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

11. While many sailors view the iconic Fastnet Rock as the halfway point it is, in fact, further than halfway and the remaining distance is significantly shorter than the length taken to reach ‘the rock’.

12. The Fastnet lighthouse was the last sight of Ireland for emigrants sailing to America. It first shone its light on New Year’s Day 1854.

Fastnet lighthouse

The Fastnet Rock and lighthouse. Construction of the first lighthouse on the rock began in 1853, and it first produced a light on 1 January 1854. Deemed insuffient, it was replaced by a new lighthouse in 1897. In 1985, it was struck by a rogue wave measuring about 157 feet (48 m) in height.

13. The lighthouse on Fastnet Rock originally had six keepers, with four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Each man did four weeks on, two weeks off.

14. The smallest yacht in the fleet this year is the 29.5ft sloop Freedom (GBR), owned by David O’Shea, while the smallest IRC yacht is the 30.67ft Bespoke (GBR), a Humphreys 30 owned by Neal Brewer.

15. The largest yacht is the 105ft Sodebo Ultim’ 3 (FRA), Thomas Coville’s brand new trimaran, which is capable of projected speeds of between 45 to 50 knots!

They’ll be facing off against another foiling trimaran, the 98ft Macif (FRA), skippered by Francois Gabart. Both racers stand a good chance of smashing the course record.


Macif is a serious contender for the Fastnet course record. Photo: Vincent Curutchet/ALEA

16. The leg aross the Celtic Sea to (and from!) the Fastnet Rock is known to be unpredictable and challenging. The competitors are exposed to fast moving Atlantic weather systems and the fleet often encounter tough conditions.

17. The first Fastnet race in 1925 consisted mainly of cruising yachts. While the faster yachts had finished, some of the slower entries were hit by high winds and uncomfortable seas. Two boats retired and one made such slow progress that she was unable to reach the finishing line before the timekeepers had gone home.

Visit our Fastnet page for all the latest news, winning tactics and strategic tips, videos and picture galleries.

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