Biennial Rolex Fastnet Race to return this summer
Published: Tuesday, 07 March 2017
First run in 1925 and held biennially since the 1930s, the 605 nautical mile race – Rolex Fastnet Race (Aug 6-11) will return to Cowes and Plymouth this summer. The 47th edition will see an international fleet of over 350 yachts.
(Photos: Kurt Arrigo, Daniel Forster, Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex - Rolex Fastnet Race 2015)
Starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, the Isle of Wight, it passes landmarks in the English Channel including The Needles at the western end of the Solent, Portland Bill, Start Point, The Lizard and Land’s End, before embarking on the open water passage across the Celtic Sea and the symbolic turn around the Fastnet Rock off the southern coast of Ireland; a rounding that heralds the race’s emblematic halfway juncture as the fleet embark on the long return leg via the Scillies to the finish in Plymouth.
Multihulls and professionally crewed monohull maxis share the course with much smaller boats crewed by Corinthians. The rating system applied to the main body of the fleet means the overall winner can spring from any size of boat.
Over the 15 years of the Rolex partnership, yachts ranging between 33 feet and 72 feet have secured the Fastnet Challenge Cup and Rolex timepiece awarded to the overall winner.
The Rolex Fastnet Race is global with participants representing five continents. The eight editions supported by Rolex have seen monohull line honours go to six different nationalities, and the Fastnet Challenge Cup to four different countries.
This includes boats from Ireland, which provides the iconic turning mark of the Fastnet Rock, and France, the country that regularly provides the largest number of overseas entries. Further back in the history of the race, boats from Australia (Ragamuffin, 1971), Brazil (Saga, 1973) and 11 entries from the United States, such as two-time winner Dorade (1931 & 33), have won the overall prize.
Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 is the only yacht since the late 1950s to claim back-to-back Rolex Fastnet wins on handicap. Rán 2 triumphed in 2009 and in 2011. Jolie Brise was first to finish the 1925 race in a time of six days, two hours, 45 minutes. In 2013 the same yacht completed the race in 5 days, 4 hours, 39 minutes.
The previous two Rolex Fastnet Races have been won by French crews – Pascal and Alexis Loison (father and son) with Night and Day in 2013; Géry Trentesaux’s Courrier Du Leon in 2015.
The current monohull race record is one day, 18 hours and 35 minutes, set in 2011 by the Ian Walker-skippered 70-foot Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
This race will also bring together the yacht clubs such as the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and the Royal Yacht Squadron.