A NEW COURSE, NEW CLASSES, THE ROLEX FASTNET RACE ENTERS NEXT CHAPTER
The 49th Edition of the Offshore Classic Begins Sunday, August 8th
The Rolex Fastnet Race is widely considered one of the most challenging offshore races by Corinthian and professional sailors alike. Local sailors learn about it at an early age and dream of one day competing in it. For the pros, it is a chance to compete with your best peers, and, if the weather is favorable, perhaps set a new course record. Registering for this offshore classic is so anticipated that the race “sells out” in less than an hour.
The 2021 race boasts a 350+ boat entry list and a new finish location, which tacks 87 miles onto the previous 608 nm racecourse. Now that both boat sizes and participation numbers have outgrown the original finish destination of Portsmouth, England, this year’s race will finish in Cherbourg, France.
“Cherbourg is the perfect venue for the finish of the race,” explained Race Director Chris Stone. “It has amazing facilities for competitors, berthing that allows us to grow and expand the event, plus the city is right on the doorstep of the race village. Of course, coupled with that is the enormous love for offshore sailing in France. That popularity brings interest and visitors to the city and the race village – it’s going to be amazing.”
The new course announcement has been met with mixed emotions, but the strategy looks like a success so far. Race participation is has increased by almost 20%, and the entry list reads like a who’s who of today’s best offshore teams: four newly launched Ultimes, race record holder Rambler 88, the newly launched ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, as well as Vendee Globe winner Yannik Bestaven and a handful of other IMOCAs. With 100% certainty of a new course record, the only questions are who, and how fast?
This year’s Fastnet includes the traditional race landmarks, and a handful of new navigation challenges. After sailing along the south coast of England and across the Celtic Sea to Fastnet Rock, the fleet then rounds Bishop Rock west of the Scilly Isles and heads to Cherbourg. As the race website puts it, “tactically it will place fresh demands on crews with a final hurdle of tackling the fast-moving currents of the Alderney Race before reaching the finish.”
One thing the race organizers could not forecast? The impact of planning a new route around a global pandemic. Race organizers in the UK and France have been working together to ensure they can adapt and accommodate the forever moving target of health and safety and cross-border logistical challenges. “We will continue to adapt in order to accommodate the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race, as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic,” commented Jean-Louis Valentin, president of the Arrival Fastnet Cherbourg association. As far as the finish is concerned, we will be able to respond to several scenarios, in conjunction with the race management.”
At the time of publishing, the 2021 Fastnet fleet is expected to finish in Cherbourg. While it’s sometimes easier to cancel these events under the current constraints, all of us at North Sails (and sailing fans worldwide) applaud the Fastnet for getting boats to the start line.
The 49th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race is scheduled to begin on Sunday, August 8th, 2021.