North Sails NEWS
Story Contributors: Marie Fabre
DOUBLEHANDED TEAMS AT THE ROLEX FASTNET
Of 89 duos, who will stand out from the crowd?
With almost a fourth of the entire fleet sailing doublehanded, the duos lining up on the start line of this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race already own the race. But who will stand out from the crowd?89 doublehanded boats will gather in Cowes to take part in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, a number that reflects the growing popularity of doublehanded offshore racing – and everyone’s excitement for that format.
“It’s going to be super competitive,” rejoices Henry Bomby, who helped create the UK Double Handed Offshore Series. This IRC format has been created for all boats that are sailed doublehanded with a rating between 0.990 and 1.055 TCC, and the Series represents 29 crews entering the race this year and aiming to round the Fastnet Rock.
“All the boats are actually really similar in terms of size and rating,” says Bomby. “They’re all between 30 and 35, 36 feet, so it should be some really close racing.”
“The reality is if you haven’t made the right choices with IRC, then you won’t win the race,” Bomby’s sailing partner Shirley Robertson said. “We’ve generally found lots of the boats are pretty close, but you also have to sail well. But, fundamentally, you have to have made the right decisions around the IRC rule.”
Coming from Britain, the Figaro, MOD70 and Volvo Ocean Race sailor will be competing with Shirley Robertson onboard the SunFast 3300 Swell. She’s the first British women to claim consecutive gold medals in the Olympics – and is currently in Tokyo covering the Games. “She’s literally coming back the day before the race,” explains Bomby. “Our goal is to try and win the doublehanded Rolex Fastnet Race together. We’re supported by Nigel Colley at Sea Ventures, we’ve got a new boat and new North sails. Our whole programme has been building towards this event so it should be exciting.”
Together with North Sails, Bomby and Robertson have worked on their sail programme and have come up with something that’s “quite different” for the extended downwind section to the finish line in Cherbourg, France. With that section having virtually doubled in distance, downwind sails are more important than ever.
“It should be VMG downwind, so we’ve got an A sail but with a spinnaker pole. It’s a different setup from any of our competitors and we’ve been testing it this year – it will be interesting to see how we do in that aspect. I don’t know if any other boat has done the same… at least not that I’m aware of.”
In 2019, Bomby and Hannah Diamond finished the Rolex Fastnet Race in second place, losing to Frenchman Alexis Loison. He still sees the Cherbourg native and his crewmate Guillaume Pirouelle as key contenders – “they’re very strong in a very competitive JPK 1030 boat, Region Normandie (Léon).” In fact, back in 2013, Loison became the very first doublehanded Fastnet Challenge Cup winner with his father Pascal aboard their JPK 10.10 Night and Day – and he knows the Cherbourg area like the back of his hand.
Bomby is paying attention to all the other SunFast 3300s as well, starting with round the world legend Dee Caffari and James Harayda on board the former’s Gentoo, a boat that was built for them to trial for the 2024 Paris Olympics. He’s also got his eyes on Kelvin Rawlings and Stuart Childerley on Aries. “These two seem to be the best of the 3300 – we always seem to be racing with them. Kelvin Matthews and Tim Goodhew on their Sun Fast 3200 Cora have been leading the series so I’m sure they’ll be doing well too.”
No matter the predictions though, it will all be down to the battle on the water. “If the weather is different from its historic average, we might struggle a bit,” adds Bomby. “If we have the typical Rolex Fastnet Race weather, we’ll be very happy and will be in a good place to do well.”