Displaying items by tag: Fastnet Race
One big overall win has eluded Northern Ireland navigator Ian Moore - in nine attempts at the Rolex Fastnet Race Moore’s team has made the podium twice but failed to win the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s flagship race. Ian is fascinated by the Fastnet Race and is a leading expert on offshore racing tactics and strategy. He analyses the new route, giving expert advice on the nuances of the famous offshore classic scheduled to start on August 8th, 2021.
Moore hails from Carrickfergus but has lived in Cowes, Isle of Wight for many years.
As a navigator, Ian has a highly impressive record with big event wins literally running off the page: Volvo Ocean Race, Transatlantic Race, Rolex Sydney Hobart, Newport Bermuda Race, RORC Caribbean 600, Transpac, Rolex Middle Sea Race, Rolex Giraglia, HK Vietnam Race, and Round Ireland.
The live interview (below) with Louay Habib include stories, pictures and the 2021 Rolex Fastnet course.
In 2025, the Centenary of the RORC Fastnet Race – arguably the world’s most famous offshore challenge – will be sailed. Until recently, it would have seemed a bit odd to be focusing on a Centenary all of five years hence. But we now live in very strange times, and the current lockdown with multiple cancellations and postponements of unknowable length means that at some time in the future – maybe even further into the future than we dare to think – there will still be a log-jam of international events trying to find their place in the sun in order to get a regatta and a result, while the previously-established world sailing programme will hit more than a few bumpy patches as it tries to regain its regular rhythm.
Centenary Fastnet Race
In these circumstances, there’s no doubting that the Centenary Fastnet Race is a quintessential pillar event, a happening of such European and international significance that other fixtures should unquestioningly cede precedence to it. And the Centenary Fastnet Race to which they should cede precedence in 2025 ought to be on the best-known and most-frequently-sailed course, from Cowes down Channel and northwest to the Fastnet Rock, and then southeast leaving the Isles of Scilly to port, and on to the finish at Plymouth - 608 miles in all.
New Cowes-Fastnet-Cherbourg course
Although the Fastnet Races of 2021 and 2023 will use the new Cowes-Fastnet-Cherbourg course, it has been hinted that for historic 2025, this time-honoured course from Cowes to the Fastnet and thence to Plymouth will be resumed. But as it happens, it’s not the original course. The first Fastnet in 1925 started from the Royal Victoria YC at Ryde on the northeast coast of the Isle of Wight, and exited the Solent eastward, leaving the Isle of Wight to starboard before heading for the Fastnet Rock and then back to Plymouth. This was sailed annually from 1925 until 1931, after which the race became biennial. But the same course was retained except for 1935, when it started in the Western Solent and sent the fleet directly westwards from the Royal Solent YC at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
The old course was resumed in 1937 and 1939, then after losing three races to World War II from 1939 to 1945, 1947’s race saw it resumed from the Eastern Solent. But with shoreside facilities problems in the immediate post-war period, that 1947 Royal Victoria YC start was provided from Portsmouth with assistance from the Royal Navy. Then in 1949, the start from the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes - with the fleet going westward - was introduced, and the Fastnet Race as virtually everyone today has known it was born.
Overall Fastnet wins
Ireland’s successes in the Race over the years since its inception in 1925 have been distinctive, even if they aren’t numerous. But then, proportionately speaking, how many overall Fastnet wins should a country with our sailing population expect to achieve?
For there’s no doubt that enthusiastic national numbers with good boats and a strong success ethic throughout the crews will show in the results, as has been seen in recent years with the overall handicap winner table being dominated by the French. But then, just a couple of the more popular Breton sailing ports would have more boats between them than you’ll find in all Ireland, and the modern French offshore racing tradition, built on the well-earned hero-worship of Eric Tabarly and his successors, has solid foundations with achievements which are manifested in many ways.
Harry Donegan’s Gull
Our own focus is inevitably narrower, but when we remember that one of the seven boats in the original Fastnet was Harry Donegan’s Gull out of Cork and that the Corkmen were leading the fleet going past Land’s End when outward bound for the Rock - even if they were third at the finish in Plymouth – suggests that Ireland may actually have punched above her weight, for the period of 1920 to 1960 was one of relatively low activity in Irish offshore racing.
That said, in 1947 Billy Mooney’s 42ft ketch Aideen out of Dun Laoghaire won her class in the 1947 Fastnet, as did Frank & Eric Hopkirk’s venerable cutter Glance from Belfast Lough in the race of 1953. But it has to be admitted that these wins were in numerically small divisions, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that Irish participation became more frequent.
By this stage, the Admiral's Cup was central to much of it, and it was a member of the 1971 team, Rory O’Hanlon’s S&S 43 Clarion from Dun Laoghaire Harbour, which went into the record books by winning the Philip Whitehead Cup, while the growth in the number of smaller boats was reflected in Ronnie Wayte taking second in the very large Class IV in that 1971 race in his new Hustler 35 Setanta of Skerries, which is currently – 49 years later - on the strength of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire.
Fastnet Storm of 1979
Through the 1970s the pace built up, and in 1979 Ireland dominated the first stages of the Admiral's Cup, while in the first couple of hundred miles of the Fastnet Race itself, the betting was on as to whether Ken Rohan’s Holland 39 Regardless or Hugh Coveney’s Holland 43 Golden Apple would be the overall winner. But the Fastnet Storm of 1979 and the loss of both their rudders put paid to that high hope.
However, with a fresh crew including Young Turks like Robert Dix, Drewry Pearson and Des Cummins, Regardless was back for more in the 1981 Fastnet to achieve the best Irish result until then, the win in Class 1 and the overall win among all Admirals Cup boats.
They’re a talented trio, as Robert Dix – aka Dixie – had been the youngest ever All-Ireland Champion Helm at the age of 17 in October 1970 when the Helmsmans Championship – raced that year in National 18s – was the culmination of the Royal Cork’s Quarter Millennial celebrations. And ten years later, the trio were very much in action piloting Bruce Lyster’s eccentric Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble to overall victory in the 1980 ISORA Championship.
Then came 1981, when the Admiral's Cup was arguably at its peak, so the Fastnet performance of Regardless was internationally acknowledged as something very special indeed. It certainly strengthened the already strong bond between the three guys, a bond which continues today in their joint ownership of the Hallberg Rassy 48 Alpaire of 2009 vintage, a particularly attractive Frers design in which they’ve recently been cruising the Black Sea.
But meanwhile, their performance with Regardless in 1981 had shown that clearly, the Big One was within sight, and in 1987 Ireland finally got the overall Fastnet Race win. Well, sort of…….
Thirty-three years ago, the growth of sponsorship in sailing could result in a confusion of results if rules from the era of total Corinthian participation were applied with precise regard for the last letter of the law. Thus although there were many sponsored entries racing in national teams in 1987’s highly competitive Admiral’s Cup for which the Fastnet Race was the climax, the peculiar reality was that none of them was eligible – because of being sponsored – to win the Fastnet Challenge Cup for the overall winner.
With a record fleet lining up for the Fastnet Race itself, and with thirteen teams competing with ferocious enthusiasm for the Admiral’s Cup in the best series for several years, it was so hectic in Cowes that the thought of an acute results problem arising in Plymouth after the Fastnet Race had finished does not seem to have been on the radar. Yet this is precisely what happened, and needless to say it was an Irish boat which was right at the eye of the storm.
Stephen Fein’s Dubois 40 Full Pelt was a late addition to the Irish Admiral’s Cup team. Skipper Tom Power of Dun Laoghaire had found that the boat he had originally chartered came with intractable rating problems. But in being forced into relatively last-minute negotiations with Full Pelt, the Irish fell on their feet.
Full Pelt was the result of a dynamic linkup between owner Stephen Fein, his ace boat optimizer and tuner Jo Richards, and designer Ed Dubois. Yet despite being a boat which was clearly showing further potential with every outing, Full Pelt had yet to find a guaranteed team place as the Admiral's Cup moved up the agenda.
Negotiations took place with some urgency. With the support of non-sailing Team Captain Sean Flood, sponsorship was secured from the Irish Independent newspaper, and the delicate task of balancing a crew panel between Full Pelt’s core crew and Tom Power’s own talented squad – which included helmsman Tim Goodbody – was set in train. With generous give and take on both sides, a real team spirit emerged, and as the 1987 Admirals Cup got under way, it was clear that Irish Independent was very much a boat to be taken seriously, with Tim Goodbody proving to be the equal and sometimes the better of international helming superstars like Lawrie Smith.
The Fastnet Race itself was a classic. In those days the big race started on the Saturday, and Irish Independent was very much in contention overall as she rounded the rock on the Monday evening. Then with the wind freshening wetly from the west, progress was rapid towards the finish at Plymouth, with the 40-footers finishing in a bunch around 0300hrs on the Wednesday morning.
This closeness of finish was exactly as Jo Richards had anticipated, and thus he had always been focused on keeping Irish Independent/Full Pelt’s rating a point or two below comparable boats. This meant that while the Richard Burrows-skippered Dubois 40 Jameson Whiskey rated 1.0195, Irish Independent clocked in at 1.0188. As often as not, Irish Independent would be ahead on the water anyway, but there was always this tiny ratings gap to fall back on, something which increased in significance with longer races and particularly with the Fastnet.
So on that wet pre-dawn Wednesday morning, Irish Independent was already well launched on her way to being declared overall winner of the Fastnet Race. And in a broadening of the scope of Irish success, it soon became clear that the legendary Holland 39 Imp, raced as a veteran by Roy Dickson of Howth, was also going to win the Philip Whitehead Cup. But in the euphoria of these achievements, it took a while before it was fully realised that despite the clarity of Irish Independent’s victory, there was no way she was going to win the coveted Fastnet Challenge Cup. That would go to the top-placed non-sponsored boat.
In the end, the band of brothers which had emerged from the melding of two crews aboard Irish Independent/Full Pelt had to be content with receiving a little silver dish – “a leprechaun’s hub-cap” as Tom Power described it – as the only acknowledgement of what they had done.
While everyone knew what the real situation was, the fact that the official records stated otherwise tended to obscure the facts with every passing year, and the untimely death early in 2016 of designer Ed Dubois – who had been an active crew member on the boat during the Fastnet Race – was a reminder that something needed to be done to put things in proper perspective.
Friday, December 2nd 2016 would normally have been a day on which people started seriously anticipating Christmas. But for those for whom Irish Independent/Full Pelt was a very special boat at the centre of an unusual but successful crew-merging project, Friday, December 2nd 2016 was the day on which the then Commodore of RORC, Michael Boyd, and the 1987 skipper of Irish Independent, the late Tom Power, jointly hosted a lunch in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire to honour the memory of Ed Dubois and to celebrate the sportsmanship and goodwill of Stephen Fein and Jo Richards in throwing themselves so completely into campaigning with a crew of Irish strangers who had become close friends by the time the series was completed.
An official stamp of approval was put on it all by the welcome presence of Janet Grosvenor, Assistant Secretary at the RORC in 1987, and key administrator of the Admiral's Cup, who has since been properly recognized for her great services over very many years to offshore racing by being conferred with Honorary Membership of the RORC. And thanks to links with Irish Lights, a new trophy – made from a prism from the light on the Fastnet Rock – was presented to Stephen Fein and Tom Power, acknowledging the boat’s clear overall win and complete with the names of the crew.
As for the full supporting cast at that lunch of 2016, it was extraordinary, as it included both the 1987 Team Captain Sean Flood, and the Team Manager Terry Johnson, it also included former RORC Commodore John Bourke who was navigator of Jameson Whiskey back in 1987, and it numbered almost the entire crew panel for Irish Independent/Full Pelt, including those who had sailed some of the races, and those who had stood aside to allow the core squad to race the boat round the Fastnet.
But although the question of just who really did win the 1987 Fastnet Race was finally resolved in a roundabout sort of way in Dun Laoghaire 29 years later, back in the late 1980s the amateur/professional/sponsorship thing was a conundrum which rumbled on for quite a while. Thus in Jamie Young’s article earlier this week about using eco-friendly auxiliary sail power for cargo and passenger-carrying commercial vessel, we mentioned in our intro that his West Coast-based Expedition Yacht, the Frers 49 Killlary Flyer, had been overall winner of the 1988 Round Ireland Race.
Well, this is true up to a point. But in 1988, Round Ireland Race Director Michael Jones of Wicklow was ultra-scrupulous in implementing the amateur/professional/sponsorship directives. And in those days, Killary Flyer was Brian Buchanan’s Hesperia from Belfast Lough. Yet she did the 1988 Round Ireland as Woodchester Challenger in a well-sponsored deal arranged by Liam Lawlor of Howth with support from the Dublin-based finance company, but skippered as usual by Dickie Gomes, who sailed with most of his regular crew.
Yet as far as Michael Jones was concerned, the sponsorship made the boat a completely different animal, and she could only race in the Channel Handicap Division, whereas all the main prizes were still being allocated in the International Offshore Rule division. It’s small consolation that the IOR was soon to be replaced with Channel Handicap’s offspring, the IRC, for in 1988 Dickie Gomes and his crew sailed the race of their lives round Ireland to be challenging Hesperia/Woodchester’s slightly bigger sister, Denis Doyle’s Moonduster, at every corner before coming home to a strong finish at Wicklow.
When the results became official, Woodchester may have won overall under CHS from Liam Shanahan’s db2S Lightning from the National YC. But in IOR among the proper silverware, Lightning was the winner by three hours from Tony Vernon’s 40-footer Canterbury from Abersoch with Moonduster third, while Woodchester Challenger was simply nowhere in every way, for as far as the IOR Division was concerned, she simply didn’t exist.
Yet in the special camaraderie which prevails at the end of a Round Ireland Race, the attitude seemed to be that we were getting two good winners for the price of one. Lightning’s win was deservedly popular, and remains so today, for the Shanahan family have now been making a massive contribution to Irish offshore racing for three generations. And Woodhester Challenger's race had been one of those flawless performances which falls rarely to anyone, and are cherished for their own sake.
But there’s a certain irony in the fact that for the next Round Ireland in 1990, a huge affair with a significant Maxi presence, all the old rules and reservations about commercial sponsorship of entries had been chucked out with total abandon. Absolutely everyone was in with a chance at all the main prizes, and the line honours winner and fully acknowledged overall winner was Lawrie Smith – with his crew including Gordon Maguire - racing the Maxi Rothmans, a sponsorship which would be seen these days as so toxic that the boat probably wouldn’t even be allowed into Irish territorial waters.
Meanwhile back at the Fastnet Race, with the absence of Moonduster after the deathn at the age of 81 of Denis Doyle in 2001, it fell to several boats to take on the mantle of Irish representation. And they did it very well, for although The Duster had been a regular entrant and in the Fastnet class frame at times, stellar results eluded her. But when another Crosshaven boat, Eric Lisson’s Noray 38 Cavatina - which was already well-known as a Round Ireland success - took on the Fastnet challenge in 2005, she came within 23 minutes of winning the Fastnet Challenge Cup.
Sailing in Class 3, they’d a race-long ding-dong with the slightly lower-rated Nicholson 33 Iromiguy (Jean-Yves Chateau). There was an unusually large amount of spinnaker work, and Eric Lisson recalls how as night drew on they’d see the all-too-familiar spinnaker of Iromiguy fading into the dark astern, then through the night they’d have that familiar impression of sailing so well that they were convinced they were dropping the Frenchmen. But as sure as God made little apples, as the dawn came up one of the sets of navigation lights astern would be revealed as having that damned Iromiguy spinnaker setting sweetly aloft.
So at the finish Iromiguy had the class win by 23 minutes from Cavatina, and as the numbers overall fell the right way for boats of Class Three, Iromiguy had the Fastnet overall win too. It was the third Fastnet Challenge Cup win for Cork-based designer Ron Holland, as Iromiguy’s sister-ship Golden Delicious had won overall in 1975, while Dave Allen Holland 39 Imp won in 1977. Yet that was only small consolation for Cavatina’s all-amateur crew, to be so near and yet so far, even if the vast majority of offshore racers could not conceive of the wonder of coming second overall in a Fastnet Race.
Eric Lisson and longtime shipmate Dave Hennessy (who was subsequently to complete a four year global circumnavigation in his own boat Laragh) were to have considerable consolation in 2007 when they raced Cavatina in the AZAB and won overall against opposition including Jamie Young’s Frers 49 Killlary Flyer from Galway. Buoyed up by this success, Cavatina then went on to do the 2007 Fastnet Race in which, this time round, they got the class win. But overall it wasn’t Class 3’s race, yet with Cavatina’s class win and another noted success, 2007 was arguably Ireland’s best Fastnet Race to date.
For it was the race of 2007 – all of twenty years after Irish Independent’s win – which secured the overall win again, and this time the Fastnet Challenge Cup came with it with no equivocation.
For this was the year of Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 Chieftain from the Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland in Kilrush. The Limerick skipper had his own way of doing things, such there were factors around Chieftain’s win which made it an epochal achievement in the purest if sometimes a rather crazy spirit of Irish offshore racing.
For a start, Ger O’Rourke – who’d already taken a class win and fourth overall in the Sydney-Hobart Race when his boat was still fresh from the builders in New Zealand – had a superstition about not officially entering Chieftain for the next big race on her outline programme until she had completed the one in which she was currently involved. In 2007, she raced the New York to Hamburg Race, taking second. But it was only once she was in Hamburg in late June that Ger got in touch with the RORC about the Fastnet, to be told that they’d take his entry, but he’d be 46th on the waiting list as the 2007 Fastnet Race had long since been over-subscribed.
It sounds daft, but there hadn’t been a real gale in open water in the Fastnet Race since the mega-storm of the 1979 disaster, and people were still nervous of its memory. Thus the RORC office were confident that there’d be a lot of drop-outs as the 2007 race approached, as it was a very unsettled summer. They were right, with Chieftain moving up the waiting list so rapidly that Ger considered it worth his while to position his boat in the Solent, where by the Tuesday before the race on Sunday, he was told he was now highly likely, and his full entry was confirmed on the Thursday.
As it happened, he’d four days to the start, for though it had been planned for the Sunday, a short sharp severe storm zapping up the English Channel saw it being postponed 25 hours until the Monday, which didn’t help the jitteriness of many crews. But Chieftain’s team were made of sterner stuff, and on Monday there she was, confidently thumping her way to windward down the Solent in the midst of the Fastnet fleet with her canting keel earnings its keep and with a crew who, if they lacked anything resembling a crew uniform, seemed to be on top of their game with the prodigious talent of Jochem Visser included in the strength.
As the bulk of the fleet approached the Lizard still slugging to windward, a serious gale warning led to multiple retirals – more than a hundred, for the memory of 1979 was still very strong. But the canting keel Chieftain was just getting into her stride despite all her electronics crashing before she cleared Lizard Point. Thereafter, all navigation and strategy and tactics were reliant on little hand-held GPS sets and a set of very sodden paper charts, but it didn’t take a feather out of them even if their boat’s size and speed made them one of a kind, racing largely on their own with nobody to compare their performance with, and little-noticed in the on-going race reports.
Thus it was something of a surprise when Chieftain appeared on her own out of the late evening light as Thursday night drew on, and finished towards sunset into an unchallengeable winning position. Conditions had ideally suited a boat of her size and type, but there were several comparable craft – it was Chieftain the last-minute entry which had read it to perfection for a very clearcut Irish win, and now Ger O’Rourke had an unexpected problem – he had to hit the shops in Plymouth to find a clean shirt for the prize-giving.
It had been a magnificent win, and in its total individuality, it stands alone. Since then, Irish success in the Fastnet has been for the Roger Justice Trophy for Sailing Schools, with Ronan O Siochru with Irish offshore sailing’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star winning in 2015, while Kenneth Rumball with Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi won it in 2017.
So all in all, it’s a more-than-reasonable record of Fastnet success for Ireland. And anyway, it is our rock, after all, is said and done. So we undoubtedly have skin in the game for 2025’s Centenary, and doubtless, there are several top sailors thinking about it already, though the way the enormous but still limited online entry list is filled within minutes of opening for business makes it a bit of a lottery securing a place.
That said, straightforward priority should be given to boat with a gold standard Fastnet Race history, and it’s particularly notable how many pre-World War II Fastnet Race overall winners are still happily with us, including Bloodhound from 1939, Stormy Weather from 1935, Dorade from 1933 and 1931, and Tally Ho from 1927 which is currently (as reported in Afloat) being restored.
Also making their stately way afloat are the 1939 line honours winner, the 88ft Nordwind, and the 1926 line honours champion, the Irish-owned 70ft Fife-designed-and-built beauty Hallowe’en. But important as these Fastnet veterans are, for sheer prominence in the race’s history, none can rival the former Pilot Cutter Jolie Brise, winner for George Martin in the first race of 1925 and for Bobby Somerset in 1929 and 1930.
Jolie Brise is reckoned by the pundits to be the finest pilot cutter ever built. And her three successes in the early Fastnets were pointers to the success pattern in the modern race. For Jolie Brise is French-designed, and French-built. She was the last sailing pilot cutter to be commissioned for the vital service out of Le Havre in Normandy. She sails like a witch. Jolie Brise is very special indeed.
Irish Success in the Fastnet Race
- 1925 Gull (HPF Donegan, Royal Cork YC) 3rd overall
- 1926 Hallowe’en (now owned by Royal Irish YC syndicate) First to finish
- 1947 Aideen (A.W. Mooney, Irish Cruising Club) First in Class A
- 1947 Marama (Harald Osterberg, ICC) Second Class A
- 1953 Glance (F & E Hopkirk, Royal Ulster YC) 1st Div A, Jolie Brise Cup
- 1971 Clarion of Wight (Dr Rory O’Hanlon, Irish CC & Royal St George YC) First Division A and Philip Whitehead Cup
- 1971 Setanta of Skerries (Ronnie Wayte, Irish Cr C & Skerries SC) Second Class IV
- 1981 Regardless (Ken Rohan, Royal Irish YC) First Class 1
- 1987 Irish independent/Full Pelt (Tom Power & Stephen Fein, Royal Irish YC) First overall
- 1987 Imp (Roy Dickson, Howth YC) 1st Div A, Philip Whitehead Cup
- 2005 Cavatina (Eric Lisson, Royal Cork YC) 2nd Overall and 2nd Class 3
- 2007 Chieftain (Ger O’Rourke, Royal Western of Ireland YC) First overall and Fastnet Challenge Cup, RORC Yacht of the Year 2007)
- 2007 Cavatina (Eric Lisson, RCYC) First Class 3
- 2015 Desert Star (Ronan O Siochru, Irish Offshore Sailing) Roger Justice Trophy
- 2017 Jedi (Kenneth Rumball, Irish National SS) Roger Justice Trophy
*Afloat.ie welcomes any additions and corrections to the above
The ongoing restoration of the historic cutter Tally Ho by the intrepid Leo Goolden in Washington State, USA is a sight to behold on youtube writes Pete Hogan.
To those who have not chanced upon his wonderful series of videos (scroll down for one), now numbering over 50 episodes, I highly recommend them as suitable for viewing these long winter nights.
Leo Sampson Goolden is a Boatbuilder, Sailor and Writer from Bristol. He restored a 1947 Folkboat and sailed it, without lifelines, engine, or GPS, across the Atlantic in 2014. From there, as many boat bums do, he got a job on big classic sailing boats which paid well and showed him a different side of the yachting world.
Then in what must have been a eureka moment, Leo bought, from The Albert Strange Association, the 48-foot gaff cutter Tally Ho (for £1 as she was in need of complete restoration and also had to be moved). Tally Ho, dating from 1910, designed by Albert Strange, won the 1927 Fastnet race, one of only two yachts from the fifteen starters to complete the race. She ended up in the Pacific as a workboat and was pretty well derelict.
The project is not unlike the recent restoration of the Ilen here in Ireland, and the vessels are of similar size. But Leo is doing it all on his own, depending on volunteer help and public donations of money and equipment. Central to this business plan is the making of videos to publicize the project. He’s a young guy, (my guess is about 30), and everything is happening in front of the cameras. He is visibly maturing and gaining in confidence over the plus 25 hours of footage which is now on view. It was heart-breaking to see him admit in one episode that he had cut the top off one of his fingers. His ardent fans are eager to see what happens to the girl who appears every now and then. Watching over all is a cute parrot.
There are many, indeed countless, restoration, adventure, misfortune, quirky, yachting videos online but I can confidently say that Leo’s series, for interest, humour, technical detail, longevity, and courage, beats them all. It’s hard to say, but about two years in, the project is about halfway to completion and the aim is to sail Tally Ho in a Fastnet Race again.
To follow Leo and the restoration of Tally Ho click here
Organisers of the Rolex Fastnet Race have citied “infrastructre” issues in their decision to move the finish of the 2021 and 2023 races from Plymouth to Cherbourg.
And in a press conference announcing the move this afternoon (Tuesday 26 November), the Royal Ocean Racing Club said it “might consider” the traditional host city for the 100th anniversary of the offshore race in 2025.
“We place considerable value on the traditions of the race, and we respect Plymouth’s association with the race history, and indeed the formation of this club,” said RORC Commodore Steven Anderson.
“But we don’t believe that this should restrict the ability of the race to develop and to satisfy the demand there is for people to compete in the race.
“We have been working closely throughout this year with Plymouth City Council and we very much appreciate all they did for us this year in the 2019 edition.
“Plymouth are developing some plans for infrastructure and if and when they come to fruition, that would be something that we might consider for the 100th anniversary in 2025, and we will continue to work with them during that time.”
As reported earlier on Afloat.ie, the RORC announced that the French city of Cherbourg on the English Channel will host the finish of the biennial race’s next two editions — a move the organisers say encourages and secures the future development of a race that had a waiting list of 150 boats for this year’s running.
Rumours that Plymouth might lose its traditional hosting of the Fastnet Race began circulating over year ago.
More recently, the Devon coastal city lost its hosting of The Transat to France, with Brest set to host the start of the 60th anniversary of the four-yearly race next year.
The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), organisers of the Rolex Fastnet Race, announced at a press conference today that the City of Cherbourg will host the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race for the 2021 and 2023 editions of the biennial race. The move encourages and secures the future development of the race and will open it to more competitors; in 2019 the race had a waiting list of 150 boats.
Details of the announcement were made online today in a Facebook Live broadcast that attracted 254 viewers, as Afloat reported earlier here.
In his announcement, RORC Commodore Steven Anderson said he would consider returning to the previous finish city of Plymouth for 2025, for the 100th edition of the race, if facilities can be extended.
The new course will be 90 nautical miles longer and RORC say there is no decision yet on whether or not it will run before or after Cowes Week in 2021.
Rumours of the move to France first surfaced a year ago and were reported by Afloat here. And in September 2018, Afloat's WM Nixon blogged: Is This The Beginning Of The End Of The Fastnet Race As We Know It?
Online comments were swift and not altogether positive: Gareth Evans stating the Fastnet is "a British Tradition and British Race" and that it should really finish in Great Britain. Facebook Live Viewer Adrian Gray stated that it was 'stomach-churning' and that '96% are against this change'. Paul Browning said it was 'Terrible news. Sell out of the many for the vested interest of the elite'. But Fiona Tully remarked online: 'I can understand why they are moving it..... To facilitate the ever-growing demand for sailors that want to compete in this historic race and Plymouth perhaps just does not have the infrastructure or facilities for this demand'. Chris Shipman said: 'Fantastic idea and great to share this event with the French who are such prominent participants in the Fastnet race".
Others like Paul Cunningham said 'A precedent has now been set, that the race finish can be moved to anywhere that is approximately 600+ NM from Cowes after rounding the Fastnet Rock'. Kenneth Sharp commented 'That’s a long sail back for Irish yachts!'. Nick Barlow said that 'given the additional distance it will definitely favour the larger boats. This supports the need for a Corinthian Fastnet run by JOG and Plymouth clubs'.
The City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region have come together to support the race finish with a package that enhances the competitor experience with increased berthing, enhanced shoreside facilities, competitor functions and events in an exciting development for the race.
Since seven boats competed in the first race in 1925, the Royal Ocean Racing Club has continued to push the boundaries of participation in offshore racing. The 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race had 388 yachts on the start line from 27 different nations. The Club’s aim is to foster greater participation and improve access to the race. The enhanced facilities offered by Cherbourg will give the opportunity for more boats and sailors to take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race in future years.
Speaking about the benefits of Cherbourg as the finish venue, RORC Commodore, Steven Anderson, said: “It is an exciting time for this iconic and extremely successful race. Finishing the Rolex Fastnet Race in Cherbourg will encourage and secure the continued growth of the Club’s most prestigious event and provide an enhanced competitor experience. The enthusiasm of the French for offshore racing is legendary, and the City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region have been hugely passionate and committed partners in this initiative.”
“The race has grown steadily over the past two decades and more and more people want to take part. We have had to limit entries in recent years because of berthing constraints, but Cherbourg offers significant additional berthing and improved facilities for competitors, so we will be able to take a larger number of entries and give more sailors the opportunity to compete in this very special race,” continued Anderson.
Jean-Louis Valentin, President of La Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin said: “Cherbourg is one of France’s great channel ports, closely linked to naval history and transatlantic adventures, and the Cotentin Coast is home to the many prominent water sports events. Bringing the Rolex Fastnet Race finish to Cherbourg means that the City and Cotentin are now part of the club of coastal territories linked to a mythical offshore race. The adventure of a great race, sailors in the City and beautiful entertainment, will make the finish a popular ocean racing spectacle for the public. A Race Village and many festivities have already been planned in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin to invite Normans and sailing enthusiasts to take part in this great ocean festival.”
RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen commented: “This is an exciting chapter in the history of the Fastnet Race and the founding fathers who competed in the very first race in 1925 will be proud that the race has survived all these years and seen unprecedented growth. City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region will give the sailors a warm welcome. The French are known for their passion for offshore racing and French sailors regularly compete in and have won the Rolex Fastnet Race. This is exciting times for the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Rolex Fastnet Race as we continue to evolve and expand for the benefit of our members and offshore racing sailors worldwide.”
Benoît Arrive, Mayor of Cherbourg-en-Contentin said: “Our City has a long history with the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Many sailors from Cherbourg-en-Cotentin have competed in the legendary Fastnet Race and for many of them, the RORC Season’s Points Championship remains a major competition. Several Cherbourgers have distinguished themselves in the Fastnet Race, Alexis Lioisin in particular, a recent double winner with his father. The Solent is not far from our port and I am very happy that we can bring them together by hosting this very important sailing event for the first time. Our port is used to hosting major sailing events and is looking forward to being the arrival city for the next two editions. 2021 and 2023 will be exceptional for the Rolex Fastnet Race.”
The offshore club has invited members of the press to a Briefing concerning the world's largest offshore race, at its London clubhouse where a 'major announcement' will be made.
The announcement will be broadcast Live on Facebook at 13.30. Visit: www.facebook.com/royaloceanracingclub
The significant role played by the Irish Naval Service in the 1979 Fastnet Race Disaster has sometimes been overlooked in the dramatic images of helicopters and lifeboats in direct action writes W Nixon. But in fact the LE Deirdre under Captain John Kavanagh was on station and directing operations in the western section of the worst affected area for longer than any other vessel, and her reliable services were recalled at a ceremony yesterday on Cape Clear Island which brought to a conclusion the 16-day sequence of 40th Anniversary commemorations, a sequence which began with a Memorial Service in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes on Friday, August 2nd, the eve of the start of the 2019 Fastnet Race.
The Examiner today has the story here
The LE Deirdre’s story was also reported in more detail in The Irish Times at the 20th Anniversary in 1999 here
It was the 15th August 1979 by the time the full horror of the effects of the Fastnet Race storm had become apparent writes W M Nixon, and today is the most quietly poignant in 2019’s sequence of recollection and commemoration. It is a sequence which began with the Memorial Service in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes on the evening of Friday 2nd August before the 2019 Fastnet Race got under way at noon next day, and it will conclude with a Service of Commemoration on Cape Clear this coming Sunday, with the restored Baltimore RNLI Lifeboat of 1979’s heroic rescues, the Watson 47 The Robert which has been restored by Jeff Houlgrave, the most honoured craft among those visiting the island.
At Afloat.ie in recent weeks, we have covered the Fastnet events of forty years ago in considerable and developing detail. But today is one for quiet contemplation. We salute long-serving Cox’n Kieran Cotter and his crew of Baltimore lifeboat who put in the longest service of any of the rescue organisations, we salute all others involved in the large and complex international rescue operation, and we remember the 19 who were lost their lives, and their families and friends and shipmates.
Most poignant of all is that four of those who died were only accompanying the Fastnet Race. Such was the special nature of the race that some sailing enthusiasts felt sufficiently rewarded by simply sailing in the vicinity of the fleet, and they were to pay with their lives for their their fascination with this extraordinary event. All 19 names are commemorated in a plaque in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes, and a Memorial Stone on Cape Clear. They are remembered today, and they will be remembered again on Cape Clear with a special height of emotion within sight of the Fastnet Rock on Sunday.
Last weekend's popular documentary series on RTE Radio One dealt with the 1979 Fastnet Yacht Race disaster. 21 people died, many boats were dismasted, abandoned or sunk as the race became a fight to stay alive.
RTE's Back To The Rock is a gripping and evocative adventure story, told from a unique perspective. A story of hurricane winds and waves the size of houses, it is also a story of fear and courage, survival and disaster, and the power and allure of the sea.
The docu interviews many from Irish sailing who sailed in the race that fateful year and who are still very much involved in the scene today such as Cork Harbour's Donal McClement, Sally O'Leary and Neil Kenefick.
The podcast is available here.
Conor Doyle’s Xp 50 Freya from Kinsale – which placed tenth in Class IRC 1A - looks to be the 2019 winner of the Gull Salver for the best-placed Irish boat on corrected time overall in the current Rolex Fastnet Race as the hectic prize-giving swings into action in Plymouth this evening, with the hyper-busy RORC staff working against the clock to ensure that “only about forty cups and trophies” go to the right recipients writes W M Nixon
As it happens, Freya’s skipper will take possession of the Salver in the less frenetic atmosphere of the Irish Cruising Club AGM in the New Year. The Gull Salver is named in honour of Corkman Harry Donegan and his 17-ton cutter Gull. They took part in the first Fastnet race in 1925, placing third, and were also present at the founding of the ICC in Glengarriff in 1929.
Thus the Gull Salver is in the custody of the ICC, although it originated in a 1972 gathering of all Ireland’s Fastnet competitors, including Captain Jim Kelly who as a young man had been on Gull’s 1925 crew. Forty-three years later, this hugely convivial “Fastneteers Dinner” generated a surplus which was then very properly used to fund the Gull Salver, and the ICC has looked after it ever since.
For the past two Fastnet Races, Ireland has provided the winner of the Roger Justice Trophy for the top-placed sailing school boat, with Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi, skippered by Kenneth Rumball, winning in 2017, while Irish Offshore Sailing’s Sun Fast 37 Desert Star with Ronan O Siochru in charge won in 2015.
This year Irish Offshore Sailing had two boats in the race – a remarkable logistics effort for an organisation based in Dun Laoghaire. In addition to Desert Star skippered again by school principal Ronan O Siochru, sister-ship Sherkin Two skippered by Daniel Smith also took part. And however much they tried to avoid it, they ended up having a boat-for-boat duel, with Sherkin Two finishing last night just one minute ahead of Desert Star.
Yet as Desert Star has a slightly lower rating, in the overall rankings she finished ahead of Sherkin Two by two places. And though they were well down the fleet generally, in sailing school terms they were well placed. There was even a slight chance that Desert Star might win the Roger Justice Trophy again.
However, it was not to be, though everything points to them getting a podium place as third in the Sailing Shools division. But with the impending bad weather, they’d to leave before the awards ceremony in order to log some miles back towards Ireland before seeking storm shelter in Newlyn.
Meanwhile, although most of the cups and trophies were going to French boats, there were special cheers for two American boats which had found their journey well worthwhile – the former Volvo 70 Wizard (Peter & Dave Askew) which was lauded as overall winner to add the Fastnet trophies to her already remarkable 2019 record of winning the Transatlantic and the RORC Caribbean races in July and February respectively. And the 50-year old 48ft McCurdy Rhodes design Carina (Rives Potts), a veteran of the 1969 race and also the storm-struck 1979 race, which took the Dorade Trophy for top-placed Classic Yacht.