With just over 12 hours until the start of the 2003 Rolex Fastnet Race, Cowes is filling with entrants from across the globe

With just over 12 hours until the start of the 2003 Rolex Fastnet Race, Cowes is filling with entrants from across the globe. The Fastnet Race, sailed every second year, has seen its entry list grow from just seven in the inaugural 1925 event to 249 this year, the largest entry second only to the tragic race of 1979.

Entrants will start from Cowes and head west out of the Solent, around the Fastnet rock off the coast of Ireland and finish in Plymouth. For records to be broken, the first multihull will need to arrive before 2359 on Monday covering the 608 miles in just under 36 hours, whilst the first monohull will need to cover the distance in 53 hours.

Yachts range in size from open 60’s and Whitbread Maxi’s to Sigma 33’s and an X312. Both professional and amateur crews are currently preparing, checking and re-checking equipment for what has proved to be one of the most gruelling offshore races.

For the Jean-Phillipe Chomette, owner and skipper of Solune a Nacira 60 out of the same design stable as the Alinghi America’s Cup entries, this is a chance to really test his new yacht. With only 1,000 miles under her belt the Open 60/ Volvo cross has a lot to prove and as Jean-Phillipe admits some fine tuning still to do. She will be racing with designers, engineers and builders on board as well as her normal eight crew. Her fine lines and charcoal colour will be attracting admiring stairs on the start line amongst a class that includes Mike Slade’s Leopard and Nicorette with Yachting World’s Mike Kopman onboard.

Conditions are predicted to be a light easterly wind for the start, meaning this is going to be very much a race of tactics and for some of the smaller entries, a long haul playing with the tides as they sail along the South Coast of the UK before heading out towards the rock. One thing is agreed by all who sail in the Fastnet, the sight of the rock looming out of the water is awe inspiring, whether you are travelling at speed in grand prix racing yacht or at a more sedate pace.

The first start is at 1000 on Sunday. More updates will follow from both on and off the water as Mike Kopman experiences the thrill of the Fatsnet Race on an out-and-out racing yacht, Nicorrette, where he and the other 18 crew will be fighting the light breezes.