The only British classic offshore race - the 608-mile Fastnet Race - has a shiny new sponsor and some eye-catching entries

The Fastnet Race was inspired by the NYYC’s Newport-Bermuda Race and founded in 1925. Its expulsion from the Admiral’s Cup notwithstanding (at least there is a Fastnet this year), this is a classic race with a fearsome history and it always tests the reserves of its corinthian competitors.

The race leaders are invariably professional racing yachts and this year will be no exception. Four of the VO60s competing in the Volvo Ocean Race will be making their first competitive outing and hoping to prove a point or two in advance of their start on 23 September.

Fast as they maybe, they are likely to find themselves following some rather extraordinary boats. Out to the Rock, we can expect a close race between Mike Slade’s 90ft Leopard (Hoya RTI monohull record holder 2001, seen left) and Giovanni Agnelli’s 90ft Stealth. Once round the Rock and off the wind, Pascal Herold’s 82ft open class flyer will rocket into contention.

Slightly further back, Hasso Plattner’s maxi Morning Glory will be pushed to the limits by Ludde Ingvall’s ULDB maxi Nicorette. One of the most interesting confrontations of the Race will be the performance difference between V060s and Open 60s. The four Volvo boats will go head-to-head with Bernard Stamm’s transatlantic record-holder, now called Bobst, and Catherine Chabaud’s Whirlpool, first of the Open 60s last year.

All of them are likely to find themselves left behind by Francis Joyon’s Eure et Loire. Despite its age and lack of optimisation, this 60ft trimaran won last year’s Europe1 NewMan STAR race and also beat Paragon’s long-standing Hoya RTI record in this year’s running of the race.