Remembering the 90th Anniversary of the Rolex Fastnet Race

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The 100ft Leopard struggles to round Fastnet Rock in ghosting conditions.

The 100ft Leopard struggles to round Fastnet Rock in ghosting conditions.

A Fickle and Très French Fastnet

The 90th anniversary of the storied Rolex Fastnet Race will be remembered for two things: the fact that it was incredibly slow, and that it was dominated by the French, with Gallic boats taking seven of the 10 top spots in IRC, and the overall win going to French sailor Géry Trentesaux aboard the JPK 10.80 Courrier Du Leon.

In stark contrast to the well publicized heavy-air Fastnets of the past, the 2015 running of the 600-mile event began with so little wind in the Solent that many classes found themselves struggling to even get across the starting line. Courrier Du Leon, for example, crossed early and took nearly 40 minutes to successfully re-start thanks to an adverse tide.

The crew of Courrier Du Leon celebrates

The crew of Courrier Du Leon celebrates

Later, shortly after such line contenders as the 130ft maxi-tri Spindrift 2 and the new 100ft monohull Comanche rounded Fastnet Rock, a high-pressure system parked itself in the middle of the Celtic Sea, ushering in a day and a half of drifting conditions.

“It was honestly one of the most bizarre races I’ve ever been in in my life,” said Comanche skipper Ken Read. “Starts and stops and people being left behind for dead and then all of a sudden they are sailing around you. It was phenomenal.”

Still, for those who prevailed it was worth the pain. “I think we are very tough on the boat,” said Trentesaux, who has been chasing an overall win since his first Fastnet in 1977. “If I ask them to hoist the spinnaker, then five minutes later we take it down and five minutes later we put it up again. There are no questions.”

Ultimately, this aggressive sailing resulted in a 2 hour 20 minute gap between Courrier Du Leon and her closest competitor, the sister ship Dream Pearls, which took second overall—something to remember, kids, next time you find yourself out on the racecourse in a drifter.

For the complete results from this year’s slow-step Fastnet, visit rolexfastnetrace.com.

For more racing results, visit SAIL's racing page here.

November 2015

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