Rolex Fastnet Race features record fleet
The Rolex Fastnet Race features its largest entry list to date, with close to 500 boats seeking to sail 695nm from Cowes to Cherbourg via the Fastnet Rock in the 50th edition of the offshore classic.
Cowes hosts the race start on July 22
Starting in Cowes on the Isle of Wight off England’s south coast, the 50th edition of the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race features a record entry list, with over 490 boats signed up. Setting off on July 22 in eight starts separated by 20-minute intervals, the fleet is set to smash the previous record set in 2019 when the biennial race featured 388 yachts and was the last edition to finish in Plymouth.
This year’s race will again feature a 695nm course heading west to round the Fastnet Rock – Ireland’s most southernmost point – before turning back and heading to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin in northern France, which hosted the finale for the first time in 2021 when 363 yachts competed.
The 695nm race will finish in Cherbourg for a second edition
First held in 1925, the Rolex Fastnet Race – the flagship event of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) – has by far the biggest fleet among all the world’s classic offshore races and this year is expected to feature over 3,000 sailors from over 30 countries including Japan.
Entries includes the world’s fastest offshore racing yachts, the giant flying Ultime trimarans, as well as about 30 IMOCAs as used in the Vendée Globe and the present Ocean Race, along with privately owned racing machines including Bryon Ehrhart’s 88ft Lucky and Peter Morton’s Maxi 72 Notorious.
Yachts exit The Solent and pass The Needles
French teams again make up the majority of the IMOCA 60 class, which also features leading competitors from the UK and across Europe, while Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi will compete on DMG Mori Global One, launched in 2019.
Shiraishi sailed the VPLP design to 10th place in the 2020 Vendée Arctique before finishing 16th in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe after sailing solo around the world for almost 95 days. Now 56, the Japanese is competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race for the first time and will sail with French sailor Thierry Duprey du Vorsent.
Kojiro Shiraishi will make his Rolex Fastnet Race debut
“This is my first participation in the race and it’s an honour to be part of it. It will be a great test for myself and to see the new performance of the boat,” said Shiraishi, who said the boat’s modifications over the winter included a new bow and foils.
“It’s such a mythical race with such a rich history, while the 50th edition makes it more special. I’m looking forward to the start with many boats around, so I hope to start well. It will be an honour for us
to sail past the RORC clubhouse.
Shiraishi will compete on DMG Mori Global One
“I’ve rounded the Fastnet once, but it was nighttime and I could only see the light of the lighthouse, so I’m hoping to see the Fastnet Rock in daylight!”
Meanwhile, teenager Zoë d’Ornano – daughter of Malaysia-born Lay Koon Tan – is again competing with her parents on one of the Tall Ships Youth Trust (TSYT) boats. Two years ago, Zoë, then 12, was the youngest sailor in the race and raised £10,550 to give 12 disadvantaged young people a life changing voyage with TSYT.
Tall Ships Youth Trust has entered three 72ft boats
This year, the youth development sail training charity has entered three of its 72ft Challenger yachts, with Zoë sailing with her parents on one of two boats crewed by adults, who are fundraising to enable a crew of young people aged 16-25 to sail on the third yacht.
“We’ve met the youngsters who’ve been selected and they come from challenging backgrounds,” said Zoë’s mother, Lay Koon Tan.
The IRC fleet competing for the race’s historic top prize, the Fastnet Challenge Cup, features about 370 yachts, making it one of the biggest races ever held under IRC in the 23-year existence of the RORC/UNCL’s rating rule.
For this special edition, entries are coming from across the globe, but few are making a greater effort than Paddy Broughton and his crew on the 73ft maxi yawl Kialoa II. Originally raced by the great maxi yacht campaigner Jim Kilroy from 1963-74, Kialoa II was second home in the 1969 Fastnet Race.
Launched in 1963, Kialoa II has sailed from Sydney to compete
Since 2016 the yacht has been owned by English brothers Paddy and Keith Broughton who have sought to recreate Kilroy’s globe-trotting race programme. She competed in the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race, while in 2019 she competed in the 50th Transpac and 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
After competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart last December, Kialoa II has since been delivered from Sydney, all the way across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal and Caribbean, then across the Atlantic to the UK on her own bottom, a Kilroy tradition.
Yachts pass the Fastnet Rock in Ireland
“The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the great ocean races, along with our own Rolex Sydney Hobart,” says Paddy Broughton, now also of Australian nationality.
“Tactically, because of the tides and course, it’s probably the most difficult – a real challenge. We really wanted her to be part of RORC’s 50th Rolex Fastnet Race celebrations and have sailed from Sydney to do so.”