Skippered by Charles Caudrelier, the Chinese Dongfeng Race Team will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race as Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race © Benoit Stichelbaut

Skippered by Charles Caudrelier, the Chinese Dongfeng Race Team will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race as Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race © Benoit Stichelbaut

 

Among the 400 boat fleet setting off from the Solent on 6 August in the Rolex Fastnet Race will be three of offshore racing’s most prestigious classes.

Grabbing the headlines will be the one design VO65s as the Rolex Fastnet Race serves as Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race and it will be the first occasion the teams will have lined up in anger. Among the seven, three teams competed in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race: 2nd placed Team Brunel; the Chinese Dongfeng Race Team, third last time and the Spanish MAPFRE team, which finished fourth. In one designs, experience is everything so these teams will have the edge, but crew from other boats in the last race have been distributed across the new teams too.

Dongfeng Race Team benefitted from being first to get sailing this time, picked their boat up post-refit late January. They have several of the same crew and have focussed more on the competition this time, says skipper Charles Caudrelier. “Last time we spent the first five months in China doing crew selection. We put 30% of our time into performance. This time we put in 70%.”
This year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will be Caudrelier’s third. In 2011, on the VO70 Groupama, they finished just behind Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, whose time of 32 hours and 39 minutes remains the monohull record. “I like the race because it is interesting – short and complicated with lots of transitions,” says Caudrelier.
While Dongfeng is a favourite, late to the party is Turn the Tide on Plastic, skippered by Dee Caffari, their campaign was only announced mid-June.
Caffari is a big fan of the Rolex Fastnet having completed her first on a Challenge boat in 2001. She was on Team SCA two years ago:  “It is an ocean classic everyone wants to do. It covers such a range of boats and sailors, it is like an oceanic version of Round the Island Race.”
Having competed many times in the Rolex Fastnet Race, Sam Davies will be in the driving seat of Tanguy de Lamotte’s IMOCA 60, Initiatives Coeur ( Photo © Initiatives Coeur )

Having competed many times in the Rolex Fastnet Race, Sam Davies will be in the driving seat of Tanguy de Lamotte’s IMOCA 60, Initiatives Coeur ( Photo © Initiatives Coeur )

 

Former Team SCA skipper Sam Davies has returned to the IMOCA 60 class. She has taken over the Initiatives Coeur campaign from Tanguy de Lamotte but the two are sailing together for the rest of 2017.
 “Everyone is happy Sam’s in the driving seat. It is a great continuation for the project,” says de Lamotte. Davies, who also raced with de Lamotte in 2015, said: “I am very excited Tanguy gave me this opportunity. It is a project that I know every well – a cool boat, a cool team and cool charity project to be involved.” It supports Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, which funds operations on children born with heart defects. They are sailing the foil-assisted IMOCA 60 that finished the last Vendée Globe in third.
As with the other eight IMOCA 60s competing, they are racing the Rolex Fastnet Race doublehanded. Before sailing the race together in 2015, de Lamotte won it twice in the Class40, while Davies’ first race was in 1995 on a Sun Legend 41 and she has done it countless times since.
They are up against the boats which finished first and second in the Vendée Globe: Bureau Vallée 2 (ex-Banque Populaire) campaigned by Louis Burton and Servane Escoffier, and Alex Thomson and Irish sailor Nicholas O’Leary on Hugo Boss.
For Thomson, the Rolex Fastnet Race has played a huge part in his sailing career. “My first was in 1995 on a Sigma 36 called British Eagle – it took just over seven days – but in that race I found my love for offshore racing. That’s the great thing about the Fastnet – it introduces people to proper offshore racing.” The 2003 race was the first occasion Thomson sailed under the colours of Hugo Boss, preluding a 14 year sponsorship deal.
This time, Thomson who is sailing with Nicholas O’Leary is hoping to beat the other IMOCA 60s but is bullish about taking on the larger boats in his foil-assisted weapon. “Downwind we’re quicker than a VO65 and if you give us the right conditions (22-25 knots, broad reaching) we can beat Rambler, but in the Fastnet you don’t get to choose the weather you sail in.”
Most significant in the Rolex Fastnet Race’s non-IRC line-up is the 34 boat Class40 fleet. In this are a mix of pro sailors and enthusiastic amateurs and boats ranging from state of the art reaching machines to old production boats. It is also one of the most international line-ups including Russia and Japan, Sweden, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands, South Africa and Oman.
The Rolex Fastnet Race will see 34 Class40s compete, including the newest, Louis Duc's Carac (150) ( Photo © Christophe Breschi )

The Rolex Fastnet Race will see 34 Class40s compete, including the newest, Louis Duc’s Carac (150) ( Photo © Christophe Breschi )

 

The Rolex Fastnet Race will be the first event for the newest, most radical Class40. Louis Duc’s Carac (150) is a Marc Lombard design and has the highest volume bow permitted under the Class40 rule. The latest models from all the leading Class40 designers are competing such as Brieuc Maisonneuve’s Cap Des Palmes, a Guillaume Verdier Tizh 40; Norwegian Henrik Bergesen’s Hydra, a brand new Owen Clarke design; two new Sam Manuard-designed Mach 40 Mk3s, Maxime Sorel’s V And B and Catherine Pourre’s Eärendil.

President of the Class40, Halvard Mabire, is racing Campagne de France, a new boat to his own design, with his English partner Miranda Merron. Mabire’s first Fastnet was in 1977. “It was on a small plywood boat with hard chines. It was one of the slowest Fastnets in history – very very light all the way. I did it again in 1979, which was not the same story.” He has since done the race as part of the Admiral’s Cup and on a Maxi One Design. “The Fastnet is one of the oldest races. It is very nice to have this race – we know it will happen every two years. It is good that the RORC opened it to multihulls, IMOCA 60s and Class40s.”
As to the form, the favourite is, for once, not French, but from the Channel Islands. Following his 2006 Route du Rhum victory, Phil Sharp has returned to the Class 40. His yacht Imerys currently leads the 2017 Class40 championship, following their second place in the recent Les Sables-Horta-Les Sables race.
Jersey's Phil Sharp on Imerys currently leads the 2017 Class40 championship ( Photo © Andy Le Gresley )

Jersey’s Phil Sharp on Imerys currently leads the 2017 Class40 championship (Photo
© Andy Le Gresley )

The Rolex Fastnet Race starts from off Cowes at 1100 on 6 August.
How to follow:
  • All the latest news, race updates, video, photos, blogs from the boats + Live streaming of the starts: Race minisite: http://fastnet.rorc.org/
  • Twitter: #rolexfastnetrace @RORCracing
  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/royaloceanracingclub
  • Instagram: instagram.com/rorcracing
  • Coverage on Fastnet TV & Radio: Cowes – 87.7fm, Plymouth – 87.9fm and online http://879fm.uk/
  •  Virtual Regatta – check the race minisite closer to the start to sign up for the game

 

The Rolex Fastnet Race fleet at Hurst Castle Lighthouse. The spectacular fleet fills the Solent between the Isle of Wight and the mainland shores © Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The Rolex Fastnet Race fleet at Hurst Castle Lighthouse. The spectacular fleet fills the Solent between the Isle of Wight and the mainland shores © Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Two months out from the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Royal Ocean Racing Club has made public the latest entry list for its biennial 600 mile race from Cowes to Plymouth, via the Fastnet Rock, starting at noon on Sunday 16th August.

 The entry list makes for impressive reading in terms of scale, diversity and quality of the fleet taking part, confirming the Rolex Fastnet Race’s position as the world’s biggest and most popular offshore race by far.

As of today there are 387 boats entered with a further 74 on the waiting list. If all the boats currently entered were put bow to stern, the line from Cowes would stretch two thirds of the way across the Solent to the mainland (1635.75m).

The bulk of the fleet – 340 entries to be precise – are competing under IRC for the race’s overall prize, the Fastnet Challenge Cup. With the two American maxis: Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark’s 100ft Comanche and George David’s Rambler 88, due to be the pace setters on the water, the IRC fleet will, in due course, be divided into classes and class sub-divisions.

The remaining 47 are not competing under IRC but represent some of the world’s leading professional race boat classes. These include the latest generation foil-born IMOCA 60s, lining up for their first major event in the build-up to next year’s Vendée Globe, plus a large and highly competitive fleet of Class40s. Then there is the 13 strong multihull class featuring Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard’s 40m long trimaran, Spindrift 2, the world’s fastest offshore sailing yacht; in 2009 she covered 908.2 nm (ie 50% further than the Rolex Fastnet Race course) in 24 hours at an average speed of 37.84 knots and in 2011, as Banque Populaire V, set the Rolex Fastnet Race multihull record.

The average size of yacht competing in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race is 44.34ft (13.52m) with Spindrift 2 being the largest multihull, Comanche and Leopard the longest monohulls at 100ft and at the smallest end of the fleet, three 30ft yachts including Myles and Ashley Perrin’s Capo 30, Santana from California.

In IRC rating terms, Comanche and Rambler 88 lead the charge with Time Correction Coefficients (TCC) of 1.973 and 1.869 respectively, while the slowest boat in the fleet is Tony Harwood’s Nicholson 38, Volante,on 0.864 (the minimum permitted TCC this year is 0.850).

An impressive 52 entries are sailing two handed, up from 45 in 2013 when the race was won for the first time in its history by a two handed crew: French father and son, Pascal and Alexis Loison aboard their JPK 10.10,Night and Day.

Hoping to emulate the Loisins’ performance this year is another father and son crew, Derek and Conor Dillon from Listowel in southwest Ireland, who are competing on their Dehler 34, Big Deal. Despite owning the boat for 10 years and campaigning her in many regattas in Ireland, the Dillons have only recently ventured into offshore racing, but nonetheless won the Two Handed class in last year’s Round Ireland Race. With the Fastnet Rock on their doorstep in Kerry, the RORC’s flagship event was an obvious ambition.

Conor Dillon will race Two Handed with his Father Derek on their Dehler 34, Big Deal.
© Dillon Family

As Conor puts it: “We have rounded the Fastnet many times and always dreamed of doing it in the Rolex Fastnet Race. This will be a memorable moment for us for sure. I just hope it happens in day time…

“Every year we are trying to go bigger and bolder. This is an opportunity to compete in a legendary race against the best the world has to offer as well as, of course, making lifetime memories together. There are some seriously talented sailors in this race. You can give it your absolute all, and still not touch the leaders.”

Among the present line-up 180 boats will be competing in the race for the first time, while 163 took part in 2013. Some of the most regular participants are Dutch old hands such as Piet Vroon, winner of the race in 2001 and, at the tender age of 85, back this year with his latest yacht, Tonnerre 4. Then there’s Harry Heijst who has raced his classic Royal Huisman-built S&S 41, Winsome, in seven Fastnets, the first back in 1999.

“The most memorable Rolex Fastnet Race for us was in 2005 when we won Class 2 and came fourth overall,” recalls Heijst. “We were looking good for a first overall until three Class 4 boats suddenly got a lot wind at the Lizard and beat us in.”

Harry Heijst's Winsome
Harry Heijst’s Royal Huisman-built S&S 41, Winsome competing in the RORC Easter Challenge earlier this year
© Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2015, the RORC, for the first time, gave their members priority entry to the race. RORC Commodore Michael Boyd expressed the delight of the club at the overwhelming interest in its flagship event: “Naturally, we are delighted with the enormous interest in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race. We now expect almost 400 starters and may have to disappoint many currently on the waiting list.  Of course, there is a way to avoid a let-down in 2017…join RORC! I will be aboard Peter Rutter’s Grand Soleil 43, Quokka 8, in IRC 2 as we continue our ‘joint adventure’ and we hope to have our cruising boat, Southerly, to welcome finishers in Plymouth.”

Michael Board on board Olivia,Contessa 32 at the RYS Fleet Review © Olivia Chenevix-Trench.jpeg
RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd on board Contessa 32, Olivia at the recent RYS Fleet Review bicentenary celebrations
© Olivia Chenevix-Trench

Dee Caffari with Omani sailor Raya Al Habsi (blue cap) will join Sidney Gavignet's team on Oman Air-Musandam  (Photo by Mark Lloyd/www.lloydimages.com)

Strong female entry in record breaking Rolex Fastnet Race   A key feature of this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will be the number of high profile women taking part, when the world’s largest offshore race sets sail from Cowes on Sunday 11th August.   Yet again the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s flagship event is breaking new records in terms of the size of its fleet with 372 boats entered at present. The biennial race from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland and back around the Scilly Isles to Plymouth, is now by far the biggest of all the international 600 mile offshore races.

 

The largest on the start line will be the 40m trimaran Spindrift 2, which as Maxi Banque Populaire in 2011 romped around the course in just 32 hours 48 minutes. As she was finishing most of the fleet had still to round Land’s End en route to the Fastnet Rock. Since the last race, the fastest offshore boat in the world, which holds the record for the highest ever 24 hour run (908.2nm or 37.84 knots average) has been sold to the Franco-Swiss Spindrift racing team. Her new co-skippers are Yann Guichard and Dona Bertarelli, whose brother Ernesto Bertarelli twice won the America’s Cup with his Alinghi team.   Spindrift is obviously gunning to beat the existing record of its new trimaran. However even with a good forecast this shouldn’t be taken for granted.

 

Dona Bertarelli (Spindrift 2) - Credit: Chris Schmidt/Spindrift Racing

“This race is a big challenge for me and for the Spindrift racing team as a whole, not only because of its historical importance, but for several other reasons,” explains Bertarelli, who has spent the last years campaigning the D35 catamaran Ladycat in Switzerland. “The Rolex Fastnet Race will be my first offshore experience, but it will also be our first race with Spindrift 2. We are competitors and even though we will have had little time to train, to get to know the boat and build a strong sailing team, our objective remains to win.”   Team SCA is competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race as part of the Swedish campaign’s rigorous training regime and selection process to mount the Volvo Ocean Race’s best ever all-female campaign. As part of their training regime, they typically sail their VO70 training boat – formerly Puma Ocean Racing’s mar mostro – with their male coaches on board. For the Fastnet this will comprise multiple Volvo Ocean Race winner Brad Jackson, Joca Signorini and Spanish bowman Pepe Ribes. Among the British crew is Vendee Globe skipper Sam Davies and Olympic match racer Annie Lush, two of the five women already selected for the team.   For Davies this will be her fifth Rolex Fastnet Race, having last competed with Sidney Gavignet aboard the IMOCA 60 Artemis Ocean Racing in 2009. On board she is navigator although as she points out “we are all in the watch system, so I will be sailing and navigating.”

Sam Davies (Photo by Rick Tomlinson)

Team SCA is at present one of four VO70s competing, up against the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi, which set a monohull course record in 2011, plus the former Team Russia and the latest entry, Camper, being campaigned by an Australian crew led by TP52 owner Jason van der Slot.

How do Team SCA expect to get on against Abu Dhabi? “We have done a lot more sailing, but we are missing the Volvo experience still. I’m sure their crew will be made up mostly of people who have done the race before.”   Likely to finish between Team SCA and Spindrift 2 will be another Vendee Globe competitor, Dee Caffari.   For Caffari this will be her seventh Fastnet, her first having been as skipper of the Challenge boat Group 4 in 2001. In 2007, her IMOCA 60 Aviva had to pull out with a ripped mainsail and a very sick quadruple Olympic gold medallist Matthew Pinsent on board, while last year she received her multihull baptism, hitching a ride on Steve Ravussin’s MOD70, Race for Water.   “I’d never done the race that quick before in my life, so I am really delighted I’m back on a MOD70,” says Caffari, who this year joins Sidney Gavignet’s team on Oman Air-Musandam.   As part of Oman Sail’s continued efforts to develop women’s sailing in the sultanate, Omani sailor Raya Al Habsi will also be competing on board. She has previously competed in Sailing Arabia-The Tour in 2012 and 2013, and is currently part of the all-female Oman Sail entry at the J/80 Worlds. “Raya has been with us from the beginning of the girls’ offshore sailing,” says Caffari. “She has been working the bow on the Farr 30 and has been cold, wet and beaten up and still continues to smile, which is a good characteristic to have for a tough environment, which the Fastnet is. This is big deal for Oman Sail and for Arab women in sport.”   As to their prospects this year Oman Air-Musandam will be up against another MOD70 in the Seb Josse-skippered Edmond de Rothschild. Caffari remembers two years ago when they match raced another MOD70 Veolia Environnement for the entire race. “I am really looking forward to being back in that intensity again.”   Some way behind the grand prix speedsters will be another all-female team led by Lucy Reynolds. While husband Christian Reynolds will be campaigning the Swan 53 Northern Child, Lucy has entered the First 40, Southern Child. “One of our regular crew asked if I’d be interested in doing an all-female campaign and I went ‘why not?'” says Lucy of how this came about. The Reynolds run a charter company and the crew of Southern Child is mostly paying guests.

An all womens boat, Southern Child, races in the 2013 RORC Morgans Cup (Photo by Corinna Halloran)

The crew of Southern Child, Lucy Reynolds’ First 40 – Photo credit Corinna Halloran

“One of our crew has done the race before and another has done the ARC and various transatlantic and offshore passage, so it is a mixed level of experience, and we have a couple coming in from the States,” says Lucy.   To date they have had a training weekend and competed in the RORC’s Morgan Cup and have the St Malo and Channel Races ahead of them to build up their experience and qualification miles.   “It has been very enjoyable, everyone just growing and learning,” explains Lucy for whom this will be her third Rolex Fastnet Race. “Quite often with female sailors, they do a task and they don’t understand why they are doing it. So it has been a really enjoyable process empowering people to do things for themselves and understand why they are doing it.”   At present there are six First 40s competing in IRC 2 and given that two, La Réponse and Lancelot 2 Logic finished just nine seconds apart on corrected time in the RORC’s recent Morgan Cup, they can expect some close racing.

 About the Rolex Fastnet Regatta

 

Rolex Fastnet Race

The Rolex Fastnet Race is organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and just 7 boats sailed in the first race in 1925. The race has been sponsored since 2001 by Rolex SA of Geneva and is legendary within the world of ocean racing. The 45th edition of the biennial race will start off the Royal Yacht Squadron line, Cowes, Isle of Wight on Sunday 11th August 2013. It is the largest offshore race in the world and attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts ranging from just over 30ft to 131ft, with boats and crews from 22 countries and five continents.
  • World’s largest offshore race – The biennial Rolex Fastnet Race
  • Record fleet of 350 yachts and up to 380 yachts in total and 3,500+ crews
  • Course: 608 nautical mile miles (1,126 km) non-stop race starts from Cowes, Isle of Wight to Plymouth, England via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland
  • Partners/suppliers: Henri Lloyd: Official Clothing Provider, Pantaenius, INMARSAT
  • Europe’s oldest offshore race, one of sailings greatest contests, a sporting institution
  • Making up the record 380 fleet: 340 boats in IRC plus around 40 Non-IRC rated ‘professional’ classes. The race attracts both fully professional and amateur sailors
  • Largest yacht (Non-IRC): Spindrift 2: VPLP 140 Trimaran: 40.00m (131ft). Largest (IRC): Esimit Europa 2: RP100: 30.48m (100ft), skippered by: Jochen Schümann
  • Smallest yacht: (Non-IRC): Astelle and Makani: both Corsair 31- 01D: 9.40m (30.10ft)
  • Smallest yacht: (IRC): Brightwork: Rogers 30: 9.53m (31.3ft)
  • How to follow the race: Follow the fleet via the official race website: http://fastnet.rorc.org/
  • Fastnet Radio 87.9FM – online, live coverage at the start and in Plymouth for the whole race with interviews and keeping up with all the action – http://www.fastnetradio.co.uk/
  • Facebook.com/royaloceanracingclub
  • Twitter: #fastnet
  • For more information about Rolex yachting events please visit: www.regattanews.com  
  • The Spinlock IRC rating rule is administered jointly by the RORC Rating Office in Lymington, UK and UNCL Centre de Calcul in Paris, France. The RORC Rating Office is the technical hub of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and recognised globally as a centre of excellence for measurement. For Spinlock IRC rating information in the UK please see www.rorcrating.com
Maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire in the Rolex Fastnet ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

Maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire in the Rolex Fastnet ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

 

Maxi Banque Populaire, the French 140 foot trimaran skippered by Loick Peyron, set a new outright multihull race record for the Rolex Fastnet Race when she reached Plymouth this evening at 19:48:46, for an elapsed time of 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (32 hrs, 48 mins), and an average speed around the course of 18.5 knots.

In the process, skipper Loick Peyron broke the race record of 1 day, 16 hours, 27 minutes he previously set in 1999 aboard his 60 foot trimaran Fujcolor in 1999.

Banque Populaire holds the world record for the most number of miles covered by a sailing boat in one day – 908.2 miles, roughly one and a half times the length of the Rolex Fastnet Race.

 

Rambler 100 Capsizes In The Rolex Fastnet Race (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

 More than 20 crew on board a racing yacht have been rescued after it capsized off the Irish coast.

The US registered racing boat, Rambler 100, was taking part in the Fastnet Race when it overturned about 12.5 miles from Baltimore, Co Cork, just after 6.30pm on Monday.

The Irish Coast Guard, which co-ordinated the rescue operation, said 16 crew members sitting on the hull of the vessel were airlifted to safety. Another five who were in a life raft were taken on board other yachts.

Ian Loffhagen, racing manager, said the yacht – skippered by George David – capsized between the Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius Buoy. “All 21 crew have been rescued,” he added.

Some 314 yachts are taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race and set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s biennial event takes the fleet 608 miles along the south coast of the UK, across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off south west Ireland, before returning around the Scilly Isles to the finish in Plymouth.

The event has a fearsome reputation following the 1979 race which was devastated by strong winds and seas resulting in 15 deaths.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Coast Guard said the seas in the area were not very rough at the time of the capsize, but that the weather conditions were foggy.

The Baltimore RNLI lifeboat was first on the scene, followed by the Shannon and Waterford-based rescue helicopters and the Irish Naval vessel the LE Ciara.

The yacht’s personal locator beacon was activated when it overturned.

 Rescue of Rambler Crew by Phaedo Media Crew (Photo by RIchard Langdon)

Follow up on the rescue.

Feel0ng lucky to be alive, Australian Mike Mottl stepped onto dry land at the pier at Baltimore, west Cork to cheers, applause and an emotional embrace.

One of five crew of the Rambler 100 to be separated from the vessel after it keeled over in heavy seas, Mr Mottl and four others spent two hours adrift before they were plucked from the water.

“I’m feeling lucky to be alive, happy to be here and it’s great to see the local people here to greet us,” Mr Mottl said as he stepped into an awaiting ambulance at the pier.

Erle Williams, from Auckland New Zealand was at the helm when disaster struck seven miles north west of the Fastnet.

“I’m sailing all my life I’ve never ended up in the water like this, it was pretty scary. We were very lucky to get out in time, the navigator put out the call just as boat was tipping over and it went over phenomenally fast,” he said.

Foggy conditions prevented other boats taking part in the race from seeing the stricken crew.

“We were yelling and hollering out to them but obviously they couldn’t see us, it was a pretty frantic time,” he said.

A number of the crew members were asleep below deck when the boat keeled over.

“Some of our guys were very lucky to get out from under the boat so we are counting out blessings,” Mr Williams said.

Michael Van Beuren (44) from Portsmouth, New Zealand said the boat capsized within 30 seconds.

“We were going upwind in heavy seas when the keel fin fractured, the seas were quite big. It is such a relief that we all made it ashore.”

Skipper and owner George David was among five crew members set adrift from the vessel. They were plucked to safety by the crew of the diving vessel, Wave Chieftan .

“We could see them drifting away, we spent two hours clinging to the boat thinking and worrying about them, they were our main concern,” Mr Van Beuren said.

Bob Wylie (48) from Lake Quarry in Australia spent two hours on the upturned keel of the yacht.

“My first priority was my own safety and then to try to help the others,” he said.

“I saw the liferaft drifting away so I threw a rope. It just couldn’t reach them and they kept drifting out to sea.”

One woman on board the vessel, the partner of vessel owner Mr David, was airlifted to safety suffering from hypothermia following the incident.

The Rambler 100 skippered by Mr David was first home in the Transatlantic Race earlier this year. The Rambler crossed the finish line on July 10th in an elapsed time of six days, 22 hours, eight minutes, two seconds.

The Rambler established a new record for the 2,975 nautical mile course from Newport, United States, to Lizard Point, South Cornwall, in Britian.

Mr David is the former chief executive of United Technologies Corporation, a conglomerate based in Hartford, Connecticut, whose vast holdings include such diverse companies as Otis Elevator, Sikorsky Helicopters, Carrier air conditioners and aerospace and industrial systems Hamilton Sudstrand. Mr David is an avid yachtsman and racer.

Nordeutsche Vermoe at 2007 Fastnet Finish (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

The waiting is nearly over: the 44th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race, one of the great ocean challenges is just 2 weeks away. With a staggering 350 entrants at the ready, 1979’s record-breaking tally of 303 participating yachts will almost certainly be surpassed. The sheer size of the fleet is impressive. Its quality and diversity quite breathtaking. Inspiring and exhilarating in equal measure, there is every reason to believe that the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race will maintain the event’s pioneering and prestigious tradition.

The numbers game
Due to the Rolex Fastnet’s unique allure, event organisers the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) never have any difficulty ensuring that there is a large and impressive fleet in attendance. This year is no exception. Entries came in thick and fast and were closed within ten days of opening in January. However, the requests kept arriving. After being inundated with additional enquiries from the Volvo Open 70s, the IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and Multihulls to join the 608-nautical mile marathon, the RORC adjusted the entry limit to allow these ‘professional’ classes to be counted above the initial cut-off mark.

The Rolex Fastnet Race commences from Cowes on Sunday 14 August (the first signal sounds at 10:50 BST). Whilst crews with the ambition of being the fastest to the finish will hope to spend only one or two nights at sea, spare a thought for those at the back of the pack, for whom a near week in often punishing conditions may be the order of the day.

Rambler 100 enjoying Leopard hunt
Short of a catastrophic breakdown, the fastest boat on the water at the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race will be the 100-foot trimaran, Banque Populaire (FRA), which just broke the round the Britain Isles record by almost a day and a half. However, the battle for monohull line honours is the most anticipated clash and is expected to be the privilege of two other 100-ft challengers: Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard (GBR), first elapsed-time finisher in the past two editions, and arch-rivals George David’s Rambler 100 (USA). The two crews know each other extremely well, given their series of tussles in recent months. A head-to-head battle in the Transatlantic Race, which saw Rambler 100 ease to line honours after ICAP Leopard lost her bowsprit, the freshest encounter.

“Having won the Rolex Fastnet Race twice, the big play is to win three in a row, which would be quite exceptional,” explains Slade, whose yacht also holds the course record of 1 day, 20 hours and 18 minutes [set in 2007]. “During the RORC Caribbean 600, Rambler 100 proved to be the faster boat in her ideal conditions. However, Rambler 100 may also need to protect herself in bad weather, more than ICAP Leopard. We feel we have a good chance in light and heavy airs, it is the bit in between that we might have a problem! I am really looking forward to the Fastnet, it should be a very exciting race but above all else, I don’t want to lose our record to Rambler 100, that would be heartbreaking and we will vigorously defend it.”

Rambler 100 is as keen to renew hostilities. “We’re anticipating sailing in Cowes Week from 9-11 August and hope ICAP Leopard and others will be competing as well,” explains David, “we’ve had three races together already, the Caribbean 600, the Annapolis to Newport and now the Transatlantic Race. Rambler 100 took line honours and corrected ahead of ICAP Leopard in all three.”

David is fervent about the upcoming Fastnet Race and describes his own personal highlights of the parcours: “Beating out through The Needles in a huge fleet, the beauty of the south coast of England, the approach to the [Fastnet] Rock, and the wind and weather conditions all over the place.”

Whilst these two ocean greyhounds are clear monohull line honours favourites, they may not have it all their own way. There is the significant presence of six Volvo 70s, including two of the latest breed: Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Groupama IV (FRA). Then there is the Mini Maxi class including defending Rolex Fastnet handicap winner, the 72-ft Rán (GBR), owned by Niklas Zennström, in addition to Andres Soriano’s Mills 68 Alegre (GBR), a fantastic campaigner in the Mediterranean in recent seasons. Throwing in the American challengers, the STP65 Vanquish, and the Reichel-Pugh 66 Zaraffa, who like ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100 competed in the Transatlantic Race, it promises to be a tight contest at the top of the fleet.

Tales from the foreign third
Of the record breaking 350 yachts competing at this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, approximately a third are non-British crews. A scan of the 2011 entry list highlights the global pull of the event, with yachts competing from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE and the USA.

Karl Kwok, owner of the 80-ft Beau Geste (HKG), will be taking part in the event for the third time. “I am definitely here for the challenge as this is one of the most interesting and competitive offshore races in the world,” he explains. “My first time here was in 1995, followed by my second appearance in the last edition [in 2009]. We did well on that occasion, but it could be better still!” Kwok adores offshore racing: “For me the top three blue water offshore classics are the Fastnet, Sydney to Hobart and Newport to Bermuda – in that order. And Rolex has the top two!” Beau Geste will be another yacht snapping at the heels of the 100-footers and also arrive in Cowes fresh from competing in the Transatlantic Race.

One overseas crew in particular has reason to treasure its association with the Rolex Fastnet. Six years ago, Frenchman Jean Yves Chateau’s 33-ft Nicholson Iromiguy won the competition on corrected time, the first time in three decades that the overall prize had been won by a yacht under 40 feet. For the Saint Malo-based skipper, the victory was both a surprise and a fulfilment of an ambition: “To win the Rolex Fastnet Race was like a childhood dream, it is like an ‘Everest’ in my life and in the life of each member of my crew: absolutely fantastic, unbelievable, gorgeous, not to mention the incredible fact of having beaten all the big guys. It was also very important for me to be the third French sailor to win this race and to have my name engraved on this Cup close to Eric Tabarly [the legendary French skipper who won the race in 1967]!”

Regarding the ‘draw’ of the Rolex Fastnet, Chateau continues: “It is a mythical race. This year will be our seventh time and we are always very pleased and enthusiastic to participate with the crazy dream of winning it one more time.” Amongst the sizeable French contingent is the intriguing story of the IMOCA 60 DCNS 100 (FRA), sailed by skipper Marc Thiercelin and his famous apprentice, former downhill skier and endurance motorsport driver, Luc Alphand. DCNS 100 is one of seven IMOCA 60s, including Cheminées Poujoulat (SUI) launched in May this year.

John Towers is helming the J/122 Oojah (GBR) with a US-based crew joining British boat owner Peter Tanner, their navigator for the race. The English Channel is some distance from their usual racing haven of the east coast of the United States. “As a group of Americans, we consider the Rolex Fastnet Race to be a once in a lifetime adventure that is a natural compliment to our passion for distance racing,” explains Towers, “the Fastnet is a big deal for us and an adventure that we have been planning for the last two years.”

Tanner continues: “Our goal will be the same as any other race we enter. Priority one is a safe passage. Priority two is that the experience is very positive for all members of the crew. Our third priority is to be competitive.”           

Triple TP52 challenge
The three TP52s competing at the Rolex Fastnet Race will resume their engagement having been near inseparable at the recent Giraglia Rolex Cup. On that occasion, Franck Noël’s Near Miss (SUI) finished the 243-nautical mile race less than two minutes ahead of Johnny Vincent’s Pace (GBR). Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky (USA) was only a further hour behind. On corrected time, only seven places separated the three crews, with Pace coming out on top. Over a considerably longer distance, this ‘race within a race’ will be one to follow come August.               

Back of the pack
The crew of the Contessa-32 Drumbeat (GBR) will likely have one opportunity to admire ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100 – during the passage out of the Solent. For co-skippers and brothers-in-law, Mark Himsworth and Pierre Walrafen, the race ahead will be one of endurance and, at times, solitude: “It feels amazing to be one of the smallest and slowest boats competing, tacking or gybing down the Solent against much larger and faster machines after the start. All the while competing on handicap directly against them,” explains Himsworth, who will be taking part in the Rolex Fastnet for a third time.

The reality soon becomes quite different, as Himsworth reveals: “After 24 hours, most of the competition is long gone. Thereafter it’s occasionally difficult to keep your mind away from the thought of the faster boats turning towards (or arriving at) Plymouth while ours plugs steadily westwards round Land’s End. It’s a pretty solitary undertaking when you’re on watch and your co-skipper’s sleeping and none of your competitors are visible, but that’s all part of the attraction, and there’s still plenty going on in Plymouth when we arrive!”            

Trophy hunt
The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet is the Fastnet Challenge Cup. In addition, there are more than 30 additional trophies that will be awarded at the prize giving on Friday, 19 August at the historic Royal Citadel, home of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooking Plymouth Sound and Sutton Harbour, where the majority of the fleet will berth.

 Dock Preparations At Cowes at 2007 Fastnet (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

Hugo Boss     (Photo courtesy of Alex Tompson Racing)

Hugo Boss (Photo courtesy of Alex Tompson Racing)

Last August Alex Thomson was joined onboard his IMOCA Open 60 HUGO BOSS by former Olympic skier Graham Bell for the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. To watch their journey and get an exclusive view into life onboard the premier racing yacht HUGO BOSS tune into Channel Fiver on Sunday 10th January at 12 noon.

The 2009 Fastnet Race saw a hugely competitive line-up come together for this classic 600-mile offshore race. The 300 strong fleet included Olympic medalists, America’s Cup and round the world sailors. Lining up for his first race was former Olympic skier Graham Bell, a complete novice sailor onboard the IMOCA Open 60 HUGO BOSS one of the fastest racing machines on the planet. 2009 saw the 30th anniversary of the 1979 edition of the race, the race was brought to national attention after an extreme storm swept through the Irish Sea, 15 crew as well as 4 from the trimaran shadowing the race and two from a cruising yacht, tragically died. Only 85 boats finished, 194 retired, and 24 boats were abandoned. Graham speaks to sailors both past and present on their memories of this tragic event, and how technology has changed at sea over the last 30 years.

Date: Sunday 10th January

Channel: Fiver

Time: 12:00

FREEVIEW: Channel 30
SKY: Channel 176
VIRGIN MEDIA: Channel 152
TISCALI TV: Channel 31

Following the Fastnet Race, HUGO BOSS then took part in a challenging two handed Transat Jacques Vabre. The 14 strong IMOCA fleet were battered by storm force conditions in the North Atlantic, causing multiple breakages and one boat to be abandoned. On day nine the race was cut short for HUGO BOSS after a collision on the bow, although the damage was small it wasn’t possible to stop the ingress of water until the area was free from water. Sadly HUGO BOSS was force to retire and after a affecting a temporary repair headed back to the UK.

HUGO BOSS has been surveyed after the collision, and the results showed the damage is minimal. Skipper Alex Thomson commented, “The team are currently working on the repair. The potential was there during the Jacques Vabre, it was so frustrating to have to retire when she had performed so well

RAN 2 Overall Handicap Winner of Rolex Fastnet 2009 (Photo by Carlo Borlenghi)

RAN 2 Overall Handicap Winner of Rolex Fastnet 2009 (Photo by Carlo Borlenghi)

  

Zennström’s Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer finished the race in an elapsed time of 63 hours, 1 minute and 33 seconds, which corrected out to 2 hours, 19 minutes ahead of the second-placed Italian America’s Cup team Luna Rossa on board their STP65.

“It is fantastic, we are very excited about it,” commented Zennström. “But it was also a gradual thing, because as we crossed the finish line we knew we had a good result. We had monitored some of the boats behind us, most notably Luna Rossa and Rosebud, which we thought were always going to be the closest competitors to us. And after we came in we spent the morning and actually the whole day yesterday monitoring the updates on the RORC’s OC Tracker and made our own calculations about the likelihoods for the other boats to catch up with us.”

Having failed to complete the last Rolex Fastnet Race, in 2007, the victory for Ran 2 was unfinished business. That race, sailed on board Zennström’s Marten 49, had been the first occasion that the present Ran crew had sailed together. Led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Tim Powell, the all-star line-up includes seasoned race boat navigator Steve Hayles and America’s Cup sailors such as Adrian Stead and Emirates Team New Zealand’s Andy Hemmings, Richard Bouzaid and Richard Meacham.

Zennström launched his new 72-footer earlier this year, raced it at several events in the Mediterranean, including the Giraglia Rolex Cup, before it was shipped back to the UK, to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. “One of the key objectives when we were building Ran 2 was to be able to do offshore races, and the most obvious race we put on the calendar was the Rolex Fastnet Race. So it is great we have done so well in it.” Zennström explains.

This year they have also won the Swedish equivalent of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Gotland Runt, aboard their previous Ran, a modified TP52.  

“I think it is a really strong team,” concludes Zennström. “We have been sailing together for two years now and the team is getting stronger and stronger. We have been very thorough in our planning, both in terms of the design of the boat and our race preparations. 

Skipper Tim Powell was equally ecstatic about their Rolex Fastnet Race win: “Obviously it is a big achievement being such a prestigious race and one of the classics.” He adds that they had prepared well, believing some way in advance that a major part of the race would be upwind and, with Ran 2 being very powerful and fast upwind, they stood a reasonable chance. “We were focusing more on our class and the boats around us a lot more. But to have won the thing overall is an awesome achievement.”

Ran 2 did especially well outbound down the English Channel and by the key tidal gate at Start Point, they had pulled out a 10 mile lead over their Mini Maxi rivals. “That first 20 hours up the Channel was all important, tactically and navigationally, and as a crew we sailed very, very well,” says Powell. 

Eddie Warden-Owen, CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, says that this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race did favour the larger boats. “If you think that we’ve had spring tides, and really light winds, one of the big gains that the big boats made was on the first night when they came to Portland Bill and they were able to make the tide. You could see on the tracker that those who had managed to make it away from Portland Bill had a huge advantage, whereas the others were stopped and some had to put their anchor down. So the story of the race in many respects ended there, but we didn’t know which big boat was going to win.”

The opportunity for the smaller boats to win fizzled over the last 24 hours when windier conditions that might have provided them with a fast finish to make up for their deficit, caused by missing the tide at Portland Bill on the first night, failed to materialise.

“Ran sailed really well against the opposition and it is a well-deserved victory,” concluded Warden-Owen. “It is a young crew of British guys on the boat, even though it is owned by a Swede and they are very experienced America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors. So, a good effort.”

At the end of this afternoon, 59 boats of 300 starters had reached Plymouth and berthed in Sutton Harbour in the heart of the Devonshire city. The latest arrivals included the first to finish in IRC Class 1, Nicolas Loday and Jean-Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43, Codiam.

At present La Floresta Del Mar, Amanda Hartley’s Swan 56 can’t be beaten in IRC Z, having finished at 03:24 GMT this morning. While Codiam remains first on handicap in IRC 1, Marc Alperovitch and Jérome Huillard’s A-35 Prime Time is leading in IRC 2 and at 15:00 had just passed the Lizard with 43 miles left to go to the finish. Finally, Fabrice Amedeo’s X-332 Bateaux Mouches du Pont de l’Alma remains first in IRC 3, with 15 miles left to go to Bishop Rock.  The majority of the fleet have now rounded the Fastnet Rock with the backmarker, the Bristol Channel pilot cutter, Morwenna, midway across the Celtic Sea with just over one third of the race course completed.

Niklas Zennstrom   (Photo By Carlo Borlenghi)

Niklas Zennstrom (Photo By Carlo Borlenghi)

This afternoon the Royal Ocean Racing Club, organisers of the biennial British 608-mile classic offshore race, confirmed that Niklas Zennström’s Ran 2 is the overall handicap winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.