Prior to the start of this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, a press conference was held at Cowes.

A selection of crews were interviewed by Matt Sheahan of Rolex Fastnet Race broadcasting. One of the larger boats in the race is Rambler 88 and its US owner George David said that he was looking forward to the race and hoped to gain a third title, but the weather conditions would play a big part. This year there will be opposition from Dmitry Rybolovlev’s ClubSwan 125 Skorpios which is much larger than Rambler 88.

Round the World sailor Dee Caffari, this time taking part in the 2- handed class with James Harayda onboard Gentoo, said she was also looking forward to the race but thought she would stay in the stern of the boat and let James do all the work!

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A weather forecast of strong winds and heavy rain showers at the start of the race followed by lighter winds towards the end of the week, when most of the smaller boats will still be racing, was received with a mixed reception.

At the start of the race conditions were very blustery. The first of 7 starts got underway at 1100 BST. Over the last 3 days before the start strong southwesterly winds had been blowing up the Channel and competitors experienced these same headwinds gusting into the 30s as the race got underway. As the tide turned off the Needles and the boats entered the western Solent, a building wind-against-tide sea state developed.

International travel restrictions due to COVID resulted in this year’s race being unique with the French boats sailing from France and having, in most cases, just a short break before the race start. This along with the weather forecast caused entries to drop but crossing the line off Cowes saw 337 boats from 24 nations.

Despite winds gusting to 35 knots, the starts got away well. Among the multihulls, it was the favourites and defending champions, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier on the Ultim trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild that pulled away. They were followed by Thomas Coville’s Sodebo Ultim 3 and the Yves le Blevec-skippered Actual.

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The 2 MOD70s Maserati and Argo, with local sailor Brian Thompson on board followed leading the charge in the MOCRA fleet. The maxis in IRC Zero, led by Dmitry Rybolovlev’s ClubSwan 125 Skorpios and George David’s Rambler 88, powered down the Solent and in the building sea state off Hurst, those watching said it was a sight to behold.

Despite their huge length disparity, Rambler 88, monohull line honours winner in the last 2 editions, was doing well to keep up.

Crews on some of these larger boats decided, instead of the usual charge to Land’s End via the South Coast, to cross the Channel and sail towards France or the Channel Islands.

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Incredibly just 3 hours after leaving Cowes these boats had already crossed the Channel and were putting in a tack to the west of Cape de la Hague, setting themselves up unusually to pass south of the Casquets TSS.

By Monday lunchtime the fastest in the fleet had rounded the Fastnet Rock off Ireland and were heading towards the finish in Cherbourg. However, the bulk of the fleet was between South Devon and Land’s End and their race will continue over the next few days.

Some 8 hours later, having been in the lead for most, if not all of the race, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier on the Ultim trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crossed the line off Cherbourg and took Line Honours-Multihulls finishing the race at 20.24 BST on Monday 9th August.

As this is the first time the race has taken this route this is a new course record-1 day 9 hours 15 minutes and 54 seconds. As Edmond de Rothschild crossed the line the small boats were off The Lizard, Cornwall with 500+nm to travel to the finish. The overall winner of the race is decided on handicap.

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9 months ago

Great story and photos, thank you. (retired Sailing Journalist)


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