The Rolex Fastnet race starts Sunday at 11:00 from the Royal Yacht Squadron line

Skandia Cowes Week competitors who are not taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race might like to head out to watch the start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line tomorrow as a befitting end to yet another successful Skandia Cowes Week.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club-organise Fastnet, a biennial 607-mile race which has been running since 1926, holds a special place in the history of ocean races with some of the world’s greatest sailors regarding it as one of the most challenging offshore races ever. One of the attractions of the race is that it draws competitors from all areas of offshore sailing from professionally crewed maxi yachts, through family/friends-crewed yachts to sailing school training yachts.

But it’s not a matter of just entering and turning up for the start, this race is tough and has stringent qualification rules to ensure that all those taking part are experienced enough to embark on a tough challenge of seamanship. Ever since the tragic loss of life during the 1979 Fastnet Race, the RORC has worked hard to ensure crews are thoroughly prepared. Before the start on Sunday, the skipper and at least half the crew will have completed a set number of long offshore races on the actual yacht they are racing.

Once across the Squadron startline at 11:00 the fleet will head out of the Solent, down the Channel and into the Celtic Sea to the infamous Fastnet Rock and back. This non-stop race finishes in Plymouth and should take the majority of the fleet about five/six days depending on the weather and class of yacht. The course monohull record was set in 1999 when Ross Field’sRF Yachtingfinished in two days five hours and eight minutes. To beat the record monohull competitors will need to have crossed the finish line by 16:08 on Tuesday the 9th of August, with the multihull target set at 03:27 the same day.

Stuart Quarrie (Skandia Cowes Week regatta director) is taking part in his 11th Fastnet, this time as navigator aboardSpirit of Jethou, Sir Peter Ogden’s Swan 601 and says, despite having been working flat out this week in the Skandia Race Week race office, he’s really looking forward to the race. Explaining, “I’m looking forward to winning the race. This is my 11th Fastnet and the best I’ve ever done is second overall aboard a Swan 53. Winning would be good. Actually it’s one of the very few races where there’s a navigator’s trophy – the Alf Loomis Trophy, for the navigator on the best performing boat. Most of the time the owners get all the trophies. That of course is not why I’m doing it! I finish here [at Skandia Cowes Week] today so I’ll be a bit tired but I’m really looking forward to it.”