Alex Bennett finishes seventh in Mini Fastnet

Alex Bennett (23) from Brighton has finished 7th out of 55 starters in the 15th Mini Fastnet race. This classic French race covers a gruelling 765 miles, starting from Ouistreham, rounding the Fastnet Rock and finishing at Ile de Groix, France.

Skippering his 21-footer, sponsored by English Braids, in this two-handed race, he and his Round Britain race partner, Dave Barden (19), improved upon the 9th place achieved in last month’s Solitaire de Concarneau. The six-day race follows a course across the English Channel, turning first at the Needles Fairway buoy and on to the Fastnet Rock, then back across the Channel.

Sailing fast at night through some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with big seas put up by winds of Force 6, meant that the fleet was pushed hard. This resulted in nine retirements. At one heart-stopping moment, Alex had to let off a white flare to signal his position to a ship while the fleet crossed the busy Channel shipping lanes.

Alex Bennett reported: “The sailing was uncomfortable, but exciting. Despite the conditions, the racing was very close and near Land’s End we were close tacking with a group of other yachts for over 18 hours. However, after the first two days, we increased the pace and broke free, moving up the fleet.

“Our breaks came at night when we really pushed ourselves to attack. We upped our game by managing to find a good windshift. But we were also strong mentally because of maintaining a disciplined watch rota with two-hour breaks, and we are physically very fit. My boat is 12 years old, but we’ve shown it has excellent speed and top potential.”

In completing the Mini Fastnet, Alex Bennett has secured his place on the start line for the Mini Transat Race, the dangerous single-handed, 4,000-mile, French-run event starting on 26 September 1999. Sixty of the world’s top young single-handers will be given permission to enter the race and ten will be given wild card entries. The race starts from Concarneau, crossing the Atlantic via Lanzarote to Guadeloupe.