This year's Rolex Fastnet Race has an all-star line up with some of the most exciting racing yachts in the world taking part. We pick out 10 Fastnet boats to follow
It’s hard to imagine a more diverse and intriguing fleet line up than this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race entries, making it hard to pick out which Fastnet boats to follow.
The fleet is, once again, vast in both size and scope. At last count 355 yachts were preparing to take on the 49th edition of the offshore classic, ranging from the enormous, brand new 140ft ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, to the altogether more petite 11m classic, Le Loup Rouge Of Cmn, and the diminutive 9.33m long T3 Trifoiler L’Albatros, racing in the MOCRA fleet.
Within the huge range of entries are some of the world’s best professionals, family boats, first timers, and everything in between. We pick out 10 Fastnet boats to follow:
The breath-taking new ClubSwan 125 is the biggest yacht ever to take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Recently launched out of Nautor Swan in Finland, Skorpios has been working up to speed in the UK – but only recently arrived in Cowes yesterday, as with 24ft draught her manoeuvrability in the crowded waters around the Solent is limited.
Designed for offshore record setting, skipper Fernando Echavarri and owner Dmitry Rybolovlev are here for line honours.
On the eve of the Rolex Fastnet Race, we got an exclusive sail and tech tour aboard this monster of a racing yacht:
Owner George David has a history with the Rolex Fastnet Race like few others.
His Rambler 88 won back-to-back monohull line honours in the last two editions, but in 2011 his Rambler 100 supermaxi capsized just past the Fastnet Rock – all crew were safely rescued, but it’s an emotive race for David and his team.
This time Rambler 88 goes into the Fastnet after a light year of sailing due to pandemic-related travel restrictions having a big impact on the grand prix racing circuit. Nevertheless, Rambler’s 19 crew have all made it into the UK, while the boat arrived on a ship from the USA in June.
This week the silver maxi has been out for a training sail. “We just want to make sure we can still sail it in anger after a year of not sailing,” tactician Brad Butterworth. Rambler’s last race may have been the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2019, but her crew is one the most experienced around.
Pen Duick VI
The late Eric Taberly’s name is ingrained in the history of offshore racing and one of the iconic entries in this year’s Fastnet is his Whitbread Round the World Race maxi and 1976 OSTAR winner Pen Duick VI, now skippered by his daughter Marie.
Pen Duick VI is switching back into offshore racing mode in preparation for the 2023 Ocean Globe Race, a nostalgic tribute to the original Whitbread. Check out the October issue of Yachting World magazine for a closer look at this world famous yacht.
Alex Thomson’s black and hot pink Hugo Boss needs little introduction and is always one of the most popular boats to follow.
This is the British Vendée skipper’s first outing in his foiling IMOCA with its radical ‘inside’ cockpit since it suffered structural and rudder damage during the last around the world race.
Now fully fixed, Hugo Boss will be co-skippered by Swiss racer Ollie Heer, who is the boat captain for the complex design.
Anyone wanting to get a feel for just how punishing the Fastnet Race is in a foiling IMOCA should check out Thomson’s ‘Hub’ page, which shows real time data from the boat and biometrics from the sailors – heel angle, hours of sleep and much more See alexthomsonracing.com/the-hub/
Hugo Boss is one of 13 IMOCAs competing in this year’s Fastnet.
Other star skippers lining up include fellow Brits Sam Davies on Initiatives Couer and Simon Fisher on 11th Hour Racing, plus Jérémie Beyou on Charal, Vendée Globe line honours winner Charlie Dalin on Apivia and overall Vendée champion Yannick Bestaven on Maitre Coq IV.
It’ll be a wet and wild ride for Andrew Fennell and team on his Shuttleworth-designed one-of 39ft carbon trimaran Morpheus.
We took a tour of the boat after they finished the 2019 Fastnet Race, where they described life onboard as “Like trying to sleep in the back of a 1950s pick up truck with leaf suspension being driven down a dark dirt road by a drunk driver…”
Morpheus is racing in the MOCRA class, which has a diverse entry ranging from the modified, foil-assisted MOD70s Argo and Maserati, to the luxurious 84ft performance cruising catamaran Allegra, which will have world speed sailing record holder Paul Larsen onboard.
“I liken [it] to rally driving Bentley Continentals – they are hugely capable cars with incredible brakes and engines and handling packages, but at the end of the day it is a Bentley Continental and, when things go wrong, it weighs a lot,” said Larsen.
Other big names in the MOCRA fleet include French offshore legend Loick Peyron aboard the Outremer 5X No Limit, while Christian Guyader aboard the TS5 Guyader Mext will be among the favourites for a class win.
Paul Moxon and Steve Jones’ 50ft Bermudan yawl Amokura is the oldest boat in the race.
Designed by Fredrick Shepherd and built by Moodys in Swanwick in 1939, originally for Lord Mountbatten’s Aide de Camp, Ernest Harston, Amokura competed in the 1959 Fastnet Race and tried again 60 years on in 2019, but finished neither.
In sharp contrast to most of the entries, she is built with a pitch pine hull on oak beams, teak deck and seven ton bilge keel and displaces 20 tonnes.
Maxi Edmond De Rothschild
There are four incredible Ultim 100ft trimarans taking part this year, including the Gitana teams’s Maxi Edmond De Rothschild, which smashed the (old) course record last time and will be hoping to set the benchmark for the new one this time around.
Charles Caudrelier skippers with Franck Cammas. Rivals include Thomas Coville, who returns with his giant trimaran Sodebo.
IRC Class 4 is shaping up to be hotly contested, especially among the double-handed entries.
Since its introduction in 2011, IRC 4 has always been won by a French boat and for the last four editions by a JPK 10.10.
Among the 40 or so British teams competing in IRC Four, Richard Palmer’s JPK 10.10 Jangada may have the best shot of breaking France’s winning streak. Racing double-handed with Jeremy Waitt, Jangada was 2020 RORC Boat of the Year and winner of the 2019 RORC Transatlantic Race.
Richard Palmer is competing in his 10th Rolex Fastnet Race. “It’s the world’s most competitive offshore IRC event,” he commented.
“We are looking forward to the increasing level of competition in the Two-Handed fleet and the new route into Cherbourg. The most difficult part this time will be strategies for the main tidal gates.”
They’re likely to face stiff competition from Emmanuel Pinteaux’s JPK 10.10 Gioia, 2nd in class in the last race (and overall race winner back in 2013, racing as Night and Day with the Loisons).
The 73ft classic ketch won line honours in the 1961 Fastnet Race, when Francis Chichester was navigator for her original owner Kees Bruynzeel.
Now, 60 years later Stormvogel is back for another go after a full refit. Skipper Graeme Henry, says: “Stormvogel is back to a new level of performance while maintaining the original 1961 concept and 1960s’ style.”
Swell and Gentoo
IRC Class 4 features some well known British names racing double-handed on SunFast 3300s.
Dee Caffari – who’s completed six around the world races including skippering a Volvo Ocean Race, a Vendée Globe, and was the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world in both directions – is racing with James Harayda on Gentoo.
Meanwhile Figaro and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Henry Bomby joins double Olympic Gold Medallist Shirley Robertson on Swell.
Other names bidding for IRC 4 and Two-Handed victory include Alexis Loison, who won the 2013 edition overnight with his father Pascal, and IRC 3 and IRC Two-Handed in 2019 on the JPK 1030 Léon with designer Jean Pierre Kelbert.
For 2021, Alexis will return in Léon with 470 and Figaro sailor Guillaume Pirouelle. Alexis will also have strong local knowledge for the new finish, as his home port is Cherbourg.