Thursday, 16 June 2011

Rolex Fastnet Race : Less Than Two Months to Go

Awesome shot: 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race Winner, RAN at the Fastnet Rock, captured by Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

by Trish Jenkins

Countdown to the start. Cowes-Plymouth, UK: A record fleet will take part in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race on Sunday 14th August. Around 350 boats representing 14 different nations will be vying for position on the Royal Yacht Squadron startline of this tactically and physically challenging biennial race. Always a spectacular sight! Our regular newsletters will keep you up to date and provide a taste of what's to come in the build up to one of the world's classic and largest offshore yacht races.

Record Fleet for Classic Race

ICAP Leopard leads the fleet out of the Solent after the start of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race - Credit" Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi.

The 300 boat limit was reached ten days after the entry list opened back in January! The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) were inundated with requests to join from the 'professional' classes such as Volvo Open 70s, IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and multihulls who all want to take part in one of the biggest offshore events in the world of yacht racing. A decision was made that these entrants could be counted above the limit, so the previous record of 303 starters, set in the 1979 race, looks set to be broken. Check out the provisional entry lists below for IRC and Non-IRC Classes or visit the race website:

Provisional Entry Lists
Provisonal Entry Lists are now available online. They are subject to revision at any time and the inclusion of a yacht on the list does not mean that it has necessarily satisfied all of the entry requirements or that it has been allocated a provisional place.

In 2007, Mike Slade's Farr-designed 100ft Maxi, ICAP Leopard (GBR) crossed the Rolex Fastnet Race finish line in an incredible elapsed time of 1 day, 20 hours and 18 minutes. Having trailed the 90-foot Rambler (USA) by just three seconds at the Fastnet Rock, Leopard turned on the afterburners, smashing the monohull record by nearly nine hours. ICAP Leopard was also victorious in the last Rolex Fastnet Race, winning line honours in 2009. But this year, ICAP Leopard is under serious threat from George David's Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed Rambler 100, which has proved to be even faster than ICAP Leopard.

"Having won the Fastnet Race twice, the big play is to win three in a row, which would be quite exceptional." commented Mike Slade. "During the RORC Caribbean 600, Rambler proved to be the faster boat in her ideal conditions, but the recent light airs in the Annapolis to Newport Race gave us hope. We were thrilled to lead the fleet out of the Chesapeake River, even though Rambler is a much lighter boat.

"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 with! 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, that would be heartbreaking and we will vigorously defend it."

Class 40s - International Battle Royal

The Class 40 fleet typifies the international appeal of the Rolex Fastnet Race. 32 yachts flying the flags of 11 different countries, will line up in Sutton Harbour this August.

Tanguy de Lamotte has enjoyed tremendous success since winning the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2009. The young Frenchman defeated the highly experienced Giovanni Soldini (ITA), by just over an hour in an intense, boat-on-boat battle. Soldini is back, but the racing is likely to offer an intense contest. The Class 40 Rolex Fastnet Race may well provide the closest finish of the event.

"It is great to see Giovanni back in the Class after being away for a while." explained Tanguy. "He knows his boat very well and I am sure he will be very excited to be back in the Class and compete in the race. Giovanni has done a lot of miles in his boat and he has a lot more experience than me, but we did manage to beat him in the last Fastnet. He is a strong competitor but there are many others, like Concise, who will be hard to beat - the competition is always close in the Class 40s. In my last race, The Normandy Channel Race, we won by just a few boat lengths after 700 miles of sailing."

"To win you have to make just one less mistake than everyone else but the ambience in the fleet is fantastic - it is serious racing with a friendly atmosphere. On the dock we are all friends, everybody helps each other, and the class has a truly great spirit."

Tanguy de Lamotte's Initiatives Saveurs - Novedia Group is the yacht to beat in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race, but the talented young sailor from Normandy, expects a firm but fair fight around the Fastnet Rock.

Official Supporter: Sutton Harbour Marina, Plymouth

To cater for the increased number of entrants this year, Sutton Harbour Marina in Plymouth has made the complete berthing area adjacent to West Pier and the city's historic Barbican area available to the Rolex Fastnet Fleet. The Marina is owned by the Sutton Harbour Group, which is the official berth provider for the race and is an Official Supporter.

Sutton Harbour Group Chief Executive Nigel Godefroy is pleased to be associated with the race: "Sutton Harbour Marina welcomes the return of this world famous race" said Nigel. "We are very proud of the quality of facilities we have here in Sutton Harbour and to have been selected as the official berthing provider for the Rolex Fastnet Race. We look forward to welcoming the extra large fleet in August this year."

Plans are well underway for the race's arrival and Sutton Harbour Marina Manager, Mark Brimacombe is working closely with race organisers. He said: "Sutton Harbour and the historic Barbican provide a perfect backdrop and plans are progressing well for the smooth arrival of what is a very large fleet. The areas of the marina we are setting aside are very close to the shore so visitors will get an excellent view of the fleet and crews will have easy access to their vessels. We are also working closely with RORC to ensure that the event is promoted extensively so that Plymouth can make the most of this excellent opportunity to host such a prestigious race."

The 2009 fleet docked in Sutton Harbour, Plymouth. Credit: Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

2009 Defender Returns - Rán Tactician: "Conditions play a big part"

Niklas Zennström's JV72, Rán is back to defend the title of overall winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. Tactician on board Rán, for that race and for the next edition, is Jeremy Robinson, one of only a handful of yachtsmen to have been part of winning teams for both the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Sydney Hobart: "In 2009, Catherine and Niklas Zennström's first goal was to complete the race after retiring in a previous boat in 2007. So to win the race was a real joy. In ocean racing, the Fastnet Trophy is undoubtedly a major prize and probably one of the hardest to win."

"First of all it only takes place every other year and the size of the fleet and the variety of boats means that on handicap it is a tough race to come out on top of. You have to try and win your class and then hope that the conditions are going to suit your type of boat."

Rán has some hot competition in Class Zero as Jeremy explains: "Beau Geste and Alegre both have their different strengths, Beau Geste is a bigger boat than Rán and is very strong downwind, whereas Alegre is smaller than us, but historically we have struggled against her in the light. Both of them have great sailors, such as Gavin Brady who will be on Beau Geste, who we know very well as he is tactician on TP52 Rán. We all know each other and respect each others' abilities. However, the class may not be decided just between us, for example, the two TP52s Lucky and Pace will fair well in a downwind race. Sometimes you have to hedge your bets to cover a competitor but we will sail our own race and see how it goes from there."

Jeremy Robinson grew up sailing in the Solent and he is understandably passionate about the Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts in his home waters. "It is just a great spectacle, seeing hundreds of boats at the start of the race and all of your friends coming out to see you off, it is quite an experience. From a tactical point of view, it is a fascinating race that can be broken up into many legs, where gains can be made, but mistakes can cause some major setbacks. Personally I always look forward to the race, as it is always full of surprises."

Class Focus: Two's Company - Competitive Two-Handed Fleet

Two-Handed racing has seen a rise in popularity in offshore racing and the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race certainly reflects this with 27 entries. Nick Martin, RORC Rear Commodore, will compete in his 5th Fastnet with Diablo-J (GBR), a J/105, four of which have been two-handed. Diablo-J are currently at the top of the RORC Season's Points Championship leaderboard in this class:

"We've all been inspired by the great solo sailors of our time and RORC's Two-Handed Division continues to support and provide the opportunity for many of us, typically corinthian sailors with full-time careers, to experience challenging and adventurous competitive racing. An extensive program allows us to pitch ourselves against IRC boats of all divisions, both Two-Handed and fully crewed alike. It's highly rewarding, especially when you finish ahead of fully-crewed boats." explains Nick. "It is the dream of many sailors to qualify & compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race, so to achieve this in arguably the most challenging division, can be regarded as a pinnacle for many. It's fantastic that we have attracted a large fleet this year and in my opinion, this has become the most competitive of all fleets."

Peter Olden's A35, Solan Goose of Hamble in the RORC's Cervantes Trophy Race

Peter Olden grew up in Southern Ireland where the famous Fastnet Rock stands. Ever since he can remember, it has been his ambition to take part in the race. This year he will achieve this, competing in his A35, Solan Goose of Hamble (GBR). Commenting on the increase in popularity of two-handed racing in offshore races: "The challenge of racing double-handed is probably the main factor, particularly in a long distance race where many hours will involve sailing the boat single-handed. The logistics, time and cost of getting a crew fully trained, qualified and equipped, particularly for the modern Fastnet Race are significant. I am certain this is a key driver. Technology has also played its part, for example, modern plotters, computers and AIS save a great deal of time and anxiety, also modern autopilots (properly calibrated) will do amazing work."

Matthias Kracht & Renaud Courbon will be racing Two-Handed on the JPK 9.60, Ultreia!

Matthias Kracht on the JPK 9.60, Ultreia! (FRA) recently won the Myth of Malham Race in the Two-Handed Class. He says their first aim is: "To finish the race which is still a monument among the offshore races, a kind of Everest for French sailors. We will give our best, weather permitting. The two-handed division is certainly one of the classes that will develop over the next few years. It is almost the perfect match for all-round sailors, as part of the race, especially in long races like the Fastnet, is sailed almost single-handed but with the security of having a perfect partner on board.

"It is a long race, made to test endurance, vigilance and is asmuch about teamwork as with a full crew. It gives you perfect understanding of your partner, and obviously you need to have complete confidence in them. I am very lucky with Renaud Courbon, because all serious decisions are constantly discussed on board during the races. We would like to do some good clean sailing, and if we finish in a good time, in the Two-Handed Class as well as in IRC 4, we would be more than happy; obviously the Fastnet is the major race in the RORC Championship."

Rolex Fastnet Race 2011