The start of the 2017 Fastnet Race taken from the SS Shieldhall. Image: Rodney Chadwick
Entries for the 340 available places in the Rolex Fastnet Race’s classic 600 miler were snapped up in under five minutes, just 13 seconds outside the record time recorded in 2017.
After the first frenetic four minutes and 37 seconds, when the maximum entry limit was reached, subsequent requests were filtered through to the reserve list. Ultimately after the deluge subsided 440 boats had entered in total.
Yachts from 25 countries are due to take part this year: The bulk of these are from the UK, from where 201 boats were registered, followed by the dominant French (winners of the last three editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race) with 81 and the Netherlands with 33.
The first entry to sign up on the RORC’s Sailgate online entry system for the biennial 605 mile race from Cowes to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland, was regular competitor Derek Saunders and his Farr 60 Venomous. He narrowly beat the German Hamburgischer Verein Seefahrt club’s Judel Vrolijk 52 Haspa Hamburg and Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise who were next fastest.
The strong entry shows that the change of date has made little impression on the desire to do the Rolex Fastnet Race. The start date was moved to 3 August and for the first time it will be setting off before Lendy Cowes Week (rather than on the traditional Sunday immediately after it).
In addition to these entries, the Rolex Fastnet Race the RORC has led the way among the organisers of the world’s classic 600 milers in inviting other grand prix racing yacht classes to compete outside of the main IRC fleet. This has led to the race featuring some of the very best offshore racing yachts from those competing in the Volvo Ocean Race to the giant 100ft long French Ultime multihulls and the IMOCA 60s of the Vendée Globe. For 2019, an especially strong line-up of Class 40s is anticipated.
Meanwhile for the fleet, there remains the qualification process that will take place over the course of the 2019 season, with teams required to gain adequate miles and experience in order to meet the Rolex Fastnet Race’s stringent entry requirements. Competing yachts must complete more than 300 race miles with at least 50 per cent of their Rolex Fastnet Race crew on board.
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