North Sails LOFT NEWS

ONBOARD WITH 3 WINNING ROLEX FASTNET RACE TEAMS

A Conversation with North Sails UK

📸 Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

Finishing the 690 nm Rolex Fastnet Race is an achievement in itself, but racing with just one other crew member takes bravery to the next level. North Sails designer Kelvin Matthews joined Tim Goodhew on the SunFast 3200 Cora, and the pair claimed the UK Doublehanded Offshore Series overall season win.

“It is daunting to know you will be sailing a large part of the race alone on deck, but we were excited more than anything,” explains Kelvin. “We have been sailing well together this season, and we knew this race was the big one, both in terms of our overall season and the legendary race itself. Our priority was Class 4; you can only really focus on similar-sized boats sailing a similar race to you. Of course, we kept a close eye on our rivals in the doublehanded class, especially those in the running for the overall season trophies, which can be won or lost in a big race like the Fastnet.”

“We used our new 3Di RAW 360 mainsail reef for the first time,” he continues, “which was exceptionally tough and fast in the strong conditions at the start. It is quite a shallow reef which meant we still had to trim the sails correctly and be very active on the helm, but it worked perfectly under 28 knots, producing plenty of power to get over the steep waves. Although, admittedly, we had too much sail up through the Hurst Narrows with gusts of 35 knots!”

The finish was pretty intense, he says. “We lost a lot of places at the Isles of Scilly when the wind died, and we were determined to make back the losses. We are fast downwind and got ourselves back into the race by Alderney. Gybing around the south side of Alderney as the sun was rising was a special moment.”

The pair are now looking forward to the Castle Rock Race in September, and hoping for light airs “which have been good for us so far this year.” The race marks the final race in the RORC Class 4 series.

📸 Solent Sail Photography

The TP52 Tala, owned by David Collins, won IRC Zero and finished 8th in IRC Overall. Main trimmer and North expert Pete Redmond says he’s drawn to offshore racing because a longer race presents more opportunity to make tactical moves—and, where conditions allow, really “let loose and send it.’’ He says the highlight of the race was “rounding the Fastnet Rock in bright sunshine and light winds, allowing us to get the closest we’ve ever been as all other times I’ve been around the rock it has been horrendous weather.” In contrast, Pete adds, “the first 24 hours were the hardest; huge sea state created by a strong wind against tide. We knew it would be like that, so we were mentally prepared and just had to deal with it for a while. Our sails handled the conditions excellently, and we didn’t have any sail damage all race.”

Pete says the team’s first priority was to win their class and then see what happened with IRC Overall. “Oystercatcher, a new 52-footer, was just behind us, and she kept us pushing. Up next for us is the Rolex Middle Sea Race in October, followed by the RORC Transatlantic Race in January 2022.”

📸 RORC/Paul Wyeth

North expert, tactician, and watch leader Mike Henning raced onboard James Neville’s INO XXX, which won IRC One but lost the IRC Overall top spot to Tom Kneen’s North-powered Sunrise. Despite an after-dark arrival into Cherbourg, a crowd of locals came out to congratulate the crew on finishing—and holding the overall lead at the time.

Without very many boats close to their ratting, Mike said they had to trust themselves and focus on their own race. “We knew we needed to sail our own game plan, utilizing what the wind and tide were doing at the time,” he says.

“Rounding the Scilly Isles and setting the MHO with a jib and GS was the highlight of the race, very much needed after so many days slogging upwind. We surfed up to 20 knots and knew we could be finishing that day, so pushed 110% to the end. With 0-35 knots, we used every sail on board at some point in the race. We started on a reefed mainsail and a J4, and the mainsail performed excellently across the wind range.”

Mike says he loves the endurance challenge of offshore racing. “You can’t win the race on the first day, but you can certainly lose it. Teamwork and understanding between everyone on board is key, and really rewarding when everyone gels better than you could have anticipated. We are looking forward to coming together again for the Rolex Middle Sea Race.”

📸 RORC/Paul Wyeth