The Fastnet Rock and its eponymous race is the stuff of legend: read our essential guide, plus some fascinating facts about the classic offshore challenge

The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the world’s most iconic offshore racing challenges – here’s everything you need to know about the 2019 edition:

  • When does it start? 1230 Saturday, 3 August 2019 at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes.
  • How long is the Fastnet Race? 608 miles, from Cowes to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock.
  • Who’s racing this year? A record fleet of more than 300 boats, including charity entries, private yachts, double-handers, foiling IMOCA 60s and super-fast Ultime trimarans aiming to smash the course record.
  • How can I watch? There are several ways to follow the Fastnet Race, from online coverage and tracking services to shoreside spectator events.
  • Who won the 2017 Fastnet Race? Charles Cauderlier and the crew of Dongfeng Racing, who beat Spanish team MAPFRE by just 56 seconds.

17 incredible Fastnet facts

1. Only 7 boats raced in the first edition of the Fastnet Race in 1925. The winner was a gaff-rigged pilot cutter named Jolie Brise.

Jolie Brise, Rick Tominson

The Jolie Brise rounding the Fastnet Rock as part of the Glandore Classic Regatta in Ireland in 2013. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

2. The Fastnet Rock is also known as the ‘teardrop of Ireland’

3. In 1925, the winner completed the course in 147 hours. Today, yachts are competing to beat the monohull record of 42 hours 39 minutes, set by the Volvo 70 yacht Abu Dhabi in 2011.

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 Rolex Fastnet Race August 11 - 16, 2013 COWES/PLYMOUTH, UK back to photo gallery Share on printShare on email Share on twitterShare on facebook Contact The current monohull race record remains the time set by ABU DHABI OCEAN RACE (UAE). Photo: Rolex/ Kurt Arrigo

The current monohull race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes is the time set by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in 2011. Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

4. This year’s entry list of 340 IRC yachts was filled in just 4 minutes 37 seconds! In total 478 boats will compete, including entries in the Class 40, IMOCA 60, Volvo Ocean 65 and Multihull grand prix classes.

5. The main trophy for overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet is called the Fastnet Challenge Cup. There are however, an additional 30 trophies presented at prizegiving.

The Fastnet Trophies

The Fastnet Challenger Cup alongside Rolex Chronometer watches. One watch is awarded to the Cup winner and the other to the line honours monohull winner.

6. Crews pass eight famous landmarks along the route: the Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, the Lizard, Land’s End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater.

Passing Hurst Castle with the Needles in the distance

Passing Hurst Castle with the Needles in the distance. Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

7. The first race after the Second World War was held in 1947, and the prize went to the first yacht ever custom built for offshore racing, John Illingworth’s Myth of Malham.

8. The 1979 edition of the race goes down in history for its tragic outcome. Eighteen people lost their lives following a ferocious storm. Less than a third of the 303-strong fleet finished the race. After the event, numerous changes were brought in, including mandatory storm sails and VHF radios.

9. In 2007, the race start had to be delayed by 24 hours due to a severe weather warning. It was the first time in the event’s 82-year history that they had suffered a delay to the start.

10. At least 26 countries are represented. Great Britain makes up 39% of the fleet in 2019, but 61%, or a whopping 287 boats, will have come from overseas, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

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