This year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will be contested by the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, America’s Cup syndicates and several of the boats competing in the America’s Cup Jubilee

Britain’s classic ocean racing challenge, the Rolex Fastnet Race, looks set for a vintage start to the new century as a powerful line-up of international stars prepares to take a crack at the records for the 605-mile course. Both America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race crews will be flexing their muscles in a fleet of well over 220 boats as they are sent westward from the Royal Yacht Squadron at 1600 on the afternoon of 12 August 2001 by the organising Royal Ocean Racing Club.

Many records are at stake. The main focus will be on the 2d 6h 9m 56s set by George Coumantaros’ American maxi Boomerang in 1999. It is vulnerable, as are all the others for water-ballasted yachts and multihulls.

Leading the charge will be three superyachts, Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory, the winner of the Sydney to Hobart Race in 1996 in his previous boat. Plattner, head of SAP AG, is a major backer of the Team New Zealand defence of the America’s Cup in Auckland in 2003 and he will have on board some members of that squad as they take time out from preparing for the 150th anniversary America’s Cup Jubilee Regatta which kicks off in Cowes on 18 August.

Stealth, owned by that prince of the Italian motor industry Giovanni Agnelli, and Skandia Leopard, the new 92ft Reichel/Pugh-designed campaigning in its first season for British property developer Mike Slade will provide Plattner with a serious test. And the man who was first home last time, Sweden’s Ludde Ingvall in the 80ft Nicorette, is keen to add the handicap prize to all the international trophies he has already won. He was also first to finish in the 2000/2001 Sydney to Hobart Race.

All of them know that the Sydney to Hobart record was obliterated by a VO60 in 1999 and there will be a clutch of them using the Rolex Fastnet Race as their last chance to weigh each other up ahead of the start their round the world race on 23 September. At least half of the eight in that race, Illbruck Challenge skippered by John Kostecki, Djuice Dragons, skippered by Knut Frostad, Team SEB, led by Gurra Krantz, and Assa Abloy, with the Dutch Olympic medallist Roy Heiner in charge.

There are other 60s keen to make a point of their own. Bernard Stamm, who recently set a transatlantic record in his Open 60 Bobst Group, will be rivalled by French Vendée Globe singlehander Catherine Chabaud.

There are entries from 11 countries – Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.