Rolex Fastnet Race begins

The 2021 edition of the 96-year-old offshore racing classic has officially commenced in winds reaching 35 knots.

09 August 2021


The 49th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race is officially underway, with the first of seven starts commencing at 15-minute intervals starting at 11:00am BST 8 August (8:00pm AEST).

Restrictions related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit have resulted in this year’s edition being a unique affair but these mitigating factors haven’t stifled competitors, with 337 boats from 24 nations entering the offshore race.

Despite winds gusting to 35 knots, the starts got away well. Among the multihulls, it was defending champions Maxi Edmond de Rothschild that pulled the trigger most rapidly. They were followed by Thomas Coville’s Sodebo Ultim 3 and the Yves le Blevec-skippered Actual. Leading the MOCRA fleet were the MOD70s Maserati and Argo respectively.

An early stand-out leader in the IMOCA class was Apivia who, earlier this year, arrived home first in the Vendée Globe, only to see victory elude him when Maître CoQ was awarded time compensation.


Sadly, a collision with another vessel forced Maître CoQ to retire due to a damaged bow.

“It is very upwind to the Fastnet, with strong breeze to start with at the Needles,” said Charlie Dalin this morning.

“The sea will be pretty rough with wind against tide. We will have more than 30 knots at some point. It will be pretty tense. There are some routing options, including a southerly route across to France, close to Guernsey.”

“There are some small shifts, so at some point we should be slightly freer than fully upwind, when we’ll be able to use the foils. With our big foils we fly fairly early.”

Showing great pace exiting the Solent among the Class40s was Emmanuel Le Roch’s Edenred. However by mid-afternoon as the Class40s were also heading out into the Channel, Axel Trehin’s Project Rescue Ocean and Aurelien Ducroz’s Crosscall had taken the lead. Another favourite, Antoine Carpentier’s Courrier Redman was one of the few Class40s to have tacked north.

The IRC Zero Maxis, led by Dmitry Rybolovlev’s ClubSwan 125 Skorpios and George David’s Rambler 88, powered down the Solent, crashing through large waves off the coast of the Hurst Spit.

With the breeze looking to lighten mid-week, the smart money is on the hot boats in IRC Zero to win the Fastnet Challenge Cup. George David has his fingers crossed that Rambler 88 might score the elusive ‘triple’ – an overall IRC win, monohull line honours and a new course record. A feat that could be likely considering that this is the first time the race will finish in Cherbourg.

“I focus on the weather as you’d expect for the first 48-60 hours. It could be a tight reach to the Rock and an open reach on the way back which would be a pretty fast race, and [on the routing] it has slowly got longer as the breeze has come around more to the west and looks like there will be a fetch, at best, up to the Rock and that will be a 60+ hour race,” said David.

“But it will be what it will be.”

Of the competition with Skorpios, David added, “I’d like to get line honours for a third time, but that’s going to be a tough challenge with this big new boat out there. It’s a big powerful boat, quite a bit longer than we are, with a lot of stability and it will go really fast on most points of sail, I think most especially on a 90–110-degree reach.”

“If it starts to blow really hard, into the 30s, we might have an edge because we’ve been at this with the same team and with the same boat now for six years. This boat is pretty optimised and it’s pretty well sailed and most things that might break have already broken.”

While the Grand Prix classes were heading south, both Skorpios and Rambler 88 took more classic route tacking along the Dorset coast, including a long dive into the bay east of Portland. Trailing them both was Jens Kellinghusen’s Ker 56 Varuna.

Also heading south out into the Channel this afternoon are most of IRC One, with RORC Commodore James Neville leading on the water aboard his HH42 INO XXX with the Dutch maxi Stormvogel in hot pursuit.

Early leaders on corrected time in IRC One were Rumbleflurg and Sailplane.

IRC Two was also heading south this afternoon with Sunrise leading on the water from sisterships Fastwave 6 and Leclerc Hennebont / Cocody.

Like the yachts ahead of them, all but a handful of boats in IRC Three chose a long starboard tack out into the Channel. Here Ireland’s Denis Murphy and Royal Cork YC Rear Admiral Annamarie Fegan on their Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo were already the stand-out performers.

As in IRC Two, in IRC Four, Joy is leading on the water alongside Delnik. As a preliminary indicator of progress, the latter leading under IRC from Winsome.

As expected, the conditions have already seen boats retired from the race, with the tally reaching 24 by 2:30am AEST, including Guyader Mext, PintiaMoana and No Limit.

To keep up to date with the race, click here.

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