Plymouth, 7 August 2017. Rounding the Fastnet Rock on the southern tip of Ireland at 15:49 BST, Tony Lawson’s Concise 10 leads the fleet in the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race. The MOD70 became the first yacht to round the race’s emblematic landmark and is making rapid progress some 115-nm ahead of the next boat on the water, George David’s Rambler 88. With 242-nm still to negotiate, Concise 10 was forecasting arrival in Plymouth on Tuesday morning and some way outside the current multihull line honours record of 32 hours, 48 minutes.
After a wet and windy first night, the leading monohulls, chiefly Rambler 88, Nikata, CQS plus a group of Volvo 65s and IMOCA 60s, are equally unlikely to set new records with the frontrunners currently negotiating the open water passage across the Celtic Sea from Land’s End to the Fastnet Rock. The majority of the record fleet are grouped between Start and Lizard Point. The forecast of light conditions around the Scilly Isles later today could spell a frustrating second night at sea. The 265-nm gap between the fastest and slowest yachts, provides an indication of scale of the task organisers the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) face in managing the international fleet.
ORGANISING THE WORLD'S BIGGEST OFFSHORE RACE
“The Rolex Fastnet Race 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,” revealed RORC Commodore Michael Boyd shortly before this year’s 47th edition.
The Commodore is right to highlight the complexity of organising a race like the Rolex Fastnet, which this year welcomes 368 yachts from 29 countries and some 2,700 sailors, and is a task of considerable proportions. The RORC, founded immediately after the first race in 1925, and enjoying a global reputation for its outstanding racing programme and leadership in the discipline of offshore racing, is well placed to manage the world’s largest and most diverse race of its kind. A core feature of Rolex’s yachting portfolio is its support of the world’s most famous and challenging 600-nm offshore races and deep-rooted ties with influential yacht clubs across the globe. Its partnership, since 2001, with the Rolex Fastnet Race and the RORC is an embodiment of both.
“As the name of the club suggests we have been focused on offshore racing ever since the club was founded,” explains RORC Chief Executive Officer Eddie Warden Owen. “Races between the UK and France form the backbone of our domestic programme. Then, every two years, the Rolex Fastnet pushes us to another level. It is because of this extensive programme that the RORC has gained its experience and is continually developing its race management systems to cope with the demands of modern yacht racing."
Back in January, the online entry list for this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race filled in an incredible 4 minutes, 24 seconds. It is at this point that the challenge intensifies for Nick Elliott and the team in the RORC Racing Office. “One of our main priorities is getting across to all of the skippers the importance of everything we put in place to keep crews safe,” explains Elliott. “In doing these offshore races, yachting people are independent and self-sufficient by nature so we need to work with them to make sure all the processes and paperwork are completed.”
The race’s popularity in itself brings its challenges. “In the initial phase people may be disappointed not to make the entry list,” explains Elliott, advising patience and perseverance. “We try to encourage crews to carry on with their plans as, when the race approaches, things can happen. If you are standing by and ready to go throughout the year, you’re likely to get a place. In 2007, Ger O’Rourke and Chieftain got their place one week before the event when a boat dropped out. They went on to win the Rolex Fastnet Race!”
One of the first steps the RORC puts in place to aid crew preparation is the publication of the Notice of Race, a document which provides competitors with key information pertinent to safety, regulations and communication. As part of their qualification process for the Rolex Fastnet, crews are required to complete 300 nautical miles of offshore racing. Fundamental experience which can be acquired through competing in the RORC’s weekend races or, for many overseas entrants, by competing in 600-nm offshore classics like the Rolex Middle Sea Race or Rolex Sydney Hobart.
During the race itself, the RORC is able to follow the fleet through the tracking system placed on each boat. This innovation provides organisers pinpoint accuracy regarding yacht positioning, an indispensable tool to help locate yachts in distress and to provide data to calculate virtual race standings. “When we first did it, we bought and helped develop 300 trackers suitable for this type of race. Technology has moved on hugely since then, and we continue to help the development. The reliability now is fantastic and the information from the boats has improved greatly,” closes Elliott.
Preparation, professionalism, innovation and attention to detail are all qualities which define the RORC’s organisation of the Rolex Fastnet Race and make Rolex a natural partner.
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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