Rob Craigie and Deb Fish on the Sun Fast 3600 Bellino finished third overall in IRC Three and won the new trophy for a mixed two handed entry as well as best yacht with a female skipper ©Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
A record breaking fleet of almost 400 yachts, and 2,700 sailors, competed in this year’s 605 mile Rolex Fastnet Race. Organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club this has long been the world’s most popular long-distance offshore race by a very large margin.
Competitors ranged from top professionals on superyachts of up to 115ft and the entire fleet in the 2017/8 Volvo Ocean Race, to more modest charter boats, sea school yachts and adventure sailing operations providing an opportunity for their clients to tick an item off their ‘bucket lists’. In the main IRC fleets, 56 of the entries were sailing double handed.
The Fastnet Rock as captured by the legendary photographer Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
The first boat home was Tony Lawson’s MOD 70 trimaran Concise 10, which completed the course in 1 day, 18 hours and 55 minutes. George David’s Rambler 88 took monohull line honours after two days nine hours, ahead of two larger boats, Ludde Ingvall’s 100ft supermaxi CQS and Tom Brewer’s 115ft Judel/Vrolijk designed Nikata.
This race was also one of the first tests of the entire fleet for the 2017/8 Volvo Ocean Race, which saw the closest of racing throughout the event. Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team won the class, just 56 seconds ahead of Xabi Fernández’s Mapfre. After 63 hours of racing the entire seven strong fleet crossed the finish within 39 minutes.
On corrected time, Didier Gaudoux’s JAN39 Lann Ael 2 took first place overall, 45 minutes clear of Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer. Pascal Loison’s 33ft Night and Day, the overall winner in 2013, again won the hotly contested, 56-strong double-handed division, ahead of Robin Verhoef and John Van Der Starre’s J112E Ajeto! Sailing the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 Bellino, Rob Craigie and Deb Fish took third place in this hotly contested division, breaking the French stranglehold on the top places, and also winning the prize for the first mixed double-handed crew.
Overall winner under the IRC rating system, Didier Gaudoux’s JND 39 Lann Ael 2 © Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
For many competitors it proved to be a very close race – for instance only three per cent on corrected time separated the boats between places 100 and 160 overall and everyone was sailing around other boats right through the race, even those who took five days to complete the course. Other highlights included multiple dolphin sightings, including boats surfing downwind in the dark at speeds of 15-20 knots at night, with the mammals jumping in the moonbeam ahead of the boat.
The next Rolex Fastnet Race is provisionally scheduled to start on Sunday August 18, 2019.