Saturday, 9 July 2011

Rolex Fastnet Race : International Allure

Rolex Fastnet Race : Cowes-Plymouth, UK, via the Fastnet Rock!

Overall winner in 2009, RAN. Image copyright Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi.

by Trish Jenkins

The allure of the Rolex Fastnet Race continues to attract competitors from around the globe. 19 different nations will be represented in this year's race with entries from the following countries: Austria; Belgium; China; Finland; France; Great Britain; Germany; Hong Kong; Ireland; Italy; Lithuania; Netherland; New Zealand; Norway; Russia; Switzerland; Sweden; United Arab Emirates and USA. The British and French make up the bulk of the fleet, but the entries prove that the Rolex Fastnet still crosses the oceans as it did in its earliest days.

Luna Rossa beating to the Fastnet Rock. Image copyright Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi.

Tracking: Follow the Yellowbrick....

Yellowbrick are delighted to be providing the tracking devices for this year's Rolex Fastnet Race, which will relay real-time position data from the race, and display it on a simple-to-use race viewer accessed through the event website. Friends and family will be able to track competitors' every move!

The compact yellow devices are becoming a familiar sight for many offshore racers; Yellowbricks have now been used in more than 70 international yacht regattas, including the Velux 5 Oceans Race, Barcelona World Race, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

RAN at the start of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. Image copyright Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

In the 2011 Rolex Fastnet, every boat will be provided with a Yellowbrick. Fully automatic and self-contained, the devices obtain GPS position data and transmit it back to Yellowbrick HQ using the Iridium Satellite System, no matter where it is placed in the world. Each boat's position is updated within seconds of the data being transmitted, and displayed immediately online via the race viewer.

Nick Farrell, Managing Director of Yellowbrick, says; "We are looking forward to providing tracking devices for the Rolex Fastnet Race, which is renowned as one of the most challenging yacht races there is. Yellowbricks are lightweight, waterproof and built to withstand extreme environments, so no matter what challenges the competitors might face on the water, spectators and organisers will be able to know each yacht's exact location at all times. A social media feed is also part of the race viewer for the first time this year, adding a whole new dimension to the race."

Past Winners Return

Tonnerre de Breskens. Image copyright Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Tonnerre de Breskens (NED):
Piet Vroon has been racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club since the 1950's and at 81 years young, he is probably the oldest competitor in the race. As skipper of the Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, Piet has enjoyed tremendous success. However, the Fastnet Trophy eluded him for nearly half a century before he finally won it in 2001. Since 1955, Piet has only failed to go around the Fastnet Rock on two occasions, once when the yacht was dismasted and secondly to attend his mother's funeral: "It is a very hard race to win overall," commented Piet.

"First of all you have to have a good boat and crew but also you need to have the same wind as everybody else. Often the bigger boats get different weather to the rest, so it makes it much harder to win with a smaller boat. If we all get the same weather, then everybody has a chance. Last time was the first Rolex Fastnet with the new boat and were second in our class. However, we would like to do better than that this year, we know the boat a lot more, we have better sails and a good crew, so I have high hopes for the race. At my age, I am old enough to be the grandfather of all of the competitors but there comes a time when I have to stop, so I will enjoy this one as if it is my last."

Iromiguy (FRA):
Jean-Yves Chateau will be racing again this year in Class Four. Chateau is one of only three sailors from France that have lifted the Fastnet Trophy, winning with his Nicholson 33, Iromiguy in 2005. The only two previous French winners were the legendary Eric Tabarly (Pen-Duick III - 1969) and Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool-Europe 2 - 1999), the only female skipper to have won the race overall.

LUNA ROSSA charging down the Solent during the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. Image copyright Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Iromiguy's win in 2005 was quite exceptional as it was one of the smallest yachts in the fleet in a race traditionally dominated by big boats. Iromiguy's victory was a dream come true, proof that just occasionally the Corinthian weekend enthusiast can prevail in an unremarkable boat. What is remarkable is that you have to go back to 1975 for the last time that a yacht less than 40 feet long won the offshore classic.

"In 2005 I came to win my class," said Chateau. "But I didn't think it was possible to win the whole race. It was unbelievable, a childhood dream." The St. Malo skipper has owned Iromiguy for nearly 30 years. "Every year I go to the French boat show and I say I must buy a new boat, but every year I find myself sailing this one. The sails are worth more than the boat," he admitted. In any case, the sentimental value to Chateau after her memorable victory must make her priceless.

Karl Kwok's Beau Geste, after rounding the Fastnet Rock. Image copyright Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi.

The Fastnet Rock

The Fastnet Lighthouse positioned at 51°23'.3N 009°36'.1W is known as 'The Teardrop of Ireland' - the last sight of Ireland for emigrants sailing to America. The Fastnet Rock is 4.5 miles South West of Cape Clear and Mizen Head. There are two pinnacles of hard clay shale with veins of quartz rising to a height of 30 metres above the low water mark, all surrounded by deep water. The height of the tower is 54 metres. The Corporation of Trinity House sanctioned the first lighthouse, a cast iron tower, in 1848 to replace the Cape Clear Lighthouse, which was too far inside the dangers, too high and too often obscured by fog. This first Fastnet light first shone on New Year's Day 1854. There were originally six keepers associated with the Fastnet Rock - four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Relief were twice a month when two men were taken off; each man did four weeks on, two weeks off. One man had to stay on watch during daytime to look out for fog and to signal passing ships. As soon as fog was seen, another man was called up to work the fog signal!

Supporters: Pantaenius Buoy

The Pantaenius Buoy is a Special Buoy which is laid by Irish Lights on behalf of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, as a spreader mark after the Fastnet Rock. Sponsors Pantaenius have been providing yacht insurance to yacht owners all over the world and with over 65,000 clients, is the number one insurance provider in Europe.

RAN rounding the Fastnet Rock. Image copyright Rolex/Kurt Arrigo.

RORC Racing Manager Ian Loffhagen explains its purpose as a spreader mark and safety measure on the Rolex Fastnet Race: "The Panaenius Buoy stops boats rounding the Fastnet Rock and heading back on the reciprocal track directly towards boats approaching the Rock. With the speed of modern yachts reaching fast in both directions there could be a collision speed of 50 knots or more so the laying of the Panaenius Buoy avoids this." A Notice to Mariners is issued by Irish Lights for the duration of the Race.

Sutton Harbour, Plymouth, on conclusion of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. Image copyright Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Rolex Fastnet Race 2011