Official logo of the 2011 Fastnet Race.
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Spindrift 2 (line honours)
The Fastnet Race is a famous biennial offshore yachting race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club of the United Kingdom. Generally considered one of the classic offshore races, 'Fastnet' is a difficult contest testing both inshore and offshore skills, boat and crew preparation and speed potential. From its inception, the Fastnet Race has proven highly influential in the growth of offshore racing, and remains closely linked to advances in yacht design, sailing technique and safety equipment.
The Fastnet Race takes place every two years over a course of 608 nautical miles (1,126 km). The race starts off Cowes on the Isle of Wight on the south coast of England at the Royal Yacht Squadron. Leaving The Solent through The Needles Channel, the race follows the southern coastline of England westward down the English Channel, before rounding Land's End. After crossing the Celtic Sea, the race rounds the Fastnet Rock off the southwest coast of Ireland. Returning on a largely reciprocal course, the race rounds the Isles of Scilly before finishing at Plymouth .
The Fastnet is a challenging race. Taking place in August, the race is often provided with Westerlies that are strong to gale force in strength. The succession of low pressure systems which advance on the British Isles across the North Atlantic Ocean provide a constantly moving weather pattern for which Fastnet navigators must plan. These depressions are mostly centered north of the English Channel. Knowledge of where meteorological disturbances are likely to occur, and how best to use them, is the keynote to success in the race.
The International Offshore Rule (IOR) was introduced in 1973, and the yachts and crews began taking sponsorships.
1979 Fastnet Race
A severe storm during the 1979 race resulted in the deaths of eighteen people (fifteen competing yachtsmen and three rescuers) and the involvement of some 4,000 others in what became the largest ever rescue operation in peace-time. This led to a major overhaul of the rules and the equipment required for the competition. Several books have since been written about the 1979 race, which remains notorious in the yachting world for its loss of life. In the 1979 race, "15 sailors died, five boats sank, and at least 75 boats flipped upside down".
Capsize of Drum (1985)
The Race drew further attention from outside the sport in 1985 when the maxi yacht Drum capsized after the keel sheared off due to a design error. The boat was helmed by the New Zealander Phil Holland, brother of its designer Ron Holland. Pop star Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran, co-owner and crew member of Drum, was trapped under the hull with five other crew members for twenty minutes, until being rescued by the Royal Navy. The Search and Rescue Diver was Petty Officer Air Crewman (POACMN) Larry "Scouse" Slater of 771 Naval Air Squadron who appeared on This Is Your Life on 9 April 1986.
2005 Fastnet Race
2007 Fastnet Race
The RORC in 2007 set an entry limit of 300 boats for the first time. The start of the 2007 Race was postponed by 25 hours, due to a severe weather warning. This was the first time this had been done in the race's 83-year history. Overnight gale force winds and resulting extreme seas forced over three-quarters of the boats to retire, sheltering in ports along the south coast of England, including Torbay, Plymouth and Weymouth.
Despite the conditions, Mike Slade's Icap Leopard 3, launched in June 2007, set a new record of 44 hours 18 min, taking almost 9 hours off the previous record set in 1999. Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain was the overall winner on corrected time.
2011 Fastnet Race
A record number of 320 boats entered the 2011 race – the largest total since the ill-fated 1979 race (303 entries). A total of nineteen nations were represented, with the bulk of entries still from Britain and France.
In 2011, the 100-foot maxi yacht Rambler 100 capsized after her keel broke off between Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius Buoy (a temporary race mark placed southwest of the Fastnet Rock). All 21 crew were rescued safely. Sixteen were rescued from the upturned hull, by the RNLI Baltimore Lifeboat Hilda Jarrett. A further 5 crewmembers, including the owner/skipper George David, had floated away from the vessel, but managed to link themselves together. They were in the water for approximately 2.5 hours, before being rescued by a Baltimore based diving vessel, Wave Chieftain. One of these crewmembers, Wendy Touton, suffered hypothermia and was taken by helicopter to Tralee General Hospital. Four crew-members had been below decks at the time of capsize and were not adequately dressed for egress into the sea. All uninjured crew were taken to Baltimore. The Naval Service patrol ship LÉ Aoife remained with the hull, worth $10,000,000 before the capsize, before it was towed to Barleycove by the Castletownbere-based tug Ocean Bank.
2013 Fastnet Race
Plymouth Yacht Haven was selected as host port RORC Increased the number of entries to meet demands. With the entry limit of 300 filled within 24 hours, over 100 boats on the waiting list and entries from multihulls, IMOCA 60s and Class 40s were still coming in, demand for places in 2013's Fastnet Race has been at its highest level thus far.
Winners (the following results are to be considered provisional): IRC Overall: Night And Day, a JPK 10.10 owned by Pascal Loison; MOCRA Multihull: Oman Air - Musandam, a MOD 70 owned by Sidney Gavignet.
- Monohull vessels
The monohull race record is 42hrs 39min, set by Ian Walker's Volvo Open 70 Abu Dhabi (UAE) in 2011. The other two Volvo Open 70 participating in the 2011 Fastnet Race (Groupama 4 and Team Sanya) also broke the previous record, which had been set by ICAP Leopard in 2007.
- Multihull vessels
The multihull race record is currently held by the 130-foot trimaran Banque Populaire V, skippered by Loïck Peyron, with a total elapsed time of 32hrs, 48min (an average speed of 18.5 knots), set in 2011. Peyron held the previous multihull record, set in 1999 in the 60-foot ORMA trimaran Fujcolor II of 40hrs, 27min.
- Forbes, Sir Hugh; Laing, Sir Maurice; Myatt, Lt. Col. James. "1979 Fastnet Race Inquiry" (PDF). Royal Yachting Association, Royal Ocean Racing Club. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
- Rousmaniere, John (January 2000). "Revisiting Lessons from the Fastnet". SailNet.com. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- Rousmaniere, John (1980). Fastnet, Force 10: The Deadliest Storm in the History of Modern Sailing (Paperback). W. W. Norton & Company (17 April 2000). p. 304. ISBN 0393308650. ISBN 978-0393308655
- "Fastnet 79: The Disaster that Changed Sailing (Eye witness accounts)". Yachting World. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- "The History of Arnold Clark Drum". Arnold Clark. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- "Severe weather hits Fastnet crews". BBC. 14 August 2007. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011.
- "Rolex Fastnet Race fleet facing gale-force winds". Royal Ocean Racing Club. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
- "Crew rescued from Fastnet Race yacht Rambler 100". BBC. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- "2011-11-Rolex Fastnet Race-Pantaenius Buoy". 27 May 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- Quinn, Ben (16 August 2011). "Fastnet race yacht capsizes off Ireland". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- Niamh Stephenson (15 August 2011). "Baltimore RNLI in major rescue operation off the Cork coast after Fastnet yacht capsizes". RNLI. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- "Rambler capsized". Sailing Anarchy. 15 August 2011. Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- Lorna Siggins (17 August 2011). "Inquiry into sinking under way". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
- Rousmaniere, John (13 September 2012). "Sailing Accidents: Lessons Learned". Sail (magazine). Retrieved 27 November 2013.
- "RORC Increase Entries to Rolex Fastnet Race". Cruise Racing. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- "Fastnet Minisite". RORC. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- Rolex Fastnet Race Homepage
- Royal Ocean Racing Club – organising club for the Fastnet Race
- BBC World Service programme, 25 August 2010 – Matthew Sheehan, a sailor in the ill-fated 1979 Race talks to BBC Witness about his experiences and the drowning of his father
- "Night of the Long Grinds" – BBC Sport, Rob Hodgett's Blog, 14 August 2009