The 100 foot (30.47m) LOA monohull limit set by a number of the classic 600 mile races such as the Fastnet, Sydney Hobart and Middle Sea races has been lifted by the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Royal Malta Yacht Club for the 2015 editions of the Rolex Fastnet and Rolex Middle Sea Races. This will allow superyachts participating in the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series to compete.
The AORS consists of four events: the RORC Caribbean 600, the 2015 Transatlantic Race from Newport to the Lizard, the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race. Superyachts have always been eligible to race in the RORC Caribbean 600 and a number have entered for the west to east Transatlantic Race at the end of June/July 2015, organised by the Royal Yacht Squadron and New York Yacht Club in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club and Storm Trysail Club.
The Rolex Fastnet Race 2013 concluded today in classic style with the final finisher, Duet, crossing the line and arriving in Plymouth in the early evening. Christopher Courtauld's 101 year old gaff yawl, sailed by David Cannell, tackled the 608 nm course in 6 days, 6 hours, 31 minutes and 27 seconds.
Whilst they have missed the Friday Prizegiving, they and other competitors are invited to attend a second Prizegiving at the RORC Clubhouse, St James's Place on Tuesday 10th September 2013.
Competitors enjoyed a fitting finale to the Rolex Fastnet Race with the prizegiving for the world's largest offshore yacht race being held on Mountbatten Green.
With a backdrop of the Citadel and Plymouth Hoe, the setting where history has it that Sir Francis Drake first spied the Spanish Armada while playing a game of bowls, prizegiving attendees were treated to their own piece of Fastnet history. Almost completely unchoreographed, proceedings coincided with the arrival of the gaff pilot cutter, Jolie Brise, the winner of first ever Fastnet Race in 1925 and still the only boat to have won the race on three occasions.
Since 1977, Dauntsey's School in Wiltshire gained use of the boat and in 2003 finally acquired her. According to her skipper Toby Maris, Jolie Brise last competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race during the 1990s and prior to that not since prior to World War Two.
"We are making very good progress towards the things we want to achieve," Maris said en route to the Rock. "The students have been having a very good sail, we want to complete the race and finish ahead of Duet and we want to enjoy ourselves. It will be an iconic moment when we get around the Rock."
However the 50 tonne pilot cutter is some way from being a state of the art racing yacht. "It is like taking a soggy 50 tonne log upwind!" Maris jokes.
Jolie Brise's fly-by up the Cattewater, en route to the Rolex Fastnet Race hub at Plymouth Yacht Haven, was followed by a magnificent display by the Aerostars Aerobatic Display Team.
The Rolex Fastnet Race has had more than its fair share of high profile female sailors this year.
Of course Dona Bertarelli was the first to finish into Plymouth as the new co-skipper of the world's largest racing trimaran and fastest offshore race boat, the 40m long, Spindrift II. This boat won Rolex Fastnet Race line honours for a second consecutive time.
24 minutes later the Sidney Gavignet-skippered MOD 70 trimaran, Oman Air-Musandam, finished with a crew including not only round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari, the only woman to have sailed around the world the wrong way, but young Omani sailor, Raiya Al Habsi (25). In a Muslim country where traditionally women haven't been encouraged to take part in sport, the women's squad of sailors at Oman Sail has been both breaking new ground culturally as well as being an inspiration to other young Omani women.
"I can hardly believe I finished the Rolex Fastnet Race," Raiya said on finishing. "It was a little bit tough but the guys were amazing - they took good care of me and taught me a lot and it felt good to be part of such a successful team," said just after they crossed the finish line."
Top sailors including Dee Caffari, as well as America's Cup sailor Katy Pettibone and Liz Rushall have been among those mentoring the Oman Sail women's squad, but Al Habsi's participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race has taken Omani women's sailing to a new level. Team SCA is fielding the first women's team in the Volvo Ocean Race since the Amer Sport campaign in the 2001-2 round the world race. They were competing on board their VO70 training boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race, their first official competitive outing since the sailing team was set up earlier this year. The crew includes British sailor Vendée Globe skipper Sam Davies and Olympic women's match racer Annie Lush, however for the Rolex Fastnet Race it had three male crew acting as coaches.
In total nine women have skippered boats in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race, while there have been three all-women teams, including Girls for Sail, led by Susan Glenny, on the Elan 37, Jumbuck, and Captain Lucinda Allaway on the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre's Sigma 38, Redcoat.
However the winner of this unofficial championship has been Lucy Reynolds' team on the First 40, Southern Child.
While Lucy and her husband Christian normally run the Swan 51 Northern Child, for the Rolex Fastnet Race Lucy put together an all-female crew, mostly comprising paying guests. For this they chartered a First 40, Southern Child.
Southern Child arrived at 0847 BST on Thursday. "We had a slow last half hour to the race - we drifted across the finish line and then 18 knots immediately kicked in!" recounted Reynolds.
Of the record breaking-sized fleet of 337 boats that set sail from the Solent last Sunday at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the majority has now finished in Plymouth. Just 14 boats are still racing with the classic Fife gaff yawl, Duet, bringing up the rear, having only broken the '200 miles-to-go' barrier earlier this morning.
One of the latest arrivals this morning has been the Sigma 33c, Elmarleen, sailed by Will Sayer and Tim Paull. Significantly Sayer won the Two Handed class in the Rolex Fastnet Race two years ago aboard Elmarleen.
He had been hoping to repeat his success this year. Unfortunately conditions conspired against Elmarleen, as Sayer observes: "We have come in about six hours ahead of last time but this time we haven't done half as well. This year it was neither a big boat nor a little boat race - Class 2 and 3 have dominated."
The smallest, slowest boats in the fleet had to endure a very light first 48 hours. Sayer adds that they were unlucky after passing Portland Bill, when the bulk of the fleet managed to duck into Lyme Bay to get out of the worst of the foul tide, while Elmarleen had remained offshore.
While the Maxis were being becalmed off the Scilly Isles on the way back from the Fastnet Rock, the smaller boats suffered the same fate only with the return journey across the Celtic Sea still ahead of them. Sayer reckons it took them a whole day just to crawl from Land's End to the north of the Scillies. "We were lolloping around doing 2-3 knots, knowing that everyone else was in better wind ahead - it was very painful."
Todd Wells, owner of J/109, Je Vante, has a dry sense of humour, cultivated from decades of working with top rock bands, including Dire Straits.
There were 21 J/109s entered into this year's Rolex Fastnet Race - the 45th edition - creating the largest one-design class racing under IRC. Todd Wells' Je Vante crossed the finish line nearly two hours ahead of the rest, to win the battle of the J/109s. Todd and his crew are all amateurs; none of them even work within the maritime industry. For them, the Rolex Fastnet Race is the pinnacle of a long hard season of offshore racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club.
"Having sailed on other people's yachts for years and annoyed most of the owners, I realised that I would have to do the Rolex Fastnet Race in my own boat because nobody wanted to have me," laughed Todd with a wry smile.
The father and son team from Cherbourg, France sailing the JPK 1010 Night n Day have won the overall Fastnet Challenge Trophy on handicap, some 33 minutes ahead on corrected time of another JPK 1010 Foggy Dew in second. This is the first time in the Rolex Fastnet Race's 88 year history that a two-handed entry has won.