Cowes, 6 August 2017. Following months of meticulous preparation for crews and organisers 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, organised 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
A NATURAL AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER
Rolex has always sought to associate with activities that, like itself, are motivated by passion, excellence, precision and team spirit. Naturally, Rolex gravitated toward the elite world of sailing, forming an alliance that dates back to the late 1950s. Today, Rolex is Title Sponsor of some 15 major international events. From leading offshore races, such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race, through to the highest-level grand-prix competition at the Rolex TP52 World Championship, spectacular gatherings at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup, as well as its close relationships with the most prestigious yacht clubs around the world such as the New York Yacht Club (US), the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (Italy) and the two clubs at the very heart of the Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex has established an enduring relationship with pinnacle of yachting.
Race organizer the Royal Ocean Racing Club (London/Cowes, UK), was founded in 1925 immediately after the conclusion of the first Fastnet Race. The club has long been a pioneer and innovator, not only organizing and promoting offshore racing activities, but also in developing standards of excellence, particularly in issues of safety. The Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes, UK), an exclusive and active club, celebrated its bicentenary in 2015 and has enjoyed a close partnership with Rolex since 1983. In recognition of its privileged relationship, and to mark the 200-year anniversary, Rolex presented the Squadron with a unique clock that does more than simply tell the time – it gives details about the state of the tide and barometric pressure: essential information for race officers and sailors alike.
Rolex, the Swiss watch brand headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster and Cellini watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf in 1905, the brand pioneered the development of the wristwatch and is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house all the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities, as well as philanthropic programmes.
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