Monday, August 07, 2017

Rolex Fastnet Race Off To A Perfect Start

We received the following presser from Cowes after the kick-off of the Rolex Fastnet Race...It's an exciting, historic, competitive international race, but basically we really liked the pictures (courtesy of Rolex.com).
 
Following months of meticulous preparation for crews and organizers alike, a record-breaking edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race is underway and in some style. The largest fleet in the race’s 92-year history, comprising 368 yachts from 29 countries, were treated to kind conditions, blue skies and a consistent, building westerly breeze as they were divided across seven start sequences in front of the Royal Yacht Squadron’s clubhouse in Cowes.


The 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is truly diverse, a quality clearly evident to all of those watching on the shore in Cowes or the thousands following the live start of the race on the internet. First away were the nine multihulls with the MOD70 Concise 10 immediately asserting her status as favourite to arrive first in Plymouth. Speaking before the race skipper Ned Collier Wakefield was comfortable with this prediction, less so of setting a new race record. “The forecast has got a little slower. It’s not looking like record breaking conditions. We are expecting a 48-hour race.” The current multihull line honours record stands at 32 hours, 48 minutes.


Following the departure of the multihulls, the subsequent starts provided a showcase for a range of boats from cutting-edge to historic, professionally-sailed to family-crewed, the IMOCA 60s, Class 40s, through to the bulk of the fleet embodied by yachts in the 30-50-ft range including a large number sailing double-handed.



The final start was reserved for the largest and fastest monohulls. In this class, the range of designs and size of yachts is remarkable. At 115-ft Nikata, a high-performance cruising yacht, has become the largest monohull to ever compete in the race. Her nearest rival in size, Ludde Ingvall’s 100-ft CQS, was built with the more single-minded objective of racing fast. “CQS consists of a lot of different and radical ideas at the same time,” explains Ingvall. “It’s a very interesting boat and we are still learning a lot.” Ingvall was the last skipper to claim line honours and overall victory in the same year. That 1995 success is one he self-deprecatingly puts down to ‘getting lucky with the weather’. George David’s Rambler 88 is an offshore racing yacht par excellence and has the added experience of finishing the last edition of the race. The final starting group also comprised the seven competing Volvo 65s.



The general consensus among weather forecasters points to a ‘big boat race’, with good breeze on the upwind leg to the Fastnet rock before a cold front sets in heralding lighter conditions which may thwart the ambitions of the chasing fleet in their quest to claim the Fastnet Challenge Trophy and Rolex timepiece awarded to the overall race winner on IRC handicap.

Shortly after the race start the fleet converged in the Solent to offer one of sailing’s most iconic vistas. Safely negotiating the first congested few nautical miles of the course is a challenge in itself. The 605-nm race is a constant and genuine test of seamanship, resources, tactics and navigation. “The course is fantastic,” explains Pascal Loison, race winner in 2013 on Night and Day. “There are several headlands, and at each headland you have a new challenge. This is unique to the Fastnet course. Other offshore races are more direct, less complicated.”


The Rolex Fastnet Race, organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), is considered the world’s largest and most diverse offshore race. It is one of three 600-nm offshore races partnered by Rolex. The others are October’s increasingly popular 608-nm Rolex Middle Sea Race and the legendary 628-nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race held annually at the end of the year.


To follow the Rolex Fastnet Race please visit www.rolexfastnetrace.com