Rolex Fastnet set for Cherbourg finish
The British Government has downgraded France’s Covid status to Amber ahead of the Rolex Fastnet Race’s first-ever finish in Cherbourg, which features over 350 entries.
Organisers have announced that this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will feature 355 participating yachts, down from the 450-plus previously announced.
As Rolex celebrates the 20th anniversary of its partnership with the biennial competition and its organiser, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), the world’s most popular offshore race will finish for the first time in Cherbourg in northern France, so extending the course to 695nm.
Many competitors have been boosted by the news that France’s Covid status in the UK will be downgraded from Amber Plus to Amber on August 8 – when the race will start off Cowes – meaning visitors will not have to quarantine upon arrival.
At the end of the race, British competitors who are double vaccinated can stop in Cherbourg – where there is free berthing at Port Chantereyne – and then return home to the UK at their leisure, where they will no longer be required to quarantine.
Due to the Covid travel restrictions, most non-British competitors previously couldn’t touch land in the UK prior to the start of the race. However, the new rules now mean that overseas yachts can stop in the UK prior to the start, from 4am on August 8, provided the crew is double vaccinated.
“The Covid restrictions relaxing in the UK comes as a great relief, even so close to start day. It is symbolic of a cross-Channel handshake, a coming-together of English and French competitors in a great sports event,” said Chris Stone, Race Director of the Rolex Fastnet Race.
“It will definitely make the race more enjoyable for the crews. Overseas crews can now stop in Cowes just before the start and we are expecting a greater portion of the fleet to stop in Cherbourg. It means we can achieve our vision for the Cherbourg Race Village with competitors finishing and enjoying all the festivities there, which is a key part of this event.”
The race village in Cherbourg includes children’s activities supported by a local sailing school, an outdoor cinema and live entertainment schedule culminating in a flyover by the Patrouille de France aerobatics demonstration unit and prizegiving on August 14.
Competitors include the giant Ultime trimarans, the IMOCAs and Class40s, with skippers including 2021 Vendée Globe winner Yannick Bestaven and line honours winner Charlie Dalin, Sam Davies, Alex Thomson, Volvo Ocean Race winners Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, and round-the-world record holders such as Thomas Coville.
The largest entry is the brand-new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios belonging to Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev and George David’s Rambler 88, which has won monohull line honours in the last two editions. Her 19 crew have all made it into the UK, while the boat arrived on a ship from the USA in June, having last competed in the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Brad Butterworth, Rambler 88’s tactician, said: “We want to make sure we can still sail it in anger after a year of not sailing. It hasn’t been easy getting it together. It is a big commitment by these owners.”
The ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, Rambler 88 and several 105ft Ultime trimarans are among the high-profile ‘fliers’ in the record 450-plus entries for this year’s Rolex Fastnet, as the historic race founded in 1925 finishes in France for the first time.