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Two Belfast Lough Sailors Competing in the 50th Anniversary Fastnet Race

21st July 2023
Ross Boyd is on onboard Robert Rendell’s Samatom from Howth for this Saturday's Fastnet Race from Cowes
Ross Boyd is on onboard Robert Rendell’s Samatom from Howth for this Saturday's Fastnet Race from Cowes Credit: Afloat

Two Belfast Lough sailors are racing in the 50th Anniversary Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts on Saturday from Cowes on the Isle of Wight and finishes in Cherbourg.

Ewan Finlay is racing as foredeck crew on Mark Emerson’s A13 Phosphorus II, an Archambault A13, the one and only A13 ever built. It was formerly known as Teasing Machine and sailed very successfully by a professional French crew. Phosphorus II was sixth overall in IRC in the 2021 Fastnet Race.

Belfast's Ewan Finlay (second left) on board Phosphorus II that competes in this Saturday's Fastnet Race from CowesBelfast's Ewan Finlay (second left) on board Phosphorus II that competes in this Saturday's Fastnet Race from Cowes

Ross Boyd is on onboard Robert Rendell’s Samatom from Howth. Regular Aflaot readers will recall she won the 2021 Sovereign's Cup Regatta Coastal Divison at the first attempt. Boyd says he is pleased that there are two RUYC members racing in this Fastnet, and he says he is “looking forward to the competition in the 104 boat class”.

This Saturday’s 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race will be the biggest offshore race of all time, with a record-breaking entry list of over 490 yachts for its 50th-anniversary edition.

At one point it was thought that the start might have to be delayed as a relatively brief but extremely strong period of southwest winds forecast seemed likely for Saturday afternoon and evening along the south coast of England, but the expected wind and weather conditions for the race while still unsettled, look to be averaging out

Starting from The Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, the course is about 695 miles via the Fastnet Rock to the finish line at Cherbourg.

Published in Fastnet, Belfast Lough

Fastnet Race Live Tracker 2023

Track the progress of the 2023 Fastnet Yacht Race fleet on the live tracker above 

The 50th edition of the 700-mile race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club starts from Cowes, Isle of Wight, on Saturday, 22nd July.

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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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 695 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Cherbourg
  • 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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