The largest Fastnet Race fleet ever, some 368 yachts and 2,700 crew, started from Cowes today in moderate westerlies for a long beat to the west

A perfect summer Solent sea breeze gave the 368-strong fleet in the Rolex Fastnet Race a picture perfect start today. In winds of 15-20 knots the fleet began the beat westwards with a strong ebb tide.

This is the largest fleet since the race began in 1925. Some 2,700 crew are taking part in the race from Cowes on the Isle of Wight out to the Fastnet Rock lighthouse off south-west Ireland and back to Plymouth.

The big multihulls such as the MOD70 trimaran Concise 10 were the first away from the Royal Yacht Squadron line. Despite the windward course, Concise passed the first tidal gate at Portland Bill only four hours later.

The multihulls were followed by non-IRC classes including nine double-handed IMOCA 60s including Alex Thomson and Irishman Nicholas O’Leary on Hugo Boss, Tanguy de Lamotte and Sam Davies on Initiatives Coeur and JP Dick and Yann Eliès on St Michel-Virbac.

 

These three yachts all have foils, but are joined by other non-foil equipped IMOCA 60s such as Paul Meilhat and Gwenole Gahinet aboard SMA which will have an advantage on the upwind march to the Fastnet Rock as they are more weatherly. The question is whether the faster downwind speed of the foil-borne IMOCA will be enough to catch or overhaul them – yesterday Sam Davies predicted it would be.

The largest yacht in the fleet is the Baltic 115 Nikata. Far from a stripped out cruiser, this performance carbon composite superyacht is light but comparatively comfortable.

The Fastnet is also the so-called Leg 0 for the Volvo Ocean Race VO65s. Some of the teams, such as David Witt’s Scallywag and Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic are quite late to going and are on a catch up with more established teams such as Dongfeng Racing and MAPFRE.

For updates on the race see www.rolexfastnetrace.com and regular updates and video from the race course on the Yachting World Facebook page.

Rambler 88, Sail No: USA 25555, Class: IRC Zero, Owner: George David, Type: Canting Keel Sloop