Published: Friday, 16 August 2013
Mike Fulton

History was made at the recent Rolex Fastnet Race. Pascal and Alexis Loison’s JPK 1010 Night And Day, from France, won the 2013 edition. It is the first ever double-handed crew to do so. A remarkable and nearly unthinkable achievement, which now sets a new milestone for the mythical 88-year old race.

First Ever Double Handed Winner Of Rolex Fastnet Race 5

Arriving in Plymouth at 07:19 on 13 August after four long nights at sea, Night And Day enjoyed a blistering return leg from Fastnet Rock. In the process the dynamic duo overhauled the corrected times posted by the crews arriving ahead of them and left no room for overtaking by those still out on the course. This victory represents a historic feat for the father and son team from Cherbourg whose unexpected triumph was a demonstration of pure teamwork, determination and excellent preparation.

“Nobody said this was impossible to achieve,” said Pascal. “It’s extraordinary, just like a dream. I am so happy to have won this race with my son. There are so many factors that make it happen. We had only hoped to win the two-handed class, but this is superb.”

First Ever Double Handed Winner Of Rolex Fastnet Race 6

“The Rolex Fastnet is one of the most prestigious races in the world, with some of the most refined boats that there are,” said Alexis, a professional sailor and regular single-handed Figaro competitor. “We competed against over 300 boats, many of them professional with large crews. Our preparation was really good.”

This victory crowns an already successful season for the two who have only owned their boat since February. “This is the second Rolex Fastnet Race we've done together,” explained Pascal. “We know the English Channel very well having competed in many races there. The racecourse is very complicated but also fascinating.”

First Ever Double Handed Winner Of Rolex Fastnet Race 1

Night and Day’s closest rival on the water was fellow French JPK 1010 Foggy Dew, which crossed the finish line in Plymouth a mere seven minutes later. “We found ourselves in a battle with them for first place,” reflected Alexis. “They are guys we know well, our friends, who are very experienced and worthy rivals.”

Offshore yacht racing is grueling; a mental and physical challenge even for the crews with abundant resources. Double-handed sailing is even tougher. Alexis revealed their simple strategy for conquering the inevitable fatigue: “When the boat was running well, we would take it in turns to rest. There was no rigorous watch system. Our confidence comes from sailing together for such a long time.”

The pair’s only regret was that they didn't get a view of Fastnet Rock. “Every time we passed Fastnet it was foggy,” joked Alexis. “So, I’m not sure it really exists!”

First Ever Double Handed Winner Of Rolex Fastnet Race

“It was raining with only 300-metre visibility,” added Pascal. “We only saw the light beam from the lighthouse. There were boats everywhere. It was stunning. Not really a great advert for Ireland but a wonderful and surreal memory.”

Night And Day’s victory heralds an admirable performances by the more than 50 French boats in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race.  The top five boats, and twelve of the current top 15 finishers on corrected time, were French.

First Ever Double Handed Winner Of Rolex Fastnet Race 3

This is a victory that fully captures the spirit of the Rolex Fastnet Race. “The main thing is that this race can be won by anyone,” said the Royal Ocean Racing Club CEO Eddie Warden Owen. “Everyone thinks the large professional boats have a special advantage but this year’s race has proved what the appeal of the Rolex Fastnet really is. They are all here because they know they have a chance of winning.”

By 17:40, 244 of the 336-strong international fleet had crossed the finish line in Plymouth. All remaining yachts had rounded Fastnet Rock, including the last placed Duet and the 100-year-old former winner, Jolie Brise. There had been 10 retirements.

First Ever Double Handed Winner Of Rolex Fastnet Race 4

The final prize giving was held on Mount Batten, close to the Rolex Fastnet Race Village at 17:00 on 16 August.