This year's race draws huge interest, forcing organisers to close entries after two months

Applications for the 2009 Rolex Fastnet opened on 1 January and effectively closed two months later when the 300 cap on entries was reached. Organisers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, immediately set up a waiting list, which currently stands at seventy – confirming the considerable interest in the offshore race, which starts at midday on Sunday 9 August from the Royal Yacht Squadron line at Cowes.

Mike Slade’s Farr 100 ICAP Leopard (GBR) returns. She has undergone some surgery since setting the time of 1 day, 20 hours, 18 minutes in 2007. Given the right conditions she could well shave more time off the record.

Leopard will not be the only 100-footer on the line. Liara, the Bill Dixon designed Performance Yachting 100, will be there too. However, whilst Liara is performance oriented, she should be no match for a race-prepared Leopard.

Just behind the big boys will be a much-anticipated battle in the 65 to 75 foot mini-maxi range with the STP 65s Rosebud (USA), winner of 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart, and Luna Rossa (ITA), new this season and set to do battle with Ran (GBR) – the 72-foot Judel/Vrolijk design owned by Nicklas Zennstrom of Skype fame.

See shots of the start and finish of the Rolex Fastnet in 2007:

The 2007 Rolex Fastnet overall winner was the Cookson 50, Chieftain. In this entry zone of 45 feet and up to the mini-maxis, there are a number of modern and performance-oriented boats, including two Ker 46s – John Shepherd’s Fair Do’s VII (GBR) and Piet Vroon’s latest Tonnerre de Breskens (NED). Vroon is a former overall race winner, in 2001.

Amongst others, these seasoned campaigners will be up against three Rogers 46s, including past-Commodore David Aisher’s Yeoman XXXII and two German competitors, Chris Wuttke’s Guts ‘n’ Glory and Jens Kellinghusen’s Varuna.

The 40-45 foot segment looks to be dominated by a two very-different class battles. There are nineteen Class 40s on the list, including Giovanni Soldini’s Telecom Italia (ITA), along with ten First 40.7s. The Class 40 specifies a minimum weight of 4,500kg and carries 115 square metres of upwind sail area with 120 sq m of asymetric spinnakers flown from a stayed carbon bowsprit, so for their size these boats are very fast. 40.7s are more cruiser/racers with close to 7,000 kg displacement and only around 70 sq m of upwind sail plan.

Sub-40 foot is equally a mixture of the sleek and fast, slow and stable. Perhaps, most surprisingly is that only one Contessa 32, James Moore’s Katisha, is on the competitor roster this year. However, there are plenty of familiar faces including the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet in 2005, Frenchman Jean Yves Charles and his Nicholson 33 Iromiguy. Iromiguy’s victory was the first time a boat under 40-foot boat had won the race in some thirty-years.

As is tradition the Fastnet will start in Cowes and finish in Plymouth. The first signal for the start sounds at 1150 BST on Sunday 9 August.

For more information on the classic offshore race, click here .