Rolex Fastnet Race smashes entry records


With more places made available due to the new finishing point in Cherbourg, the Rolex Fastnet Race receives a record 400 IRC entries within an hour.

A massive fleet make their way out of the Solent in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

Registration for the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race was full within an hour of registration after an unprecedented 400 boats entered the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s flagship event, which this year will finish for the first time in France.

Bow to bow, the line-up represents almost 5km of yachts and confirms the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race as the world’s most popular offshore yacht race. The race started with seven boats in 1925, the year the RORC was also founded. Rolex has sponsored the race since 2001.

This year’s 695nm race starts from Cowes off England’s south coast on August 8, rounds the Fastnet Rock – Ireland’s most southerly point – before heading back and finishing in Cherbourg, at the head of the Normandy peninsula on France’s north coast.

Eddie Warden Owen, CEO of RORC, said: “It seems that everyone is looking forward positively to a future of sailing without Covid-19 hanging over their heads as once again we have a ‘sell-out’ Rolex Fastnet Race. Also, the message must have got through that we have more places available with our move of the finish to Cherbourg.

“Add to this the non-IRC fleets like the IMOCA and Class40 plus the usual mixture of multihulls makes the tally around 500 boats whose crews want to experience the challenge of the Rolex Fastnet Race. It is very exciting for our sport.”

Wizard, the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race winner, launches off a wave shortly after passing the Fastnet Rock © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Signing up under two seconds after registration opened, the first entry was Eva Herman’s J/122 Juliett Romeo from the Netherlands. The first British entry, after 26 seconds, was Katherine Cope’s Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200 Purple Mist.

The first French entry was Christian Maby’s Sun Fast 3300 3 Spoutnik after 30 seconds. A split-second later, Conor Dillon’s Dehler 34 Big Deal was the first entry from Ireland, while Tomasz Nagas’ Fast Forward was the first from the USA.

Within three minutes, more than 200 entries had signed on before the system became overloaded. Once it was operating again, the tally was up to 370 within 30 minutes.

The initial registration was for the IRC fleet, in which boats compete for the prestigious Fastnet Challenge Cup for the race’s overall winner under corrected time.

It does not include professional French classes such as the IMOCAs and Class40s or the multihull fleet, which is again expected to include several Ultime maxi-trimarans. With at least 100 more boats expected from classes such as these, the total number of boats due to set sail from the Solent looks set to exceed 500.

The 695nm route of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race from Cowes to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin via the Fastnet Rock © RORC

Yachts entered from at least 25 nations, the majority coming from the UK with large turnouts also from France and the Netherlands, both with entry numbers substantially increased compared to 2019. Entries from further afield included four from Russia, two from Japan and Australia, from one both China and New Zealand.

Chris Stone, RORC’s Racing Manager, said: “I’m delighted by the strong interest we’ve had from teams around the world. With the race finishing in Cherbourg, we were anticipating strong interest from French sailors and have received a record number of French IRC entries, which will be boosted by the non-IRC classes that are strong in France.”

French boats have won three of the last four Rolex Fastnet Races outright and the skippers from these will all return: Alexis Loisin (2013) aboard the JPK 10.30 Léon, Gery Trentesaux (2015) aboard Antoine Carpentier’s Class40 Courrier Redman and Didier Gaudoux (2017) aboard his JND39 Lann Ael 2.

The average size of entry stood at 12.48m. The largest entry was Australian Peter Harburg’s 30.46m Black Jack, which won Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours in 2009 as Alfa Romeo II and was first monohull home in the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race as Esimit Europa II. The smallest was David O’Shea’s Hustler SJ30 Freedom at 9m.

For the first time, Cherbourg will host the finish of the world’s largest offshore race fleet © J/Houyvet

As usual, the fleet ranges from the ultra-modern to classics. Among the former is George David’s Rambler 88, monohull line honours winner in the last two races and current holder of the monohull record to the Fastnet Rock.

Among the latter is one of the top maxis of the 1960s, the 78ft yawl Stormvogel, originally owned by Kees Bruynzeel, which won Fastnet line honours in 1961 and subsequently repeated this in most of the top ocean races across the planet.  

From a decade later is Eric Tabarly’s Pen Duick VI. France’s most famous sailor raced the maxi yacht with a crew of 12 in the first Whitbread Round the World Race and then sailed it solo across the north Atlantic to victory in the 1976 Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race.

RORC invites yachts still keen to participate to apply as spaces may become available.

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