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Fastnet Race

Fastnet Race
Official logo of the 2011 Fastnet Race.
Founded 1925
Start Cowes
Finish Plymouth
Most recent champion(s) Courrier Du Leon
Spindrift 2 (line honours)
Official website

The Fastnet Race is a famous biennial offshore Royal Ocean Racing Club of the United Kingdom. Generally considered one of the classic offshore races, 'Fastnet' is a difficult contest testing both inshore and offshore skills, boat and crew preparation and speed potential. From its inception, the Fastnet Race has proven highly influential in the growth of offshore racing, and remains closely linked to advances in yacht design, sailing technique and safety equipment.

The Fastnet Race has been sponsored by the Swiss watch manufacturing company Rolex since 2001. The Race prize is known as the Fastnet Challenge Cup.


  • Description 1
  • History 2
    • 1979 Fastnet Race 2.1
    • Capsize of Drum (1985) 2.2
    • 2005 Fastnet Race 2.3
    • 2007 Fastnet Race 2.4
    • 2011 Fastnet Race 2.5
    • 2013 Fastnet Race 2.6
  • Race records 3
  • Winners 4
    • Corrected time 4.1
    • Line honours 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Fastnet Race takes place every two years over a course of 608 nautical miles (1,126 km). The race starts off Cowes on the Isle of Wight on the south coast of England at the Royal Yacht Squadron. Leaving The Solent through The Needles Channel, the race follows the southern coastline of England westward down the English Channel, before rounding Land's End. After crossing the Celtic Sea, the race rounds the Fastnet Rock off the southwest coast of Ireland. Returning on a largely reciprocal course, the race rounds the Isles of Scilly before finishing at Plymouth .

The Fastnet is a challenging race. Taking place in August, the race is often provided with Westerlies that are strong to gale force in strength. The succession of low pressure systems which advance on the British Isles across the North Atlantic Ocean provide a constantly moving weather pattern for which Fastnet navigators must plan. These depressions are mostly centered north of the English Channel. Knowledge of where meteorological disturbances are likely to occur, and how best to use them, is the keynote to success in the race.

Coastal landmarks passed along the route include: The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, The Lizard, Land's End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop's Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater.


Weston Martyr, a British yachtsman, conceived the idea of the Race after having competed in Bermudan yacht races. Entered by seven vessels, the inaugural Fastnet Race was won by Jolie Brise in 1925.

The International Offshore Rule (IOR) was introduced in 1973, and the yachts and crews began taking sponsorships.

1979 Fastnet Race

A severe storm during the 1979 race resulted in the deaths of eighteen people (fifteen competing yachtsmen and three rescuers) and the involvement of some 4,000 others in what became the largest ever rescue operation in peace-time. This led to a major overhaul of the rules and the equipment required for the competition.[1][2] Several books have since been written about the 1979 race, which remains notorious in the yachting world for its loss of life.[1][3][4] In the 1979 race, "15 sailors died, five boats sank, and at least 75 boats flipped upside down".[2]

Capsize of Drum (1985)

The Race drew further attention from outside the sport in 1985 when the maxi yacht Drum capsized after the keel sheared off due to a design error. The boat was helmed by the New Zealander Phil Holland, brother of its designer Ron Holland. Pop star Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran, co-owner and crew member of Drum, was trapped under the hull with five other crew members for twenty minutes, until being rescued by the Royal Navy. The Search and Rescue Diver was Petty Officer Air Crewman (POACMN) Larry "Scouse" Slater of 771 Naval Air Squadron who appeared on This Is Your Life on 9 April 1986.[5]

2005 Fastnet Race

The 2005 Race was sponsored by Royal Ocean Racing Club with the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Royal Western Yacht Club, Plymouth.

2007 Fastnet Race

The RORC in 2007 set an entry limit of 300 boats for the first time. The start of the 2007 Race was postponed by 25 hours, due to a severe weather warning. This was the first time this had been done in the race's 83-year history. Overnight gale force winds and resulting extreme seas forced over three-quarters of the boats to retire, sheltering in ports along the south coast of England, including Torbay, Plymouth and Weymouth.

By 10:00hrs on 16 August 207 boats of the 271-strong field had retired with at least three suffering rig problems.[6] [7]

Despite the conditions, Mike Slade's Icap Leopard 3, launched in June 2007, set a new record of 44 hours 18 min, taking almost 9 hours off the previous record set in 1999. Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain was the overall winner on corrected time.

2011 Fastnet Race

A record number of 320 boats entered the 2011 race – the largest total since the ill-fated 1979 race (303 entries). A total of nineteen nations were represented, with the bulk of entries still from Britain and France.

In 2011, the 100-foot maxi yacht Rambler 100[8] Baltimore based diving vessel, Wave Chieftain. One of these crewmembers, Wendy Touton, suffered hypothermia and was taken by helicopter to Tralee General Hospital.[11] Four crew-members had been below decks at the time of capsize and were not adequately dressed for egress into the sea. All uninjured crew were taken to Baltimore.[12] The Naval Service patrol ship LÉ Aoife remained with the hull, worth $10,000,000 before the capsize, before it was towed to Barleycove by the Castletownbere-based tug Ocean Bank.[13][14]

2013 Fastnet Race

Plymouth Yacht Haven was selected as host port RORC Increased the number of entries to meet demands. With the entry limit of 300 filled within 24 hours, over 100 boats on the waiting list and entries from multihulls, IMOCA 60s and Class 40s were still coming in, demand for places in 2013's Fastnet Race has been at its highest level thus far.[15]

Winners (the following results are to be considered provisional): IRC Overall: Night And Day, a JPK 10.10 owned by Pascal Loison; MOCRA Multihull: Oman Air - Musandam, a MOD 70 owned by Sidney Gavignet.

Race records

Monohull vessels

The monohull race record is 42hrs 39min, set by Ian Walker's Volvo Open 70 Abu Dhabi (UAE) in 2011. The other two Volvo Open 70 participating in the 2011 Fastnet Race (Groupama 4 and Team Sanya) also broke the previous record, which had been set by ICAP Leopard in 2007.

Multihull vessels

The multihull race record is currently held by the 130-foot trimaran Banque Populaire V, skippered by Loïck Peyron, with a total elapsed time of 32hrs, 48min (an average speed of 18.5 knots),[16] set in 2011. Peyron held the previous multihull record, set in 1999 in the 60-foot ORMA trimaran Fujcolor II of 40hrs, 27min.[16]


Corrected time

Year Yacht Owner Designer
1925 Jolie Brise Lt Cdr E. G. Martin Alexandre Pâris
1926 Ilex Royal Engineers Charles E. Nicholson
1927 Tally Ho Lord Stalbridge Albert Strange
1928 Niña Paul Hammond Starling Burgess
1929 Jolie Brise Lt Cdr E. G. Martin Alexandre Pâris
1930 Jolie Brise Lt Cdr E. G. Martin Alexandre Pâris
1931 Dorade Olin Stephens Sparkman & Stephens
1933 Dorade Olin Stephens Sparkman & Stephens
1935 Stormy Weather Olin Stephens Sparkman & Stephens
1937 Zeearend Kees Bruynzeel Sparkman & Stephens
1939 Bloodhound Ike Bell Camper and Nicholsons
1947 Myth of Malham Capt. J. H.Illingworth John Laurent Giles
1949 Myth of Malham Capt. J. H.Illingworth John Laurent Giles
1951 Yeoman Owen Aisher Camper and Nicholsons
1953 Favona Sir Michael Newton Robert Clark
1955 Carina Dick Nye Philip Rhodes
1957 Carina Dick Nye Philip Rhodes
1959 Anitra Sven Hansen Sparkman & Stephens
1961 Zwerver II Otto van der Vorm Sparkman & Stephens
1963 Clarion of Wight Derek Boyer DFC Sparkman & Stephens
1965 Rabbit Dick Carter Dick Carter
1967 Pen Duick III Éric Tabarly Éric Tabarly
1969 Red Rooster Dick Carter Dick Carter
1971 Ragamuffin Syd Fischer Sparkman & Stephens
1973 Saga Erling Lorentzen Sparkman & Stephens
1975 Golden Delicious Richard & Harvey Bagnall Ron Holland
1977 Imp David Allen Ron Holland
1979 Tenacious Ted Turner Sparkman & Stephens
1981 Mordicus Taylor and Volterys Mauric/Gaubert
1983 Shamrock Maller & Snoeren Hellevoetsluis
1985 Panda Peter Whipp Philippe Briand
1987 Juno III M Peacock Rob Humphries
1989 Great News John Calvert-Jones/Tom Blackaller Farr Yacht Design
1991 Min-O-Din John Humphries/Matt Humphries David Thomas
1995 Nicorette Ludde Ingvall Ribadeau-Dumas/Simonis Voogd
1997 Royal Blue Gunnar Ekdahl Ribadeau-Dumas/Simonis Voogd
1999 Whirlpool-Europe 2 Catherine Chabaud Marc Lombard
2001 Tonnerre de Breskens Piet Vroon Lutra Design Group
2003 Nokia Charles Dunstone Reichel/Pugh
2005 Iromiguy Jean-Yves Chateau Ron Holland
2007 Chieftain Ger O'Rourke Farr Yacht Design
2009 Rán 2 Niklas Zennström Judel Vrolijk
2011 Rán 2 Niklas Zennström Judel Vrolijk
2013 Night and Day Pascal Loison Jacques Valer
2015 Courrier Du Leon Géry Trentesaux Géry Trentesaux

Line honours

Year Yacht Owner Designer Elapsed Time
1925 Jolie Brise Lt Cdr E. G. Martin Alexandre Pâris 6d 3h
1926 Hallowe'en Col J. F. N. Baxendale William Fife 3d 19h 5m
1927 La Goleta R. St.L. Beverley Alden
1928 Niña Paul Hammond & others Starling Burgess
1929 Jolie Brise Bobby Somerset Alexandre Pâris
1930 Jolie Brise Bobby Somerset Alexandre Pâris
1931 Patience H. E. West Charles Nicholson
1935 Kismet III William Fife
1937 Bloodhound Isaac Bell Charles Nicholson
1939 Nordwind Kriegsmarine 3d 16h 23m
1947 Latifa Michael Mason William Fife
1949 Latifa Michael Mason William Fife
1953 Bloodhound Isaac Bell Charles Nicholson
1955 Mare Nostrum Sparkman & Stephens
1965 Gitana IV E. de Rothschild 3d 9h 40m
1971 American Eagle Ted Turner
1979 Condor of Bermuda Bob Bell John Sharp 2d 23h 25m
1981 Condor Bob Bell Ron Holland
1983 Condor Bob Bell Ron Holland
1985 Nirvana Marvin Green Dave Pedrick 2d 12h 34m
1989 Steinlager II Peter Blake Bruce Farr
1993 Galicia '93 Pescanova Bruce Farr
1995 Nicorette Ludde Ingvall Ribadeau-Dumas/Simonis Voogd
1997 BIL
1999 RF Yachting Ross Field Bruce Farr 2d 5h 8m
2001 Stealth Gianni Agnelli German Frers 2d 10h 58m
2003 Alfa Romeo I Neville Chrichton Reichel/Pugh 2d 9h 2m 0s
2005 Maximus EBS Yachting Greg Elliott 2d 20h 2m 7s
2007 ICAP Leopard Mike Slade Bruce Farr 1d 20h 18m 53s
2009 ICAP Leopard Mike Slade Bruce Farr 2d 11h 9m 36s
2011 Banque Populaire V Loick Peyron VPLP 1d 8h 48m 46s
2013 Spindrift 2 Yann Guichard & Dona Bertarelli VPLP 1d 14h 53m 58s
2013 Spindrift 2 Yann Guichard & Dona Bertarelli VPLP 2d 10h 57m 41s

See also


  1. ^ a b Forbes, Sir Hugh; Laing, Sir Maurice; Myatt, Lt. Col. James. "1979 Fastnet Race Inquiry" (PDF).  
  2. ^ a b Rousmaniere, John (January 2000). "Revisiting Lessons from the Fastnet". Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  3. ^   ISBN 978-0393308655
  4. ^ "Fastnet 79: The Disaster that Changed Sailing (Eye witness accounts)".  
  5. ^ "The History of Arnold Clark Drum". Arnold Clark. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Severe weather hits Fastnet crews". BBC. 14 August 2007. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Rolex Fastnet Race fleet facing gale-force winds".  
  8. ^ "Crew rescued from Fastnet Race yacht Rambler 100". BBC. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "2011-11-Rolex Fastnet Race-Pantaenius Buoy". 27 May 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  10. ^ Quinn, Ben (16 August 2011). "Fastnet race yacht capsizes off Ireland". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  11. ^ Niamh Stephenson (15 August 2011). "Baltimore RNLI in major rescue operation off the Cork coast after Fastnet yacht capsizes". RNLI. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  12. ^ "Rambler capsized". Sailing Anarchy. 15 August 2011. Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  13. ^ Lorna Siggins (17 August 2011). "Inquiry into sinking under way". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  14. ^ Rousmaniere, John (13 September 2012). "Sailing Accidents: Lessons Learned".  
  15. ^ "RORC Increase Entries to Rolex Fastnet Race". Cruise Racing. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Fastnet Minisite".  

External links

  • Rolex Fastnet Race Homepage
    • Royal Ocean Racing Club – organising club for the Fastnet Race
  • BBC World Service programme, 25 August 2010 – Matthew Sheehan, a sailor in the ill-fated 1979 Race talks to BBC Witness about his experiences and the drowning of his father
  • "Night of the Long Grinds" – BBC Sport, Rob Hodgett's Blog, 14 August 2009
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