut in her new role with some style, placing second in IRC1 and third overall in the Fastnet Race 2021
Pata Negra (Andrew Hall, Pwllheli SC), the latest addition to the ISORA fleet, has made her debut in her new role with some style, placing second in IRC1 and third overall in the Fastnet Race 2021

Yes indeed. With only a fortnight to go to the Golden Jubilee of ISORA's emergence from the old Northwest Offshore Association, Chairman Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire and Honorary Secretary Stephen Tudor of Pwllheli and their members can walk tall in the knowledge that all three boats with direct ISORA connections that were doing the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 have been very much in the big-time success frame.

Let's go straight to the IRC Overall listing, in which 264 boats started - everything from slim little Contessa 32s up to the mighty 140ft Skorpios. We've only gone three places down the listing when we come to the Lombard 46 Pata Negra. Until now, she has only been a rare visitor to the Irish Sea, if at all. But she'd have been here last August when Darren Wright of Howth had her lined up for the postponed Round Ireland Race, as he knew the boat with his successes with her in the RORC Caribbean 600. But then the Round Ireland 2020 had to be cancelled completely.

Now, she's owned by Andrew Hall of Pwllheli, who must have sailed every course in the ISORA programme many times in boats like Jackknife and Jackhammer. Whether or not Pata Negra becomes an ISORA regular is neither here nor there. After all, she is a star, at her best in the majors. But the Middle Sea Race must be beckoning, and next year's Round Ireland is surely made for her, a formidable contender with second in IRC 1 to add to her third overall around the Fastnet.

Going on down the long list, we've only got to 14th overall when the Sunfast 37 Desert Star pops up. The sudden arrival in Cherbourg this morning (Friday) of a whole gaggle of IRC 4 boats opened up the overall list more than somewhat, and Desert Star's cool placing was augmented by being second in class after hours and days of very switched-on strategic and tactical sailing by Irish Offshore Sailing's principal Ronan O Siochru, and his talented right-hand man Conor Totterdell.

Over the years, Desert Star has become an ISORA regular, as the Association's bite-sized events are ideal for a sailing school working within tight time constraints. That said, those who signed up for 2021's Fastnet Programme with IOS ("No Experience Necessary, We'll Provide It and Turn You Into a Veteran") have now got themselves the bargain of a lifetime – a bargain which they can scarcely have imagined during the first incredibly challenging 24 hours of the race itself.

Happy campers. The Fastnet Race trainees aboard Irish Offshore Sailing's Desert Star (with skipper Ronan O Siochru on right, and Conor Totterdell third from right) got themselves the bargain of a lifetime in buying into the 2021 programme. Photo courtesy IOSHappy campers. The Fastnet Race trainees aboard Irish Offshore Sailing's Desert Star (with skipper Ronan O Siochru on right, and Conor Totterdell third from right) got themselves the bargain of a lifetime in buying into the 2021 programme. Photo courtesy IOS

And finally, the ISORA threesome is completed by the Figaro 3 RL Sailing. While Pamela Lee has only occasional ISORA experience to refer to, co-skipper Kenneth Rumball is an old ISORA hand. And although the turnout in the special Figaro 3 Two-Handed Class was a modest five boats, RL Sailing's victory in it was by an incredible margin. In fact, the high point in her race was in the final stages, when she found herself in a fortuitous three-way duel with the two IRC 2-Handed leaders, the Sun Fast 3300 Swell and the JPK 10.30 Leon, from which RL Sailing emerged six minutes ahead boat-for-boat at Cherbourg. UPDATE Penalty for RL sailing. (August 17) here 

Pamela Lee and Kenneth Rumball on RL SailingPamela Lee and Kenneth Rumball on RL Sailing

Only three boats perhaps, but they provide a remarkably comprehensive lineup of memorable achievements in just one sailing of this great race in its new format, in which Cork's representative, the Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, put in a truly heroic performance in pulling herself out of a private quagmire which had put her back in 26h in IRC 3 at one low point, yet by the finish she'd got back up to 13th, a memorable recovery.

But if we were forced into a corner and asked to nominate the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021's outstanding achievement, it was probably the way in which Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat took the IMOCA 60 Apivia through the first 24 hours.

Getting an IMOCA 6 to go well directly to windward in a seaway is not a talent with which every skipper is blessed. Of course, to some extent, it depends on the boat in question, but in some cases it's what you'd imagine a giraffe would look like if it tried to go ice-skating.

But with Apivia, these guys were doing the business from the word go, and they put the cream on the cake by the master-stroke of holding on starboard tack after the Needles to go clear across the Channel and on behind and beyond the Channel islands until they finally went on to port off the north coast of Brittany, having carried the same ebb tide the whole way from the Solent to Cap Brehat. There, they were beautifully placed for a swift and clear open water passage across towards the Isles of Scilly, where they found themselves pacing with Skorpios despite the latter being more than twice their overall length, and better configured for going to windward.

It was a master-stroke. Some would way say it was a case of taking a beautiful flyer. But when it turns out as well as that, it's everyone else who is taking a flyer………..

Apivia at the Fastnet Rock, after a strategic master-stroke which made it look as though every other boat in the race had made a tactical error.Apivia at the Fastnet Rock

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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