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Following a penalty handed down by the Fastnet Race jury, Pamela Lee of RL Sailing tells her side of the story

Not until the late morning after our finish, after celebrating and being interviewed for our win, did we get the news through text message that apparently we had a time penalty from a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) infringement. I was extremely shocked and in denial, because I specifically remember watching our track closely while going around the TSS to make sure we did so correctly, I was even sure that I saw other boats take an inside track from ours. I remembered it so vividly...

Straight away I went to the race office to investigate and inquire where the grounds for the penalty came from. I was shown our recorded Yellow Brick track that indicated us going inside the TSS corner. Still shocked by the claims and what I was seeing, I explained that I was certain we went outside the TSS and that I had the track on the boat computer to prove it. I was recommended to lodge a hearing request with the Protest committee, which I immediately did.

Pamela Lee & Kenneth Rumball are celebrated after crossing the iine. Many hours were to pass before they were made aware there might be a problem.Pamela Lee and Kenneth Rumball are celebrated after crossing the iine. Many hours were to pass before they were made aware there might be a problem.

At that stage, I had a very short window of time to gather all the information I could to argue our case before the International Jury. The boat was also being prepared to depart immediately to head South for the start of La Solitaire Du Figaro, so there was real-time pressure to get what I needed from the computer.

I retrieved the recorded GPS track from the Adrena Navigating Software on the boat computer, which clearly indicates our GPS recording our track well outside the TSS. I also checked all the coordinates of the TSS against the racing instructions to make sure I had the correct area in, which I did.

All their own on-board data indicated they’d been clear outside the TSSAll their own on-board data indicated they’d been clear outside the TSS - Here the Adrena software track (green line) shows RL sailing outside the TSS. Screenshot RL Sailing

A screenshot of The Yellow Brick RORC GPS tracker showing RL sailing inside the red traffic separation schemeA screenshot of RORC's Fastnet Race GPS tracker showing the no-go traffic separation scheme in red tint and the track of RL Sailing. Source: YB Tracker

Something to note, and that came into play for this entire episode although at the time we did not know it, is that during the race, when we reached the Fastnet Rock (after the alleged TSS infringement) our onboard GPS lost signal and we were forced to round the Rock completely blind in what was a pitch-black night. This in itself was a stressful and nerve-wracking experience as we had to furl the Code 0, avoid the lights of other boats and the rock itself without really knowing where we were. Once we rounded the Rock I was able to re-boot the computer and eventually our GPS signal came back. Strangely, our computer recorded an incorrect track of us going inside the rock, which didn't happen. The Yellow Brick track recorded us going around the rock.

GPS Track Black out at the Fastnet. Screenshot RL SailingA GPS Track black out at the Fastnet Rock. Screenshot RL Sailing

Subsequently, after that and through the rest of the race our GPS signal went a number of times and computer re-boots became the norm. From this post-analysis, a possible conclusion could be that our GPS was giving us the wrong information in the period before arriving at the Fastnet - potentially telling me I was somewhere I was not, or mixing up the information all together. This is disturbing on many levels as early in the race I had taken our navigation very close inshore to get out of the current, unaware of any potential GPS issues.

Redress request

I went into the hearing with the international Jury to request redress of the 10% penalty for infringement of the TSS on the ground that our GPS track showed us very clearly going outside the TSS. One of my witnesses was Yale Poupon, the skipper on the second Figaro, who came to second our story, saying they witnessed our GPS malfunction at the rock and even called us on the radio to check-in and that if such an infringement occurred it was to no gain and should not cause such a penalty.

I sat in front of an international jury of five men and talked through a presentation of our GPS track illustrating the fact that as far as we, and our boat knew we were well outside the TSS. However, it was one GPS word against the other, and as to be expected the Yellow Brick RORC GPS won. On denying the redress, the head Juror hastened to offer that they agreed the 10% time penalty was somewhat archaic and overly harsh. I think that's a slight understatement when over 5 days 10% equates to about 12 hours, so even with over a 5-hour lead we still could not hold on to our position, even though with a conflicting GPS track the infringement was questionable.

Anyway, it is what it is and this, unfortunately, is one of the factors of yacht racing we need to live with and take on board (pardon the pun). I'm choosing to fill you in on this story, not to grumble in grievance, but to highlight an aspect of offshore racing that is really important for navigators, skippers and all racers to learn from. It is not as simple as getting around the course first, there is so much more at play in every race, as well as before and afterwards.

Not a sob story

I am also very conscious for this story not to be turned into a dramatised 'sob story' as I know, through the supporting messages and following we received that many Irish sailors followed our race and may have been motivated and inspired from our success - I hope in particular the younger generation, particularly the female sailors who aspire to skippering and navigating has been so.

For us, we have worked hard to take some key learning points from how the result has unfolded. These include the importance of awareness of the potential weaknesses and faults in your onboard technology, it is easy for us to become reliant on our instruments, but we should always question them and always check them. It has illuminated even more the use of backup GPS programs and to use them even when everything else seems fine and fully functional. It also highlighted to us the disadvantage of having to rent a boat intermittently, which means you do not have ultimate power over-controlling and regulating the functioning of the equipment on board, it also meant we had less time to prepare the boat prior to the race and really test all the equipment. Time in offshore racing is important, not only on the water but all the time beforehand and having the time and the budget to work with your own equipment is just as important as being able to use it to win a race on the day. Going forward, these aspects will take a stronger precedent in my campaign priority's and I hope one day to have enough budget to run my own boat for an entire season and more - and you can be sure any navigation going forward will have threefold GPS signal access and back up!

At the end of the day we are lucky it wasn't more serious, a questionable infringement that lost us the best race of my life so far......still much better than hitting a rock, or another boat. It is character and experience building and I truly believe that to improve at offshore sailing you need to build, build and build on experience.

Awesome race

As far as we are concerned, we raced an awesome race that put us across the finish line over 5 hours ahead of the next competitor in a one-design class. We sailed the boat fast, we pushed hard and we made smart navigation decisions that paid off. Not for a moment in that race did I stop thinking about 'the next move'. We battled to the end and even then took places on the finish from a double-handed boat sailed by sailors we revere such as Alexis Loison on Leon and Shirley Robertson Swell! Above all, we had fun and capitalized on our hard work and training from the season. Even with all that happened and after six days of no sleep - I was still ready to go out and do it all again the next day! I hope that everyone watching took this away from the Fastnet 2021 and we will see even more Irish sailors on the start line and the leader board next time.

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This year the Rolex Fastnet Race featured on the Classe Figaro calendar. Unfortunately, the proximity of it to the mid-August start of La Solitaire du Figaro, the class’ premier event and the effective World Championship of solo offshore racing, meant that just five Figaros took part. Victory went to a rookie pairing.

Built by Beneteau and designed by VPLP, the 32ft Figaro 3 is an early generation foiler monohull that replaced the Figaro 2 in 2019. But to give some idea of its exceptional performance, the boat has an IRC TCC of around 1.115 - around the same as a Corby 38 or Ker 39.

Sadly the big 35 knots upwind, wind against tide conditions at the start put two Figaro 3s out of action. British favourites, the mixed duo of Cat Hunt and former Artemis Offshore Academy student Hugh Brayshaw aboard Ross Farrow’s Stormwave 2.0 retired after their D2 broke. Meanwhile, sail damage on Eric & Denis Delamare’s Hope forced them to limp into Cherbourg.

And then there were three...

In the conditions, Ireland’s Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee on RL Sailing did a better job playing the shifts and tides. As they rock-hopped around the Lizard they had pulled into the lead ahead of Figaro class rookies Yael Poupon and Victor Le Pape aboard AD Fichou - Innovéo / Bihannic. These two Figaro 3s match raced their way across the Celtic Sea with the Irish leading around their rock with a 20-minute advantage.

After being on the wind all the way down the Channel and on one tack for most of the crossing, the return journey back from the Fastnet Rock to Bishop Rock on a reach in a bit more wind finally enabled the powerful Figaro 3s to make use their boats’ foils. They kept west and rounded the west side of the Traffic Separation Scheme west of the Scilly Isles before getting parked in a ridge in the early hours of Thursday morning.

After three or so hours the two managed to find the breeze but, getting out first, RL Sailing benefitted from being able to sail a largely direct course as AD Fichou - Innovéo / Bihannic lost ground putting in gybes. The two boats ultimately played the approach to the Alderney Race differently with the Irish ducking south of Guernsey and then allowing themselves to get drawn north on the powerful Alderney Race as their rivals managed to soldier through gybing downwind to the north. RL Sailing ultimately arrived in the early hours of Thursday morning more than five hours ahead of her rivals. Sadly the race’s jury later found that RL Sailing had unintentionally entered a TSS (prohibited zones under race rules) and awarded them a 10% penalty dropping them to last place.

This handed victory to AD Fichou - Innovéo / Bihannic sailed by former French Laser champion Yael Poupon (no relation to 3x Solitaire de Figaro and Route du Rhum winner Philippe) and Victor Le Pape (son of the long term head of France’s most famous training centre for offshore racing, Pôle Finistère course au large in Port la Fôret). Aged 22 and 23 respectively they represent a new generation of Figaro sailors coming through in France. For Le Pape in particular watersports are part of his family DNA. His elder brother Martin is also a Figaro sailor and his sister is IMOCA skipper Charlie Dalin’s girlfriend. He spent 10 years windsurfing before he started sailing in anger on board J/80s and Open 5.70s then getting drawn, like a big magnet, towards the Classe Figaro, joining forces with Poupon.

Waving the Class winner flag - AD Fichou - Innovéo Bihannic celebrates winning Figaro 3 Photo: Paul WyethWaving the Class winner flag - AD Fichou - Innovéo Bihannic celebrates winning Figaro 3 Photo: Paul Wyeth

In 2021 Poupon and Le Pape are known as ‘bizuths’ in France, ie Figaro sailors in their first season, and this year have competed in the Figaro class’ Tour de Bretagne and singlehanded in the Solo Concarneau (in which Poupon raced another Figaro). Neither is racing in La Solitaire this year.

For both this was their first Rolex Fastnet Race. Of Sunday’s lively start Le Pape admitted it was alarming. He joked:

“Everyone I spoke to said ‘you are crazy to do it in a Figaro3’. After that first night, I think they were right. Next time I might take a drier boat!”

However, both were impressed by the huge fleet and its diversity from 100ft Ultime trimarans and the mighty ClubSwan 125 Skorpios down, via the IMOCA fleet including many of France’s best known sailors.

“It was a spectacular start but it was very hard,” said Poupon. “The waves were very strong. We put a reef in the mainsail and a reef in the jib - I have never sailed this boat in this configuration before.” He also admitted that compared to sailing in the Figaro fleet where speed differentials between the boats is usually no more than a small fraction of a knot, in the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet bigger boats were passing them sailing several knots faster. “There’s no other event where you can sail with so many boats and so many different boats - it is a new experience. And in 35 knots! Our goal was not to break anything as we knew that a few hours after it would be more calm and we wanted to have all our sails in one piece.”

Rounding the Fastnet Rock was dramatic – at 0200 and in thick fog. As le Pape explained:

“We didn’t see the rock, just the light. There was perhaps 0.1 miles of visibility and we couldn’t see anything. Yael said to me ‘okay the Fastnet is here’. And I was going ‘where? Are you sure??’ I can’t see anything! It was amazing - a crazy experience.”

For them, they were only trapped in the Scilly Isles for around three hours before setting off downwind for the south side of the Casquets TSS. However, they did well in the Alderney Race. “We arrived at Cape de la Hague at a good time because the current had turned and we just had a little bit of current with us.”

So will they return to do the Rolex Fastnet Race?

“Yes,” says le Pape. “But I don’t know in the Figaro. Maybe in a Class40. I want to come in a bigger boat!”

Disappointment for Greystones RL Sailing

The penalty for the Irish was naturally a disappointing conclusion for their doublehanded Figaro season. The experienced offshore sailing duo, who by coincidence both herald from Greystones in County Wicklow, were brought together with the common aim of competing in the elusive mixed doublehanded offshore event proposed for Paris 2024. This season they had already spent the first four months at the Figaro training centre in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and were therefore familiar with the set-up, settings and modes of their quirky foil-born yacht. They then competed in the class’ Sardinha Cup and doublehanded Tour de Bretagne à la Voile.

Wicklow’s Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee on RL SailingIreland’s Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee on RL Sailing

Of their Rolex Fastnet Race Rumball reflected: “We were a lot closer than we realised. Coming out of the Solent was tough, there was a lot of wind. We reefed the main and the jib and were the first Figaro out of the Solent.

"Our closest competition was Victor le Pape – he was right on us the whole time and we were doing a lot of the same stuff at the same time which was kind of nice. It was good to have a real battle. We were playing the currents a lot and there were one or two points when we were going out to specifically play the current and that then paid.”

Lee continued: “We came off Portland well, and then at Start Point we went in and tacked our way up to the tidal gate. We were pretty well set up for the leg up to the Fastnet. We went south of the TSS and did well to get the breeze and current. It was a beat round the Scillies and then we quickly cracked off, went to a Code Zero and then our small spinnaker. It was quite a closely hauled reach on the way back from the Fastnet – we were on a J2, we couldn’t put up the Code Zero which would have been great.

“Then we had the shutdown at the Scillies. We went south of the west of the TSS, it looked like others got stuck behind us but we managed to slip through just. We all parked up though – we were thinking about kedging, counting the lines to see if we had enough! - but we had a feeling the breeze would come in south, so focused on getting south, and it did and so, of the people parked up, we were the first to get the wind. We were parked for six hours, the same time as it took to get from the TSS to Guernsey!

“Then we were set up by Guernsey and were three-sail reaching again and caught a lot of boats on that leg under small spinnaker and Code Zero. That was ripe for the Figaro, the ideal point of sail; we were probably averaging 13/14 knots - we just hammered it.”

Lee felt their boldest move was at the Alderney Race.

“At Guernsey, the tide was going to be against - we’d done loads of routings and knew it was a big risk because the wind was a bit fickle and wasn’t filling in, but we were the only boat to go south and came up around Guernsey and hopped into the tide there and that shot us north around the headland. We got the tide the whole way up and only hit negative tide just near the finish. It was a risk - but it paid. We were doing 12 knots over the ground – faster than the wind speed for a while!”

Both Rumball and Lee are keen to continue doublehanding but, with no firm Olympic goal, this is now harder to do commercially:

"It makes it harder to get funding – with Olympics as the goal then it made it tangible – they understand, they get it. But if you say you want to go off and sail doublehanded, they ask ‘why?..’ it makes it more challenging to formulate a campaign. But I think, regardless, how doublehanded sailing has taken off, I’d find it hard to go back to fully crewed.”

Fastnet Race results for the Figaro class are here

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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

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Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise has been crowned overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race. After being confirmed as the runaway winner of the IRC Two division yesterday, no other boat still racing on the 695 nautical mile course can catch the British boat for overall honours in this, the 49th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s offshore classic. Kneen is the first British winner of the race since Charles Dunstone and his maxi Nokia Enigma in 2003.

Reunited this morning with his two-year-old son Sam, Kneen couldn’t hide the emotion of winning a race that has come to mean so much to him: “I’ve had 24 hours to reflect on the race after we finished yesterday, and it really is all about the people, the amazing team that sailed with me, and my incredible partner Francesca who has done so much to make this happen.”

For someone who only took up offshore racing just seven years ago, Kneen has come a long way in a short time. When he started he admits “I didn't know what IRC was. I'd never really heard of the RORC, but what I had heard of was the Rolex Fastnet Race. I was brought up in the southwest, and as a boy I used to sail dinghies at the Royal Western Yacht Club.”

By his own admission, Kneen’s first Rolex Fastnet Race in 2015 was a comedy of errors aboard his secondhand Elan 350 cruiser/racer called Sunrise. But he has proven to be a fast learner who has quickly worked out what it takes to put together a race-winning campaign.

“It doesn't really matter what level in the fleet you're at. As long as you have a good crew, and the right support, then you can win your class. And if you can win the class you can win overall, although that depends on things like tidal gates, wind conditions, things that are much more in the hands of the gods, I think.”

In the Sunrise crew was Kneen, professional Dave Swete, plus Thomas Cheney, Angus Gray-stephens, George Kennedy, Suzy Peters and Tor Tomlinson. Photo: Paul WyethIn the Sunrise crew was Kneen, professional Dave Swete, plus Thomas Cheney, Angus Gray-stephens, George Kennedy, Suzy Peters and Tor Tomlinson. Photo: Paul Wyeth

The fickleness of fate was brought home to him on seeing sistership Dawn Treader knocked out of the race not long after the start. Battling through the severe conditions of the Solent, the J/133 Pintia collided with the JPK 11.80 Dawn Treader, resulting in the latter dismasting and both boats retiring.

Two identical boats - one that barely made it past the start line, the other going on to win the race. The poignancy was not lost on Kneen: “We had a sad moment for an hour or so after that happened. We’ve been racing Dawn Treader hard all season. They’ve had the boat for a lot less time than us, but really got it together. We were looking forward to match racing them all around the Fastnet course and we reckoned that if we could beat them we’d be in with a good chance of winning our division.”

Sunrise struggled in the early stages of the race, always out of phase with the tide as they beat towards Land’s End. But a counterintuitive and brave decision to sail around the eastern side of the traffic separation scheme at Land’s End was the team’s first big break. From then on, one good decision compounded on the next.

This put them in a unique position to stay just in front of an area of high pressure that swallowed up the chasing pack just a few miles behind Sunrise. “I was looking at the tracker last night and it’s quite amazing to look back at that stage of the race. It was a critical moment where we really pushed hard and it was probably the difference between finishing at 10 o'clock in the morning on Thursday or finishing the same time the following day.”

By staying ahead of the high pressure system, Sunrise had done a horizon job on the rest of IRC Two. It was a breakaway move that ultimately proved sufficient to overhaul RORC Commodore James Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX and claim the Fastnet Challenge Cup for the overall winner under IRC corrected time.

Sunrise sets sail on the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Kurt Arrtigo/RORCSunrise sets sail on the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Kurt Arrtigo/RORC

Loyal Plymothian that he is, Kneen admits to being pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome he received coming into Cherbourg. “It's not lost on me the irony that the first year the race finish moves to a French town it’s won by a Plymouth boat, by someone who voted against moving the finish to Cherbourg.”

Kneen paid tribute to the RORC and everyone in Cowes and Cherbourg who had helped make the Rolex Fastnet Race happen in such challenging circumstances. “I think anyone who has managed to arrange an event in this pandemic deserves a medal. The level of complexity of making anything happen is just at a completely different level now in the pandemic. The fact that the RORC made a brave decision to move the finish, and then managed to deliver another astonishing race - it just demonstrates the amazing people at the RORC have got in it.

“I wasn’t particularly positive about the change of finish because I'm loyal to Plymouth, and we really didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in Cherbourg. But the welcome at the finish was amazing, the village is something else, the whole experience was incredible. If I have one regret it’s that in this special moment, Francesca wasn’t able to be with me on this race because she was back at home looking after our two year old. She is the one who has made it possible for me to do this race.

“When you make crazy plans to do things like this and it becomes a bit of an obsession, and you never really believe you're going to do it. I think all of us in offshore sailing ask ourselves why we commit to this ridiculous sport where you get mostly cold and wet, and 90 per cent of the time you wish you weren’t there.

“But then you get glimmers of complete elation, adrenaline and an experience that is just unmatchable. There's no greater sense of achievement. When you get everything in the right place, with the right people, in the right conditions. We had four, five or six hours of that, between the Scillies and the Lizard, when we had 25 knots of breeze and the boat - our so called ‘caravan’ - was flying along at 20 plus knots. In moments like that, all the rest of it you forget very quickly, when you’re beating in 30 knots of wind and vomiting over the back and wondering why you’re there. It’s the moments of elation that live with you, and it’s what keeps us coming back.”

Volvo Ocean Race veteran Dave Swete was the only pro sailor on the Sunrise crew. Apart from Swete and Kneen in their late 30s, the rest of the crew are all in their 20s, some of whom have come up through the RORC’s Griffin youth racing programme aimed at fostering young offshore talent. Suzy Peters and Tom Cheney were co-navigators on the race. They were joined by Quentin Bes-Green, Angus Gray-Stephens, George Kennedy and Victoria Tomlinson.

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Baltimore RNLI was launched last night (Thursday 12 August) to assist a yacht taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race that was suffering power problems 1 mile east of the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse off the coast of West Cork.

The volunteer lifeboat crew launched their inshore lifeboat at 8.47 pm following a request to assist a 36ft yacht with six crew onboard whose battery power was too low to start their engine to run their charging system. Given the circumstances, the location of the yacht and the weather conditions at the time, Deputy Launching Authority of Baltimore RNLI, recently retired RNLI Coxswain Kieran Cotter spoke to the Irish Coast Guard as well as the crew onboard the yacht and the decision was made to launch Baltimore RNLI’s inshore lifeboat.

Baltimore inshore lifeboat reached the casualty vessel at 9.20 pm and passed over a battery jump pack to the crew so that the yacht could start their engine and charge their own batteries. This was successful and once the crew onboard the yacht were happy that their systems were running properly they passed back the jump pack and continued on their way. The lifeboat returned to Baltimore lifeboat station, arriving at 10.00 pm.

There were three volunteer crew onboard the lifeboat, Helm Micheal Cottrell and crew members Kieran O’Driscoll and Ian Lynch. Assisting at the boathouse were Seamus O’Driscoll, Jerry Smith and Tom Kelly. Conditions at sea during the call were rough with a westerly force 5 wind and 3.5-4m sea swell.

Speaking following the call out, Kate Callanan, Baltimore RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer said: ‘Conditions around the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse last night were bad and the early intervention from our lifeboat helped a worse situation from developing. 

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Day 6 1100: For the last 36 hours and more, Irish offshore racing enthusiasts have been on the edge of their seats, willing Irish Offshore Sailing’s veteran Sunfast 37 Desert Star from Dun Laoghaire’s Irish Offshore Sailing to hang onto her vulnerable place on the podium in IRC 4 as the Fastnet Race went into its final stages. But IOS Director Ronan O'Siochru and his right-hand man Conor Totterdell (NYC) have done much better than that. For, when Desert Star crossed the finish line at the entrance to Cherbourg’s mighty harbour at 10:39 this morning, she was not only still in second overall in a class of 70 starters - she was in fact only only ten minutes short of being first.

But as the leading four boats were to be placed as having finished within 22 minutes of each other on corrected time, the Irish crew did well to keep their cool - and their place - in their first finish in Cherbourg. Fastnet Race success is nothing new to Desert Star and Ronan O Siochru.

Six years ago, they took the Roger Justice Trophy of the best-placed school boat in the Fastnet Race of 2015. But placing second overall in the open division in the second-largest class in the entire 2021 Fastnet Race fleet is on an entirely new level of achievement.

Tracker below

W M Nixon's overview of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 will appear on this evening.

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One of the most intense battles, both on the water and under IRC corrected time, in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race played out in IRC Three. Here the scratch boat was unquestionably the JPK 1030 Léon, skippered by the defending IRC Three and Two-Handed champion and former overall winner of the Fastnet Race, Alexis Loison, racing yet again doublehanded, but this time with Guillaume Pirouelle.

Interesting was the diversity of crew make-ups: Fully crewed, doublehanded or mixed doublehanded, it seemed to make no difference to the competitiveness of the top boats. While the lead double handers in IRC Four were occasionally in the mix, it was mainly the doublehanded crews in IRC Three that held the top places in the IRC Two-Handed ranking.

After surviving Sunday’s brisk start, the battle for the front of IRC Three, as the boats tackled the stiff beat down the Channel, as usual was down to picking the shifts and playing the tide. Sadly some British Sun Fast 3300s teams had not made it through - Kelvin Rawlings and Stuart Childerley (hoping to repeat their IRC Two-Handed victory from 2015) opted out of the race as James Harayda and Dee Caffari on Gentoo retired with a ripped mainsail. Another, Swell, sailed by double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Henry Bomby, was also having a hard time having been OCS, although they had managed to recover well from their premature start, overhauling Léon by the Needles.

But then as Bomby recounted, they “got Portland Bill wrong - we were playing for a left shift, so our main rivals got four or five miles ahead of us in the first six hours. So we had to play catch up from there.”

At 0600 on the first morning, the Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier skippered by Henry Foster, had nosed into the lead, hugging the shore at Start Point with Louis-Marie Dussere’s JPK 1080 Raging-bee², Philippe Girardin’s J/120 Hey Jude and Raging-bee² neck and neck for the lead to the south. The British army remained out in front as they sniggled around the Lizard coastline and continued on in the lead – just - as they diving south of the Land's End TYSS and up its west side.

At the Fastnet Rock on the early hours of Wednesday morning, it remained tight on the water, but the lower-rated Léon led over Raging-bee² and Hey Jude by 45 minutes with Fujitsu British Soldier 13 minutes further back. At this stage, Swell was 1 hours 19 minutes behind under corrected time.

Half way into the return journey to Bishop Rock Fujitsu British Soldier and Hey Jude stayed west as Raging-bee² had nosed ahead of Léon to the east. By being further east still, Swell gained by being able to lay the east side of the TSS west of the Scilly Isles, as the boats ahead lost out, having to gybe to avoid it.

But the major hurdle ahead was the ridge that engulfed the fleet late on Wednesday into the early hours of Thursday, that parked the fleet. Here the Fujitsu British Soldier crew made the decision to head west of the TSS. This worked out badly for them and they remained more firmly stuck than the boats to the east. Hey Jude and Swell came out best in this reshuffle along with doublehanders Olivier Burgaud and Sylvain Pontu on their JPK 1080 Aileau just to their south.

JPK 1030 Léon arrives in the early hours of Friday morning at the Cherbourg finish lineJPK 1030 Léon arrives in the early hours of Friday morning at the Cherbourg finish line Photo: Paul Wyeth

The long reach back east down the Channel was when the Brits on Swell finally edged into the lead on the water and then, unimaginably, ahead of Loison under IRC corrected time. Here the frontrunners were all laying the south side of the Casquets TSS until Léon edged south and Swell began to cover her vigorously, however this tactic left Aileau free to sail a path closer to the TSS and the rhumb line and take the lead on the water. Swell did well to stay in front of Léon, but on the approach to Cherbourg the local sailing demi-Gods on their lowered rated JPK 10.30, gybed closer to Cap de la Hague and were able to close enough on Swell to beat them by 36 minutes under corrected time at the line.

“I am very happy to win again and very pleased with our performance,” commented Loison, a professional Figaro sailor. “We pushed very hard on board and that is good for Guillaume and me. We trained well together for all of this year with the Figaro, so to win our class in the Rolex Fastnet Race is a great thing to have happened.”

Throughout the race, Léon found herself in much closer competition than when Loison and JPK boss Jean-Pierre Kelbert were the runaway IRC Three and Two-Handed winners in 2019. “Maybe because the weather was different, and I think because all of the Two-Handed crews have worked a lot to produce a better performance,” muses Loison over why it was closer this year. “We have seen a lot of well prepared boats, especially in IRC Two-Handed, like Shirley and Henry. They were very strong and made a good come back at the end. After the Scillies, Swell sailed very fast and we could not do anything, but have a little cry! However near the end, Swell went further south and had less wind than us and we could come back.

“Another Two-Handed team Aileau took a very good option near the end, so we had to worry about them too. The Rolex Fastnet is always a difficult race, there is a lot of options and a lot of boats, so it is impossible to control all of the boats. We chose our tactics looking at Swell, and didn’t consider Aileau. The Raz Blanchard [Alderney Race] produces a new complexity to the race, but it is a good finish.”

Léon’s 27-year-old co-skipper Guillaume Pirouelle, a past winner of the Tour de France à la Voîle, is being groomed by Loison to take over the Région Normandie Figaro campaign from him in 2022.

“It is a pleasure to race with Alexis and a great opportunity to learn from his knowledge,” said Pirouelle. “We have had a great season in the Figaro, so to finish first in the Rolex Fastnet Race is so good. I am very happy.”

Second place in IRC Two-Handed and IRC Three for double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Henry Bomby on their Sunfast 3300 Swell Photo: Paul WyethSecond place in IRC Two-Handed and IRC Three for double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Henry Bomby on their Sunfast 3300 Swell Photo: Paul Wyeth

Robertson and Bomby had to make do with second place both in IRC Three and Two-Handed. While strong contenders in this fleet, after their disappointing first six hours, even at the Scillies on their return journey, a podium position, and certainly a second place, seemed impossible. “If you had asked us at the Scillies I would have said it was a long shot,” said an exhausted looking Bomby. “Then as we started making progress I started to believe it was possible.”

Robertson, better known for inshore racing, seemed exhausted to the point of dropping as Swell docked in Cherbourg’s Port Chantereyne.“It was so intense- it feels like we’ve raced around the planet!” admitted the two-time Olympic champion turned TV presenter. “It feels like I’ve been away a lot longer than five days. There were some really hard days and some really amazing days when we’ve grinned from ear to ear. To be right in the thick of it, battling for first place, was amazing.

“Henry is an amazing talent. He always believed that somewhere along the line we would be able to get back into them.”

Among the contenders for IRC Three honours, Léon had some strong rivalry from another successful Cherbourg boat, Raging-bee². Ultimately Louis-Marie Dussère’s JPK 10.80 lost ground in the Channel and finished third on corrected time 44 minutes, behind Swell.

“We were very pleased to be the first to the Fastnet Rock as we knew from the beginning of the race that Alexis Loison would win!” declared Dussère. “But for this race we had a good fight with him, always close and that was new for us and the first time we have crossed the finish line ahead of him. For me the new course is better because on the old course, when you passed the Scillies, the race was almost over. Now when you arrive at the Scillies it is not finished at all! At Alderney, Aileau was one mile behind us. We went south for more tide and Aileau went north and after that that she was five miles ahead. But at the finish Aileau lost the wind and we passed them.”

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Day 6 0800: In the final stages of their Fastnet Race through last night and the small hours of this morning, Ireland's Kenneth Rumball and Pamela Lee in RL Sailing found themselves in a three-way battle of the Two-Handers, even if as Figaro 3 racers they were in a different setup to the IR 2H leaders, Shirley Robertson and Henry Bomby in the Sun Fast 3300 Swell, and Alexis Loison and Guillaume Pirouelle in the JPK 10.30 Leon.

It certainly gave a much-needed edge to the conclusion of RL Sailing's race, as they were ahead of the next Figaro 3 by nearly fifty miles. And it was an edge which in itself had the right conclusion, as they finished at Cherbourg this morning at 0341 closely ahead – by six minutes – of the Robertson/Bomby crew, and with a bigger gap – 23 minutes – on Leon.

However, as far as the Two-Handed Class is concerned, it looks as though Loison & Piroulle now have it stitched up, as their lower rating put them 36 minutes ahead of Robertson & Bomby on CT, and it also gives them the current overall lead in IRC 3, from which they are unlikely to be dislodged.

Meanwhile, the determinedly-maintained pace and shrewd tactics aboard Irish Offshore Sailing's Sunfast 37 Desert Star (Ronan O Siochru) has seen her move back up to second in IRC 4, although now shown as an hour behind the leader, the X332, and just 11 minutes clear of the third-place boat, the Dehler 33 Sun Hill, which has displaced the Sigma 38 With Alacrity into fourth place by nearly an hour.

Although the tides to the finish are now favourable, it's going to be a very long thirty miles.

Tracker below

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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

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Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise has sewn up IRC Two in this 49th Rolex Fastnet Race. The Devonshire team crossed the Cherbourg finish line at 1004 BST this morning. Sunrise’s corrected time of 4 days, 6 hours, 45 minutes 4 seconds has given Kneen IRC Two victory by a huge margin. As Sunrise finished, her closest rival was just past the Lizard with more than 120 nautical miles still to sail.

After a hideous outbound beat down the Channel, when they never seemed to be in phase with the tide, Sunrise’s first break came after making the last minute call to go up the eastern side of the traffic separation scheme at Land’s End with Il Corvo as the majority of the frontrunners chose to go up the TSS’s west side.

Rounding the Fastnet Rock on Tuesday mid-evening, Sunrise already had pulled out a 1 hour 12 minute lead under corrected time.

But the key moment of her race came as, while she was forging past the Lizard, the wind utterly switched off for those astern as an area of high pressure rolled over them.

“There was a big ridge chasing us at 10 knots, so we just had to go faster than 10 knots the whole way down there,” explained Dave Swete, Sunrise’s sole pro sailor. “It never caught us, but it caught the rest of the guys which I think went down to our fighting hard at the start and when we were fighting current for the first half of the race.”

A jubilant Kneen shared his take on this: “The key moment was at the Scilly Isles when we were trying to hold on to the original wind to get us safely into the Channel. All of our weather routing said we’d be stuck in the light pressure, and we had chosen the sails that we believed we needed to deal with that.”

From there, the crew kept their fingers crossed, while looking over their shoulders. As they arrived in Cherbourg having straight-lined it from the Scilly Isles, their competitors were still on a very different part of the chart.

“We feel very fortunate to have made it here, arriving at a good time for the strong tides just before the finish,” said Kneen. “But there really was no relaxing until we actually crossed the finish line. Nothing is ever certain in this game.”

Sunset cross the finish line in Cherbourg Photo: Paul WyethSunset cross the finish line in Cherbourg Photo: Paul Wyeth

Tom Kneen is jubilant after winning IRC Two Photo: Paul WyethTom Kneen is jubilant after winning IRC Two Photo: Paul Wyeth

Scilly Isles park-up

Meanwhile the rest of IRC Two over the course of the early hours this morning compressed into a tight bunch to the west and south of the Scilly Isles as they parked up, unable to break free of the clutches of the ridge. Their restart only occurred at around 0600 this morning. This afternoon they were well on their way to the western side of the Casquets TSS.

A massive 17 hours off the lead is Scarlet Oyster, Ross Applebey’s Lightwave 48, followed by a group that includes the JPK 10.80s Richard Fromentin’s JPK 11.80 Leclerc Hennebont/Cocody and Dutchwoman Astrid de Vin’s Il Corvo, plus Swede Olof Granander’s First 40.7 Embla and Eric Fries’ Fastwave 6 from France. Of this group Fastwave 6 was the only one brave enough to attempt to extract themselves from the ridge by sailing south of the TSS to the south of the Scilly Isles with limited success. Based on current progress, this group is expected to finish on Friday morning.

The Scilly Isles parking lot also had a devastating effect on IRC Three. The lead trio coming into it - Louis-Marie Dussere’s JPK 1080 Raging-bee²; Alexis Loison and Guillaume Pirouelle’s JPK 1030 Léon, followed by Philippe Girardin’s J/120 Hey Jude - rounded the east side of the TSS to the west of the Scilly Isles only to hit the meteological brick wall mid-evening yesterday.

Robertson-Bomby lead in IRC Three

The IRC Three race restart has brought some new players into the mix with the British duo of Volvo Ocean Race sailor Henry Bomby and double Olympic gold medallist, turned doublehanded offshore sailor, Shirley Robertson on the Sun Fast 3300 Swell sauntering into the lead on corrected time. Swell also currently holds an 11 miles advantage over the defending champions Léon. Cheekily sneaking ahead of the previous front three is Aileau, the JPK 10.80 of Olivier Burgaud and Sylvain Pontu. Swell was making 9.4 knots but on a course suggesting they may be looking for relief from the Alderney Race south of Alderney this evening.

On board Léon defending champion Alexis Loison will also be wondering what he can do to reclaim the lead of IRC Two-Handed which Swell has taken off him in the overnight reshuffle.

From the Sun Fast 3300 Fastrak XII he’s racing doublehanded with Matt Smith, Nigel de Quervain Colley reported: “Very frustrating park-up to west of the Scillies last night, allowing some boats to gain a 20 mile advantage. Now playing catch-up. We had a fast ride up to the Rock - flew the Fractional Zero and pulled masses against the fleet – up to second in IRC Two-Handed at one point. But that’s the thing about yacht racing… we will remember the good bits and bury the bad!”

New faces at the front of IRC Four

A restart has also occurred in IRC Four. Ludovic Menahes and David le Goff on the JPK 10.10 Raphael had been emulating Sunrise and Ino XXX in grafting hard to extend away from the chasing pack, both on the water and under IRC corrected time…until they too hit the brick wall at the Scillies. First Raphael’s crew was unable to cover as they rounded the west side of the TSS to the west of the Scillies as the two British boats, Richard Palmer and Jeremy Waitt on the JPK 10.10 Jangada and Tim Goodhew and Kelvin Matthews on the Sun Fast 3200 Cora, sailed down its east side. However, the Brits found themselves first to be nailed by the ridge as Raphael and the majority of the IRC Four fleet that was behind her were faster to extricate themselves.

Racing doublehanded with Calanach Finlayson on the Sun Fast 3600 Diablo in IRC Three, Nick Martin shared his pain from last night: “I need counselling having sat there for several hours. We did pretty well up to the Rock and were in good shape. The leg back down wasn’t ideal - I think we lost the plan a little bit, but generally we did okay. But when we got to the Scillies it just went completely t**s up. We got stuck there with Jangada and Fastrak and Cora and there was nothing we could do about it. All the routing said to go that way, but it didn’t account for this wind loss and the tide was building and it was like a washing machine.”

Martin said they didn’t kedge as it was too deep and they were doublehanded and eventually they tried to get back to the west side of the TSS. “We did that successfully in the end, but it took hours and all the time all we could see on the tracker was the rest of the fleet going by from the bottom of the TSS, like a motorway - all the boats we had left behind hours and days ago were back. That was galling.”

Having fallen so far behind, Martin said that this afternoon they were trying “something different” and have taken a small flier north towards the Lizard in an attempt to reclaim some ground. “The routing saying this is the quickest way to Cherbourg but there are no other boats around. We’ll see if it pays off.”

At midday the IRC Four leaders on the water were fanning out across the Channel due south of the Lizard with Raphael furthest south, with Harry J. Heijst’s S&S 41 Winsome and Vincent and Jacques Rigalleau’s Sun Fast 3200 Enedis immediately to the north, and the Pinteauxs JPK 10.10 Gioia closest to the Lizard. Over the course of this afternoon Raphael has inevitably nosed back into the lead on the water.

However, leading on corrected time seems to be one of the smaller IRC Four boats: Benefitting greatly from the park-up has been Alain Guelennoc’s X-332 with Chris Choules’ Sigma 38 With Alacrity and Irish Offshore Sailing’ Sun Fast 37 Desert Star, skippered by Ronan O'Siochru currently second. But you wouldn’t put money on it remaining this way in 24 hours time.

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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 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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