Whether its raising money for charity or giving opportunities to disadvantages youths, several 2019 Fastnet Race entries have a bigger purpose besides the race to the Rock


Among the 300-plus boats in next month’s record-sized Rolex Fastnet Race fleet, many of the 3,000 crew members are competing to fulfil a personal challenge or to tick the world’s largest offshore race off their ‘bucket list’, but several crews are also using the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event to convey a special message, or support a chosen charity.

In the last Fastnet Race, the inner-city school children from the Greig City Academy in the London borough of Haringey won deserved praise for their campaign on board the old Admiral’s Cupper Scaramouche. Such was the respect for this, that among their accolades the team won the RYA Award for Endeavour while helmsman Montel Fagan-Jordan was voted 2017 YJA Young Sailor of the Year.

This year the average age of the next generation of Greig City Academy students racing Scaramouche is even lower, the youngest being 13-year-old Kai Hockley.

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“The new crew is a step ahead of the 2017 crew – they have taken a much bigger role on our yachts,” says Greig City Academy’s Jon Holt, who set up and runs their pioneering sailing program. “The key players are Azat Utulas and Seun Williams, both from disadvantaged backgrounds, but key leaders of our students.”

Among those joining them will be Christopher-Joel Fredrick and Jaydon Owusu, both 14, who have had their school lives transformed for the better by sailing, says Holt.

A similar message of diversity is being shared by the French Libertalia – Team Jolokia who are campaigning the Laurie Davidson-designed former Djuice Dragons VO60 in what will be their third Fastnet. The aim of the campaign is to represent on board the full range of differences prevalent throughout society.


Sam Davies’ IMOCA 60 Initiatives Coeur raises awareness and money for Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, a humanitarian organisation that helps children suffering from heart defects. Photo: Initiatives Coeur

Twelve crew are chosen from a squad of 20, who, “in addition to their potential or their skills, can enrich the team experience,” explains Marion Pennaneac’h, the team’s project manager. “Whether beginner or certified skipper, disabled person, female senior citizen or foreign national, everyone has the chance to embark on this great human adventure.”

Several boats are supporting charities. The most high profile is Sam Davies’ Initiatives Coeur, which uses IMOCA 60 races as the vehicle to raise awareness and money for Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, a humanitarian organisation that helps children suffering from heart defects. Their ‘1 click, 1 heart’ campaign involves the companies Initiatives, K.Line and Vinci Energies donating 1€ whenever the Initiatives Coeur Facebook page attracts an extra fan.

New to the race this year is the charity Ausome, which is providing nine autistic people the opportunity to compete on board Ausome-Lyra of London, a Swan 431 on loan from Miles Delap. The nine will include both experienced yacht sailors and relative novices.

The charity Ausome embarked on the epic challenge of giving a crew of autistic people the opportunity to take part in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race. They will compete on the Swan 431 Ausome-Lyra of London. Photo: Ausome

The 22-year-old founder and a trustee of Ausome, Lottie Harland, who is herself autistic, will be skipper. Harland explains: “After a difficult childhood of being bullied through school for being ‘different’, it was sailing that built my confidence and self-esteem and helped me to develop the life and social skills to become an independent and successful young adult.

“I am incredibly grateful to all the organisations and individuals that recognise the huge difficulties autistic people face in making their way in the world and who are helping us so generously to give this crew a chance to show what they can achieve.

“I know each of our team will take something different away from the challenge and we will do all we can to support them in reaching their own personal goals.”

At the time of writing, the Ausome Fastnet campaign had raised 69% of its £15,000 target.

Similarly Northumberland-based retired haematologist Jonathan Wallis and his partner Pippa, a retired GP are returning for their second crack at the race. This time though they are racing in aid of the patient forum for Myeloproliferative Neoplasm, a form of blood cancer.

Aboard Sheevra, their 1969 vintage Swan 36, they won their class in last year’s Yachting Monthly Triangle Race as well as class in the JOG offshore series.

For these five yachts, the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race will have an impact that can resonate far beyond the sport of sailing.