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Race History

Rolex Fastnet Race 2007

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For the first time, RORC set an entry limit of 300 boats. Due to a severe weather warning from the UK Met Office, the start was delayed for a day – the first time in the race’s history. When the forcing numerous retirements, most doing so before leaving the English Channel. Of the starting fleet, less than a quarter finished the race.

For those that stayed the course, there was fast sailing indeed: Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard set a new monohull record of 1 day, 20 hours, and 18 mins at an average speed of 13.52 knots. George David’s Rambler also broke the previous record by some 8 hours. The Irish Cookson 50, Chieftain, won overall.

 

Rolex Fastnet Race 2005

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In a series of seven starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron, staggered at intervals of 20 minutes, the 283-boat fleet got away in sparkling conditions - blazing sunshine but with a little less wind than most would have wanted. Nevertheless, the strong current was soon working in the fleets favour and propelling the fleet out of the Solent.

Camera boats and spectator boats followed the fleet all the way to the Needles, with one yacht attracting a disproportionate level of interest. This was the old 1985 Maxi, Arnold Clark Drum, skippered by Simon Le Bon. Exactly 20 years earlier, the lead singer of Duran Duran had set out on this very same race in the very same boat. But he never got to see the Fastnet Rock that year. Battling through storm-force winds near Falmouth, Drum's keel wrenched away from the hull and the Maxi capsized. Le Bon and crew were rescued by the RNLI. Twenty years later, the crew had got back together, this time determined to see that elusive Rock.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2003

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The 245 strong fleet, split into seven classes, started in a 12 knot Easterly winds and a building West going tide in the Solent. These conditions resulted in a downwind start, the entire fleet setting spinnakers for the run West down the Solent.

Ecover led away the Open 60's, whilst in Super Zero Charles Dunstone's Nokia had the lead start in a class that included the glamour boats, Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo and Robert McNeil's Zephyrus V. Class Zero started with the 2001 winner, Piet Vroon's Tonnerre de Breskens first across the start whilst the majority of the fleet in Classes 1, 2 and 3 had to fight to find space. The multihull start ranged from 40 foot trimarans to Tony Bullimore's 100 catamaran Team Pimsic.

Alfa Romeo rounded the Fastnet Rock on Monday at 00:37 followed an hour later by Zephyrus V. The first multihull, Team Pimsic rounded the Fastnet Rock at 11:25 on Tuesday morning. Consolidating on their breakaway tactics around Portland Bill at the beginning of the race, Jazz followed Tonnerre de Bresken around the Fastnet Rock just 60 minutes later on Tuesday morning, the smaller boat correcting out to lead by more than 2 hours at this point.

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Rolex Fastnet Race 2001

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The 2001 Rolex Fastnet attracted 229 yachts from over 9 countries to take part, including several world famous yachts including Giovanni Agnelli's Frers One-off Stealth and Ludde Ingvall's Nicorette.

The winner of the Fastnet Challenge Cup, for Best Overall in IRC was Piet Vroon from Holland, racing his Lutra 52, Tonnerre de Breskens. Piet took 3 days 02hrs 23mins and 31secs to complete the course, winning it for the first time in 20 attempts.

The excitement of the start was heightened by 28 knots of wind and square beating conditions. A decent breeze prevailed to enable some boats to stay offshore at Portland Bill. However, the fleet split and the front of the fleet experienced totally different weather patterns to the middle and back markers.

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Fastnet Race 1999

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Since this time the legendary Fastnet race has gone from strength to strength with improved communications and safety regulations in force, the race is considered a supreme challenge to ocean racing yachtsmen in British waters.

Since 1957 the Fastnet race has been the final race of the Admiral's Cup competition but in 1999, major innovations to the Admiral's Cup led the Management Committee to introduce a number of changes in the race programme. These included re-designing the event as a stand-alone series outside of Skandia Life Cowes Week, limiting the number of professionals on board each boat and incorporating the Wolf Rock Race as the principal offshore race.

The Fastnet race now retains its place in the racing calendar immediately after Skandia Life Cowes Week and is open to all but does not form part of the programme for the Admiral's Cup.

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Advances in Ocean Racing

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Over the next couple of decades, yacht design for ocean racers moved swiftly and the introduction of multihulled catamarans and trimarans into ocean racing was making an impact. By the 1950's synthetic fibres were introduced and more sophisticated equipment began to bring about change. By the 1960's a more ruthless attitude to racing was emerging and the competitive spirit was sharpened by the introduction of such races as the Admiral's Cup and other major events. The Fastnet of 1965 saw the design of a radical new boat - Rabbit - a 34-foot sloop, which incorporated new ideas ensuring its victory in Class III.

The 1965 Admiral's Cup had also attracted teams from Sweden, Holland, France and the US. Irish and Australian teams also took part as relative newcomers. In 1967 the Australians took the Admiral's Cup trophy back to Sydney showing they were now in the same league as the Americans and Europeans.

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The Early Years

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The Fastnet race was now firmly established by the 1930's after running races for several years with fluctuating numbers. The 1930 race saw six American and two French yachts competing alongside the nine British entries.

The early Fastnets saw a high proportion of yachts failing to complete the course. This was mainly due to the toughness of the course, inexperienced crews, old, slow and ill-equipped yachts and the traditional designs of the British yachts lagged behind their fellow competitors from across the pond. Bad weather was also a dominant factor and the 1931 Fastnet saw gale force conditions and many problems for participating yachts, with one person being lost overboard. The tragedy marred what otherwise would have been a classic Fastnet, as the four leading yachts raced the last miles in close company and finished within minutes of one another.

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The first Fastnet Race

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Some critics refused to acknowledge the first Fastnet race in 1925 as a true ocean race as racing did not cover long distances across an ocean or sea. However, the race quickly evolved due to the popularity of the new sport of ocean racing in England.

The first race catered for a new breed of yachtsman, the amateur cruising man looking for a challenge, which cruising alone could not satisfy. Typically, he would sail the yacht himself and perhaps only employ a deck hand or two, unlike the pre-war yachtsman who needed up to 30 men to sail his huge racing yacht.

After racing in the 1924 Bermuda race aboard one of the entries, Northern Light, a young Englishman named Weston Martyr was so impressed with the sport that he wrote a letter about it to an English yachting magazine. 'It is,' Martyr wrote, 'without question the very finest sport a man can possibly engage in for to play this game at all it is necessary to possess, in the very highest degree, those hallmarks of a true sportsman: skill, courage and endurance.'

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