The Rolex Fastnet Race has reached 300 entry limit with two months to go before the event 21/6/07

With less than two months until the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, interest has been running high and the entry cut-off of 300 has now been reached well before the official closing date for entries. In consequence, organisers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), have set up a waiting list. The 608-mile race has long been a favourite of offshore sailors and offers a true test of seamanship, skill and preparation. First contested in 1925 and run biennially since the early 1930s, the 2007 start will be on 12 August from the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes, Isle of Wight.

The Rolex Fastnet Race has always provided a testing ground for old and new designs and technology advances. Once again, the entries reflect the varied fleet usually drawn to such ocean classics, with this year’s cast headed by Neville Crichton’s 100ft lightning fast canting-keel super maxi, Alfa Romeo, which last week took line honours at the 2007 Giraglia Rolex Cup race and Mike Slade’s brand-new Leopard 3, which will make its racing debut at the JP Morgan Round the Island Race this coming weekend.

A dozen or so Open 60 monohulls will ably demonstrate the latest design concepts in monohull ocean racing, and should include Mike Sanderson’s latest Pindar, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian and now entering its final build phase at Cookson’s in New Zealand; whilst the four Orma 60 trimarans expected and that include Lionel Lemonchois’ Gitana 11 will put the case for multihulls.

Away from the headline grabbers, the bulk of the fleet will be a mix of one-off racers and dual-purpose cruiser-racers, within which various series designs are well-represented including the Beneteau First 40.7 (25 boats), the J/109 (12 boats), and the Sigma 38 (13 boats), the first of which were launched in 1985. The smallest yachts in the fleet will include some more traditional designs such as the Contessa 32s of Ian Coglin (Moonshadow II) and Mark Himsworth (Drumbeat) and two Nicholson 33s including the 2005 Rolex Fastnet overall race winner in IRC, Jean-Yves Chateau and Iromiguy.

Despite the work associated with vetting such a large entry, the RORC is delighted that the Rolex Fastnet race is proving to be as popular as ever. RORC Racing Manager Janet Grosvenor commented: “for many years we have had an unofficial cut-off of 300, which is regarded as a manageable size for this race taking into consideration the practicalities of Cowes and Plymouth. Although we have reached 300 we are maintaining a waiting list. We are screening entries all the time as the process of qualification continues and this means the situation changes almost daily. Owners and crew interested in taking part should not be put off contacting us.”

While the race is an open event, the RORC has mandated strict guidelines: participating skippers and at least half the crew must have completed (in the yacht in which they will race the Rolex Fastnet Race) either (1) 300 miles of RORC offshore racing, (2) one RORC offshore race plus other offshore racing or non-stop passage totalling 300 miles, or (3) something similar to which the RORC agrees. This has to occur within the 12 months preceding the start of the race. Former NYYC Commodore Lawrence Huntington’s Ker 55, Snow Lion, and fellow American George David’s Rambler (ex-Shockwave) skippered by Ken Read are both racing in the HSH Nordbank Blue Race, from Newport, Rhode Island to Hamburg, Germany as part of their warm-up and qualification process for the Rolex Fastnet.

As well as over two-dozen double-handers including Nick Martin and Gary Fry on the/105 Diablo J – currently lying in second overall in the double-handed class in the RORC season points championship, there’s a fleet of Class 40 making their first appearance in event.

The Fastnet Challenge Cup and a Rolex Chronometer will be awarded to the overall winner under IRC. In addition to this main trophy there are more than 30 additional trophies that will be awarded at the prizegiving on Friday, 17 August at the historic Royal Citadel, home of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooking Plymouth Harbour.

The first signal for the start of the 2007 Rolex Fastnet Race sounds at 0950 on Sunday 12 August.