Strong Armada Stand Ready for Rolex Fastnet Race
the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race this Sunday,
August 12, a fleet of Rolex Fastnet hopefuls has
begun assembling in and around The Solent area.
Many of the entrants are racing in Skandia Cowes
Week, used as a tune-up by some for the 608-nautical
mile Rolex Fastnet Race. With the largest fleet
since 1979, 300 boats will take to the start line
off the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes on Sunday,
with the first signal due at 0950 BST.
The Rolex Fastnet is a race steeped in history.
First contested in 1925 and, except for a break
during the 1940s, run biennially since the early
1930s, this year will mark the 42nd edition. A
true blue water ocean race, to compete in this
race is a goal for many sailors whether for the
first time, the fifth or the 20th time.
In the 23-boat Double-Handed Class, Simon Cowen
( Hindhead , UK ) has competed in the race once
before, in 2005. But racing this year on the J/105
Voador, he comes to the Rolex Fastnet with some
impressive successes including 1st in the 2-handed
class in the 2002 Round Britain and Ireland Race,
J/105 National Champion in 2005, and 2nd in the
2001 Mini Transat and highest placed Briton in
the event. Cowen is up against some tough competition.
Alex Whitworth, competing this year on Audacious,
is notable for racing in the 2004 & 2005 editions
of the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the 2005 Rolex
Fastnet whilst undertaking a double-handed world-circumnavigating
delivery trip in between with his friend Peter
Iromiguy, a Nicholson 33, Jean Yves Chateau (Boulogne
sur Mer, FRA) returns for his 5th race and can
boast a successful history to date, with top five
finishes in class each time, capped by winning
the Fastnet Challenge Cup for 1st overall in 2005
- ahead of the super maxis ICAP Maximus and Skandia
Wild Thing both three times the length of Iromiguy.
There are those who return again and again, each
time determined to test themselves against the
sometimes unpredictable and fickle winds, and,
the currents that are a feature of the waters
off the south coast of England .
For Piet Vroon and Ken Newman once was definitely
not enough. Vroon, from The Netherlands, is competing
this year on his Lutra 56, Formidable, in what
will be his 23rd race. After over 40 years of
competing in the Fastnet, Vroon struck gold in
2001, winning both the IRC and IRM classes overall
and taking home both the Fastnet Challenge Cup
and Fastnet Rock Trophy and a Rolex Yacht-master
Topping Vroon is Ken Newman, on the Swan 51 Grandee,
as this will be his 24th race - he has only missed
one since his first Fastnet, forty years ago in
1967. What brings the intrepid 78-year old sailor
back each time is more than habit, for the Rolex
Fastnet he explains -- unlike other ocean races
-- is a course where you have several legs with
their own variables, "it's a classic race
in the sense that around the course you are in
different situations and each leg is its own challenge.
Never assume you've won and never assume you've
lost." Newman is often asked if he sailed
in the "bad race" (referring to the
'79 Fastnet), but for Newman the bad one was 1957
on a boat called Bluejacket. "It was awful,"
he recalls, with gales sweeping through the fleet.
"We blew out two genoa halyard blocks and
we had to anchor off Brixham,.it took us over
5 days, but we finished." Of 41 starters,
Bluejacket finished in last (12th) place on handicap,
but at least she finished unlike the 29 boats
that dropped out.
The Rolex Fastnet Race is also noteworthy in
that many crews sail to raise awareness and/or
funds for charity. Onboard the Sigma 38 Top Banana,
Team NHS is made up of doctors, nurses, hospital
managers and midwifes intending to demonstrate
how National Health Service teamwork may be transferred
to the competitive and challenging world of offshore
sailing. Onboard the 38-foot MAC Mission, the
crew from Hull is racing to raise awareness for
the World Wildlife Fund's campaign to introduce
a UK Marine Act to protect marine wildlife.
the highly competitive IMOCA 60s, which are racing
under class rules, have gathered some top sailing
talent, none less than on Hugo Boss, where Alex
Thompson has enlisted the help of veteran Whitbread/Volvo
Round the World Race and America 's Cup navigator,
Andrew Cape . Dee Caffari, on Aviva, has weather
expert Mike Broughton to help with the tactical
decision-making and, whilst her crew list includes
an Olympic Rowing Gold Medalist, Sir Matthew Pinsent
is onboard as a non-participative journalist so
will not be grinding the winch handles.
Most sailing pundits are eagerly anticipating
the match-up between the stunning 30 meter canting
keelers, Mike Slade's brand-new Farr-designed
ICAP LEOPARD and Neville Crichton's latest Reichel
Pugh-designed ALFA ROMEO, which has had a string
of wins since her launch two years ago. The boats
are scheduled to square off for the first time
this week in some inshore racing.
The resurgent interest in ocean racing led race
organizers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, to cap
the number of entries this year at 300. Entries
came in quickly and at two months out the list
was mostly filled. The process of checking certifications
and compliance with the race regulations continues
and the final ratings will be issued just prior
to the start.
The Rolex Fastnet Race website is now online
and, during the race, spectators will be able
to track the positions of the 300-boat fleet,
courtesy of the OC Tracker units that the event
has provided to each yacht.
The Fastnet Challenge Cup will be awarded to
the overall winner under IRC. A Rolex Chronometer
will also be awarded to the Fastnet Challenge
Cup winner and the line honours monohull winner.
In addition to the main trophy for overall victory
under IRC, there are more than 30 additional trophies
that will be awarded at the prize giving on Friday,
17th August at the historic Royal Citadel, home
of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooking
The first signal for the start of the 2007 Rolex
Fastnet Race sounds at 0950 on Sunday 12th August.
The Race & Weather Briefing takes place on
Saturday 11th August at 1600 at the Cowes Yacht
Haven Events Centre. Only two representatives
from each boat may attend and tickets must be
obtained in advance from the RORC to gain entry.
Further information about the RORC and the Rolex
Fastnet Race may be found at http://fastnet.rorc.org.