Cowes, 5 August 2017. One of the most appealing facets of the 92-year old Rolex Fastnet Race lies in its diversity. Yachts and competitors hailing from all corners of the globe; cutting-edge carbon-fibre goliaths lining up against historic yachts from yesteryear; crews concentrated on arriving first, others on simply finishing one of the world’s most famous ocean races; those embarking on their maiden Rolex Fastnet against sailors well versed in the race’s capricious nature. In the spirit of one of the race’s founders Joseph Weston Martyr, the 2,700 sailors expected to contest the 2017 race will do so displaying the indomitable qualities of ‘skill, courage and endurance’.
The 368 yachts set to contest the 47th edition of the race, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), and partnered by Rolex since 2001, will represent a record for the biennial event. Not only a record but further confirmation of the race’s appeal as the world’s largest and most diverse offshore race. Since 2009, when the race breached the 300-yacht entry mark for the first time in many years, the number of competitors has increased with each edition.
“Sailors are never happier than when they are at sea,” explains Michael Boyd, RORC Commodore and one of the race’s competitors. “During this race they get to be at sea for a long time and leave the concerns of the land behind. This is an amazing challenge on so many fronts – it’s an intellectual, emotional, physical and financial challenge and above all an organisational challenge that rewards good teamwork and preparation.”
Sunday’s start provides one of sailing’s most dramatic sights. The staggered sequence, commencing at 11:00 BST, ensures the fleet converges during its the passage down The Solent, before it exits into English Channel and the more complex, open passage to the race’s emblematic landmark, the Fastnet Rock.
THOUSANDS OF PERSONAL CHALLENGES
Each and every crew member tackling the fabled 605-nm course will etch their own mark on the race. Take Dutchman Piet Vroon, a race winner in 2001, who is competing for the 26th time; the French father and son Pascal and Alexis Loison, who remain the only double-handed crew to win the race; Rambler 88’s George David, returning to a race where he has enjoyed epic battles and witnessed first-hand its occasional ferocity. Those sailing for the first time include the Swan 57 Equinoccio from Chile and Noah’s Sailing Club, the first all-Chinese entry to compete in the race. Ting Li’s crew has already finished two Rolex Sydney Hobarts and now wants to test itself in the northern hemisphere. “This challenge is going to be different. The objective is for the team to gain more confidence and experience in offshore racing. We are hoping to inspire more Chinese sailors as a lot of people in China will be following us.”
FIRST AND FASTEST
Rambler 88 is one of the main contenders for monohull line honours. Finishing first in Plymouth is an achievement which has eluded David to date, twice second finisher on the water either side of a dramatic capsize in 2011. Rambler 88 will have the largest ever competing monohull – the 115-ft Nikata – and Ludde Ingvall’s 100-ft CQS from Australia for company together with a group of Volvo 65s. Ingvall is seeking to repeat his famous 1995 race when he skippered Nicorette to both line honours and overall victory. Whether the record set in 2011 by Abu Dhabi of 42 hours, 39 minutes represents a tangible target will depend on conditions across the course.
The fleet of nine multihulls will be the first group to cross the start line in front of the Royal Yacht Squadron’s magnificent clubhouse. The largest is the MOD70 Concise 10 and skipper Ned Collier Wakefield predicts a 48-hour race. The current multihull line honours record stands at the 32 hours, 48 minutes set by the 131-ft trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire in 2011.
AN INTERNATIONAL ATTRACTION
With 29 nations represented, over one third of the fleet is comprised of overseas entrants. In the region of fifty French yachts are expected to start, a country which has dominated the corrected time standings during the last two editions of the race, taking seven of the top ten places in 2015 and providing the last two recipients of the Fastnet Challenge Trophy and Rolex timepiece awarded to the overall race winner on IRC handicap.
The objectives throughout the fleet may be different, challenges unique to each crew, but an overriding desire to conquer this compelling and historic offshore race remains true to all.
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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