The Fastnet Rock and its eponymous race is the stuff of legend: we've dug out some fascinating facts about the classic offshore. How many did you know?


The 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race starts on 6 August, 2017, we take a look at the biggest, the smallest, the fastest and the first yacht to take part.

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 courtesy Rick Tomlinson

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

3. In the last race in 2015, the average crew age was 43. The oldest participant, at 85 years old, was Piet Vroon, owner and skipper of the Ker 51 Tonnerre 4.

TONNERRE 4, NED 51, Owner / Skipper: Piet Vroon, Design: Ker 51, Class: IRC Z

The Ker 51 Tonnerre 4, owned and skippered by Piet Vroon in IRC Z

4. 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.

 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

5. This year’s entry list of 340 IRC yachts was filled in just 4 minutes 24 seconds! In total 390 boats will compete, including entries in the Class 40, IMOCA 60, Volvo Ocean 65 and Multihull grand prix classes.

6. 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.

7. 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 courtesy Kurt Arrigo/ Rolex

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. At least 27 countries are represented. Great Britain makes up 58% of the fleet in 2017, but 42%, or a whopping 164 boats, will have come from overseas, including France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Australia, and the USA. This year’s race has its largest ever Asian entry with boats also coming from Korea, Japan and China. There are also entries from Russia, Turkey, Oman, and Israel.

12. 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’.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. The smallest yacht in the fleet this year is the 29.4ft Half Tonner Sibelius (FRA), owned by Olivier Marc.

16. The largest yacht is the 115ft Nikata (GBR), a Judel/Vrolijk custom-designed Baltic 115 which won class at the 2016 RORC Caribbean 600 and finishing 2nd in class at the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race

They’ll be racing CQS (AUS), the eye-catching 90ft Simonis Voogd custom design owned by Ludde Ingvall, a previous Fastnet Race winner (1995 with an earlier Nicorette).


CQS DSS foiler: Photo Daniel Forster/Rolex.

CQS DSS foiler: Photo Daniel Forster/Rolex.

17. 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.

18. 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.

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Have you got any interesting facts to add? Comment in the comments area below.