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Giant international gathering for Rolex Fastnet Race

Yachts from around the world will converge on Cowes for the start of the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race in August  © Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

August's Rolex Fastnet Race remains on track for a record-sized fleet. Currently 390 boats are entered: 338 competing for the main IRC handicap prize; the remainder racing for their own trophies in the Class40, IMOCA 60, Volvo Ocean 65 and Multihull grand prix classes.

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Nifty work as RORC Easter Challenge concludes

Tokoloshe leads the FAST 40+ fleet at the RORC Easter Challenge but star performer throughout the regatta was  Sir Keith Mills' Invictus. © Paul Wyeth/

Sailors at the RORC Easter Challenge left Cowes this Easter Sunday sunburned, full of chocolate and brimming with freshly acquired wisdom about their sport.

Across the 50 boat fleet competing at the RORC’s three day long domestic season opener, that doubles as its annual training regatta, it was close across most classes, but none more so than IRC One. In this, Mike Greville’s sparkling Ker 39, Erivale III managed to lose her three point lead in today’s opening round the cans race and the victor was only decided on the final, head down, charge for the finish line in race two.

Ultimately Roger Bowden’s King 40, Nifty (ex-Tokoloshe 1), claimed first overall, two points ahead of Erivale with another King 40, Cobra, another point behind. As Nifty’s skipper Sam Cox recounted: "Coming into the finish [of race 2], Zero pipped us and we had Erivale III and Zero II stacked up right behind us. All weekend we’ve been having really good boat-on-boat racing between us - it was fantastic."

ech17d2 1161 niftyClose racing in the RORC Easter Challenge. Roger Bowden's King 40, Nifty (ex-Tokoloshe 1), claimed first overall in IRC One © Paul Wyeth/

Three races were scheduled today, but the wind dropped as the new breeze attempted to settle towards the end of the first race, causing the course to be shortened for IRC Two and Three. With the wind shifting dramatically, it took three attempts to get what was to be the second and final race underway.

Within IRC One, there was a match race between the two Mark Mills-designed MAT 1180s. Tor McLaren’s two week old Gallivanter got its first taste of glory, winning today’s opening race, However sistership, Christian Zugel’s Tschuss, finished seven points ahead overall.

McLaren appreciated the coaching laid on by the RORC, spearheaded by Jim Saltonstall and Eddie Warden Owen and supplemented by North Sails UK staff: "We were very happy with the way we performed. We were together upwind - which we weren’t on day one. The groove is very narrow and main and runners have to be trimmed in sync. The crew work at the front is really good and our tactics were great."

ech17d3 949 jim coachingJim Saltonstall offers his expert advice. Crews appreciated the coaching laid on by the RORC and the team at North Sails UK © Paul Wyeth/

Star performer throughout the regatta was Sir Keith Mills’ Invictus in the FAST 40+ class, racing within IRC One. With a 1-3 today, the black Ker 40+ won the regatta by a mighty 11 points. However it was not easy and all five of the FAST 40+ had their moments with Tony Dickin’s Jubilee looking particularly strong today, leading the opening stages of race two, which was eventually won by Mark Rijkse’s 42° South.

"The first race was tough," recounted Mills. "We were third at the first mark, but managed to climb back and get a comfortable win. Then, in the second race, we didn’t get the greatest start but we kept our place all the way round and we had a photo finish - 42° South got it, but there was half a boat length between three boats, which made it really interesting."

ech17d2 618 invictusSir Keith Mills' invincible FAST40+ Invictus. © Paul Wyeth/

In IRC Two, a late charge from RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine on La Réponse was enough to get his First 40 onto the podium but not enough to make an impression on the race for the lead between David Franks’ JPK 10.10 Strait Dealer and Redshift Reloaded, the Sun Fast 3600 belonging to Ed Fishwick.

ech17d3 689 redshift reloadedVictory in IRC Two for Redshift Reloaded, Ed Fishwick's Sun Fast 3600 © Paul Wyeth/

While La Réponse claimed today’s first race and Strait Dealer the second, Redshift Reloaded posted a 2-3 to win overall by three points from Franks’ yacht. "The first race was tricky," recounted Nick Cherry, with whom Fishwick will be racing doublehanded for the remainder of the season.  "It went light and at one point we were looking pretty bad and La Réponse ditched us. In the last race, we only had to finish five points behind Strait Dealer, although we were worried we were OCS. Also there were some big shifts, but they were reasonably predictable."

For the Redshift crew, winning on this the boat’s first major competitive outing is a big achievement: "We are very pleased," summarised Cherry. "The boat was going quick. The crew did well and it was nice tight racing."

Fishwick praised the RORC Race Committee: "It is a well organised regatta and they did a really good job."

ech17d3 747 aguilaIRC Three winner, Sam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner, Aguila © Paul Wyeth/

Aside from Invictus, the most consistent performance was from Sam Laidlaw’s Quarter Tonner, Aguila. The RORC Easter Challenge defending champion today put in a race win and a 2.5, to reclaim IRC Three by 7.5 points from Ian Braham’s MG 346, MS Amlin Enigma.

"It was fantastic conditions - it couldn’t have more different to last year when it was very windy," said Laidlaw. "This year it was light and puffy and quite difficult. Today was challenging with the wind up and down and in the second race we had a good ding-dong with Bullet – they sail really well. It has been close racing all weekend."

The regatta wound up with a prizegiving at the RORC’s Cowes clubhouse where the winners left laden with trophies and Easter eggs.

ech17d3 1136 invictus loade dup with eggsSir Keith Mills and son Alex receive their prizes for Invictus' FAST40+ victory. © Paul Wyeth/

Admiral in the Chocolates

Andrew McIrvine's La Réponse leading in IRC Two © Paul Wyeth/

While Invictus Challenge remains top scoring boat at the RORC Easter Challenge, today the scoreline of Sir Keith Mills’ immaculately sailed FAST40+ was matched in IRC Two by La Réponse, skippered by Admiral of the RORC, Andrew McIrvine.

Day two of the RORC’s domestic season opener and training regatta, saw three races held on the central Solent, with a round the cans followed by two windward-leewards, due to the tidal state. As yesterday, conditions came good, starting in a chilly, overcast 7-8 knot northwesterly, finishing in brilliant sunshine and winds gusting to 20 knots.

Despite shifty conditions and the contrary tidal state across the race track, La Réponse and Invictus showed impressive consistency, both scoring 1-2-1.

For La Réponse today was a bounce back after rounding the wrong mark while leading yesterday’s opening race. "I have new crew and really good foredeck crew," explained McIrvine. "The boat handling was superb and we fiddled with the rigging a lot last weekend and the boat’s flying." Race three went particularly well, La Réponse’s tactical team calling the giant left hand shift correctly.

In IRC Two Ed Fishwick’s brand new Sun Fast 3600 Redshift Reloaded (the only boat to take a race off La Réponse) has nudged David Frank’s JPK 10.10 Strait Dealer off the top spot. Fishwick, who usually races a Figaro 2, has acquired the 3600 to sail doublehanded under IRC with former Match Racing National Champion turned solo offshore sailor, Nick Cherry.

1ech17d2 746 redshift pwEd Fishwick's Redshift reloaded won today's second race in IRC Two © Paul Wyeth/

Redshift Reloaded pulled out a second in race one, despite a contretemps with the mainland. "We were cheating the tide off the North Shore and we hit because the instruments aren’t properly calibrated yet," admitted Fishwick. "It took us about a minute to refloat and we only lost by 12 seconds…"

In race two they nailed the pin end start perfectly, putting them into clear air for the remainder of the race. But in the final race Fishwick said they found the shifting breeze tough and they got mixed up with traffic from IRC One.

ech17d2 827 zephyr pwSteve Cowie's Zephyr was the only boat to claim a race of Sir Keith Mills' Invictus in the FAST 40+ class © Paul Wyeth/

In the FAST40+ class, the Scottish boat, Steve Cowie’s Zephyr, followed three last place finishes with victory in today’s second race, finally blemishing Invictus’ perfect scoreline. "It was about getting all the fundamentals right - we had a good start and we went the right way and there was a big difference between getting the tactics right and wrong," recounted tactician Ian Budgen. "There were big gains on the right side upwind where the tide had already turned and there was also more pressure and right shift. Every time we got to the right of somebody we made gains." On the second lap this tactic enabled Zephyr to overhaul Invictus to take the bullet.

"It was really nice for the crew because everyone was really frustrated yesterday," continued Budgen. In the final race Zephyr was over early but managed to recover to finish third. This again was due to the Scottish team positioned themselves correctly for the giant left hand shift. As Budgen observed: "The Solent is a weird place and a race isn’t over until you cross the finish line…"

Mike Greville and his beloved Ker 39, Erivale III, won today’s first race in IRC One and maintained her string of podium positions until the tricky final race. "We had a good start in the first race, but the last race was a bit funny because the wind was all over the shop and there were big shifts," summarised Greville, former Commodore of the RORC. Erivale III is looking in good shape with a fresh paintjob and with 100kg lopped off her bulb this winter. 

ech17d2 1569 irc three pwClose racing in IRC Three © Paul Wyeth/

In IRC Three, top scoring boat of the day was Bullit, posting a 4-1-4 to leave Louise Morton’s all-female crew in fifth place overall, just 1.5 points astern of another Quarter Tonner, Bullet, steered by husband Peter. Among the pint-sized former IOR racers, Sam Laidlaw’s Aguila continues to lead IRC Three after another consistent day, 5.5 points ahead of Ian Braham’s MG346, MS Amlin Enigma.

Also on the ascent among the Quarter Tonners is Cobh Pirate, skippered by Ben Daly. In only his second season in this highly competitive class, Cobh Pirate won their first race (among the Quarter Tonners) yesterday and followed this up with another solid performance today, scoring 6-4-2. "We are comfortable up to 14 knots and today we were in the sweet spot for the boat," said Daly. They might have done better in the first race had they not got stuck in traffic with bigger boats. Their top result in the final race was once again due to choosing the favourable side of the course for the giant shift. "It was fun sailing in sunshine. All the Quarter Tonners finished within a few boat lengths of each other," concluded Daly.

The RORC Easter Challenge concludes tomorrow with three more races scheduled prior to the prizegiving where competitors will be appropriately rewarded with Easter eggs.

ech17d2 1739 debrief pwHead coach Jim Saltonstall shares his wisdom at tonight's post-race debrief © Paul Wyeth/

1ech17d2 1544 quokka pwPeter Rutter and crew on board the Half Tonner Quokka 9 © Paul Wyeth/

Three bullets for Invictus on opening day

Three bullets for Invictus on opening day of  RORC Easter Challenge
The RORC Easter Challenge, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's domestic season opener and coaching regatta, got off to an ideal start on the Solent today. Three races were held, the first of two windward-leewards off Lee-on-the Solent starting in a relatively benign 7 knot southwesterly. After gently easing the boats into the regatta, the breeze slowly built until it was gusting to 20+, which, combined with a lumpy wind-against-tide sea state, made for a challenging final round the cans race. This featured an America's Cup-style reaching start, eventually taking the 50 competing yachts back towards Cowes.

Star performer of the day was Sir Keith Mills' all-black Ker 40+ Invictus which scored three bullets in the five-strong FAST40+ class, racing within IRC One.

Sir Keith Mills came ashore buzzing: "It was lovely conditions - we got up to 16-17 knots downwind. It is always fun with a reaching start - some went for kites and we went for a Code Zero. 42° South overtook us right on the mark and we spent the race catching them up, which eventually we did. With these close races, and particularly in the FAST 40+ fleet, you can't afford to make a mistake because you get punished immediately. Crew handling is everything, but fortunately we have a great crew."

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Strong, diverse line-up for the RORC annual training regatta

Free coaching on and off the water at the RORC Easter Challenge. New this year, North Sails UK drone footage from the day's racing will be shown at post-race debriefs  ©

Britain’s premature summer looks set to continue into this weekend for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Easter Challenge, running on the Solent from Good Friday until Easter Sunday.

The RORC Easter Challenge traditionally doubles as the opener for the club’s domestic season and as a ‘coaching regatta’. Aiming to try and raise the calibre of racing in the UK, the RORC lays on expert coaching for free for the entire regatta. This comes from some of the world’s top coaches, including Jim Saltonstall, MBE, who has played a significant role in honing the skills of so many successful British Olympians. He is joined by professional coach Mason King, plus Eddie Warden Owen, CEO of the RORC - who, aside from being an accomplished sailor has coached America’s Cup crews including Team New Zealand and Desafio Espanol.

They are supplemented by nearly the entire posse from North Sails UK: Frank Gerber and Jeremy Smart will be in the North RIB, while the rest will be racing, but all will be available at the post-race debriefs that will take place daily at the RORC Cowes clubhouse. North Sails is also providing drone footage from the day’s racing which will be shown at the debriefs and the clubhouse bar.

According to North Sails’ Sam Richmond the format of the post-race debriefs will be modified this year: “The aim is to make it more of an informal panel discussion rather than a straight lecture, and to keep it shorter and interesting. Hopefully the footage will draw people in, as Jim always does and the aim is for everyone to learn something technical without feeling like they’re at school.”

North Sails will also offer overnight repairs via their North Sails Certified Service experts in their Cowes Yacht Haven loft.

2017 rec vac 16 qt winner bullit pwLouise Morton's Coutts Quarter Ton Cup winner, Bullit will be racing in IRC Three at the RORC Easter Challenge starting on Good Friday © Paul Wyeth/

At present the line-up for the RORC Easter Challenge ranges from the Ker 46, Lady Mariposa, to a quintet of Quarter Tonners, including regular contenders, Sam Laidlaw on Aquila and Louise Morton’s Coutts Quarter Ton Cup winner, Bullit.

Stealing the limelight will be the five FAST40+ class yachts, including Sir Keith Mills’ Invictus. However nipping at their heels will be the two Mark Mills-designed MAT 1180s, Gallivanter and Christian Zugel’s Tschuss (one of two German competitors in Class 1, along with Soenke Bruhns’ M34, Hotspot).

2017 rec gallivanter warsash spring series andrew adamsTor McLaren's MAT 1180s, Gallivanter competing in the Warsash Spring Series © Andrew Adams

Tor McLaren is campaigning Gallivanter and the RORC Easter Challenge will be the boat’s second regatta having only arrived from her Turkish builder a fortnight ago: “We are still very much in a sea trial stage - we have a few electronics and rig issues to sort out and we have got a lot of general tuning to do; getting to know the sails and how the boat performs, etc. The boat is going really well, she’s is over-delivering, but we have got a lot of work to do yet.” So, a regatta where free coaching is laid on, and particularly one with a large North Sails contingent available for advice, is most welcome at this early stage of Gallivanter’s development, being led by Andy Horrocks.

McLaren comes from a J/109 (Inspara), which he sold two years ago and a chartered First 40, Gallivanter. The program for the new Gallivanter will be a mix of inshore and offshore, including the Rolex Fastnet Race. Throughout, he has managed to keep together his young crew: “They are coming on brilliantly. It is going to be a steep learning curve, but it is a lot of fun. I have high hopes for us.”

2017 rec strait dealer 2012 irc nats winner pwDavid Franks' 2012 IRC National championship winning JPK 10.10,  Strait Dealer © Paul Wyeth/

Class 2 will comprise the 30-40 footers including a strong posse of First 40s, such as RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine’s La Réponse to David Franks’ 2012 IRC National championship winning JPK 10.10, Strait Dealer, via several J/109s and Tom Kneen’s JPK 10.80, Sunrise.

Racing in Class 3 are the Quarter Tonners as well as Harry J. Heijst’s S&S41 Winsome, plus the smaller J/Boats, including three J/97s. Also in the mix are a pair of Sigma 38s, one being the British Offshore Sailing School’s Rumour of BOSS, campaigned this season by Team Challenge Racing - a mixed youth crew aged 17 to 25, led by 18-year-old Charlie Ellis.
“We are using it as a shake down,” says Ellis of his first RORC Easter Challenge. “We are squaring up against some other boats, so we can learn as much as we can. We are going to make full use of the North guys as well. We want to learn as a team and work on our communication.”

2017 rec team challenge racing rumour of boss18-year-old Charlie Ellis will lead a young crew on Team Challenge Racing - British Offshore Sailing School's Rumour of BOSS

To help crews in such situations, for the Easter Challenge the RORC uniquely relaxes RRS rule 41 'Outside Help'. This, for example, would permit Rumour of BOSS to ship on board one of the Easter Challenge coaches, even for just part of a race.

Team Challenge Racing has on offshore programme this season focusing on the Rolex Fastnet Race with a view to continuing on to do the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race in 2018.
Racing at the RORC Easter Challenge gets underway on Friday morning at 1055 with several practice starts.

RORC Easter Challenge - Free expert coaching

North U. Regatta Services coaches at the RORC Easter Challenge © RORC/Paul Wyeth/

Friday 14th - Sunday 16th April 2017
If you want to do better out on the race course, you could buy yourself a newer, more competitive boat. Or sail with a better crew. Or could buy some new sails. Or put in some practice. But keelboat crews frequently forget that one of the best value methods is to employ a coach. A coach can optimise practice time, provide detailed analysis via both stats and video, can examine specific issues, plus imparting experience and advice about boat and sail trim, mark rounding manoeuvres and techniques, boat set-up and so much more.
For competitors in the Easter Challenge, over 14-16th April, the Royal Ocean Racing Club lays on coaching, both on the water and with detailed ‘post match’ analysis, FOR FREE. And this comes from some of the world’s top coaches with backgrounds in the America’s Cup and Olympic Games.

2017 rec winsome coaching pwRORC Easter Challenge offers free expert coaching on the water as well as detailed 'post match' analysis for all competitors © RORC/Paul Wyeth -

RORC Racing Manager Nick Elliott observes: "In our sport, apart from when you first learn to sail, often you don’t get any further coaching. You wouldn't dream of trying to get to the top of any other sport without joining a club that provided coaching and support for its athletes. It is bizarre that sailing hasn't embraced coaching in the same way."
As is tradition, the RORC Easter Challenge kicks off the club’s domestic program with three days of inshore racing on the Solent starting on Good Friday and culminating with a chocolate egg-laden prizegiving on Easter Sunday. While the regatta offers crews the chance to blow away the winter cobwebs, it is also, uniquely, the RORC’s annual ‘training regatta’.
In particular RRS rule 41 ‘Outside Help’ is relaxed for this event, so, for example, during a race it is permitted to invite a coach on board if a more hands-on approach is required. Equally during a race a trimmer could, for example, hop off their boat on to one of the many coach RIBs to examine the trim from off their boat.
If there are any specific issues a team wants the coaches to look at, they can either ask while out on the water or can submit a request to the RORC in advance.
Each day after racing, there is an extensive standing room only debrief held at the RORC Cowes Clubhouse, where the coaches provide analysis of the day’s racing for the benefit of all.
The RORC is laying on world class coaches for the Easter Challenge, the team led by the legend Jim Saltonstall, MBE, a man who has played a significant role in honing the skills of so many British Olympians from the like of Sir Ben Ainslie down. He is joined by the RORC’s CEO, Eddie Warden Owen, who aside from being an accomplished sailor is a past America’s Cup coach for Team New Zealand and Desafio Espanol.
North Sails will again support the regatta with their North U. Regatta Services, providing on the water coaching, including aerial video analysis. The North Sails team will be also be providing detailed weather forecasts and an overnight sail repair service.

2017 rec jumblesail twJumblesail 2, Rachel & Robert Hunt's J/97 and Jackeroo © Tim Wright/

A regular RORC Easter Challenge competitor is Robert Hunt, who returns with wife Rachel this year aboard a J/97, Jumblesail 2, they acquired last season.
"Sometimes it just refreshes and reminds you of the things you learned last season, which you might have forgotten!" explains Robert Hunt of the Easter Challenge coaching. "Obviously when you have a new boat, it is about learning things specific to that boat. Mainly we’ll be looking at a combination of upwind trim and manoeuvres round marks.
"The video analysis back on shore is excellent as you can see all the embarrassing errors you’ve front of everyone else! The coaching is a good mix of having serious intent to it, without it feeling too serious."

2017 rec lady mariposa pwKer 46, Lady Mariposa - Skipper, Dan Hardy's team will make use of the RORC Easter Challenge coaching sessions © Paul Wyeth/

Another team competing at the RORC Easter Challenge while still learning the ropes will be that of the Ker 46 Lady Mariposa. According to skipper Dan Hardy: "Just after we got the boat in 2015, we went down to Palma to learn how to sail the boat, because our team is very new to a grand prix boat. The previous Lady Mariposa was an Oyster 625 - so this is somewhat of a change!"
This will be the team’s first Easter Challenge and Hardy says they keen to make use of the coaching leading into a busy season including both inshore and offshore races such as the IRC Nationals and Rolex Fastnet Race.
The RORC Easter Challenge and its coaching opportunities are open to all entrants, not just RORC members. Nick Elliott extends the invite: "It is not often that you can get on the water coaching and certainly not at the level of Eddie and Jim and the North Sails team. So if you want to get ahead of your competitors - come and do the Easter Challenge! Why would you not come and benefit from FREE coaching. It is a bit of a no brainer really."

2017 rec invictus pwFAST40+ class will be among the RORC Easter Challenge fleet including, Sir Keith Mills' Ker 40+ Invictus © Paul Wyeth/

Rolex Fastnet Race set to attract another monster fleet

The 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race - Close to 400 boats in the combined IRC and non-IRC fleets will compete in the world's largest offshore race starting on Sunday 6th August © Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The world's largest, most prestigious offshore sailing event will take place this summer in the UK with the 47th running of the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Some offshore yacht races struggle for entries, but the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event is not one of them. When the entry list opened on 9 January, spaces sold out faster than a Rolling Stones farewell concert, the 340 boat limit reached, incredibly, in just 4 minutes and 24 seconds. And this figure excludes the non-IRC fleets which will include a giant international turn out of Class40s and significantly, will be the first occasion the eight VO65s, set to compete in this year's Volvo Ocean Race, will line up in anger.
When the Rolex Fastnet Race set sails from Cowes on Sunday 6th August, close to 400 boats will make up the combined IRC and non-IRC fleets - the largest ever entry in the race's 92 year history and a significant step-up from 356 in the last race.

2017 fastnet lighthouse ka
The famed Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland © Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

So why is the race so successful? "It is within easy access for the largest fleets of offshore-capable yachts anywhere in the world," succinctly explains Nick Elliott, Racing Manager of the RORC.
The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the world's oldest offshore races, but the 605 mile course represents much the same challenge today as it did to competitors 90+ years ago: Typically an upwind westbound slog along the south coast of England, then full exposure to the open Atlantic Ocean on the crossings to the Fastnet Rock (lying four miles off southwest Ireland) and back, before leaving Bishop Rock and the Scilly Isles to port, en route to the finish off Plymouth.
However today, the standard of yachts and their equipment have improved immeasurably, as have the safety and qualification requirements for competing yachts and crews. This, combined with weather forecasting becoming a more exact science are all designed to prevent a repeat of the 1979 race, when a storm of un-forecast severity devastated the fleet and cost 18 people their lives.
The modern day Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is also the most diverse, with yachts of every conceivable type represented. These range from the 100ft long Ultime trimarans, the fastest offshore race boats in the world, to the Volvo Ocean Race one designs, to the IMOCA 60s, used in the Vendée Globe singlehanded non-stop round the world race, while, with thirty four boats entered, the Class40s will be by far the biggest non-IRC class.

2017 maxi nikata cb
Longest yacht in the IRC fleet, the Judel Vrolijk 115 Super Maxi, Nikata © Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Meanwhile some of the world's most prominent grand maxis will be competing in the main IRC fleet. The longest is the Judel Vrolijk 115 Super Maxi, Nikata, while Ludde Ingvall is bringing his radical DSS-equipped 100 footer CQS all the way from Australia and one of the race favourites will certainly be George David's Rambler 88, that just missed out on line honours in 2015.
But making up the bulk of the IRC fleet are the Corinthian entries. Nick Elliott explains: "The Rolex Fastnet Race has that 'challenge appeal' which people are looking for more and more at the moment. It's something people can tick off their 'list'. Also, there are lots and lots of boats available for charter and spaces available for individuals who want to do it. Generally instead of people going racing every weekend, these days they'll cherry pick, they'll choose to only do bigger, more special events."
A lot are crewed by families and friends or yacht club teams, many of whom come back year after year.
For example Tony Harwood is returning for his sixth race and his fourth on board Volante, a 1961 Camper & Nicholson 38 footer, in her day a Morgan Cup winner. In 2009 Volante claimed the Iolaire Block for being the 'oldest yacht to complete the course', while this year she is the lowest rated boat in the race (IRC TCC of 0.855).
So what is the attraction of the Rolex Fastnet Race? "It's like 'why climb Everest?' Because it's there, I suppose," explains Tony Harwood. "We are heavy old crew in a heavy old boat, but we do about 5,000 channel miles a year. I like competitive sailing, even though the starts frighten the life out of me."
It is also a 'father and son' affair, although son Simon races their Prima 38 Talisman. "It's never the same," says the younger Harwood. "It is different every time and you always try to do better than last time. About half of the times I've seen the Fastnet Rock in daylight - two years ago it was thick fog and in 1999 there was the solar eclipse. Also it is a talking point. 'Did you do the Fastnet?' 'How was it?' That all brings me back every couple of years."
When his father last competed aboard Volante in 2009, she finished in just under six days, while Talisman made it round in four days 7 hours and 46 minutes in 2015. A boat that in 2015 was comfortably finishing in Plymouth at roughly the time Talisman was still outbound to the Fastnet Rock and slower Class 4 boats were just passing Land's End, was Tony Lawson's Concise 10. The MOD70 trimaran class completed their race in a mere 2 days 17 hours 35 minutes, although this was slow, way off the multihull race record of 1 day, 8 hours and 48 minutes.
"That was the first big offshore race we did with the boat," recalls skipper Ned Collier Wakefield. "It was pretty light, so we'd like to do a faster race. We should be able to do it in 26 hours if the conditions are right. The Rolex Fastnet Race is a prestigious race, it's one of the big ones for us and it is nice do a 'home race'."
Concise is also planning on entering its Class40.
The 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race sets sail from the Royal Yacht Squadron line to the north of Cowes at 1200 BST on 6th August.

100-strong IRC fleet expected for 2018 European Championship in the Solent

The fleet from day 3 of the 2016 IRC National Championships © Rick Tomlinson

The Commodores’ Cup, a team-based keelboat event, has been running every other year since 1992 and has seen incredible competition amongst amateur-sailed IRC rated offshore keelboats representing various countries and geographical regions. 

One of the main reasons for its success has been the way the racing has incorporated a variety of different courses ranging from short windward-leeward sprints through round the buoys and long day races in the always challenging Solent, along with one serious offshore race sailed around the central Channel. Demand for this successful multi-disciplinary event has stretched beyond the team format and amateur based event only and so for 2018 the event organiser, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, has responded by offering the same event to a wider audience.

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Royal Ocean Racing Club

20 St James's Place
London SW1A 1NN

fon: +44 (0) 20 7493 2248
fax: +44 (0) 20 7493 5252

Royal Ocean Racing Club Cowes

82 High Street
Cowes, Isle of Wight PO31 7AJ

fon: +44 (0) 1983 295 144
fax: +44 (0) 20 7493 5252

RORC Rating Office (Seahorse Rating Ltd)

Seahorse Building, Bath Road
Lymington, Hampshire SO41 3SE

fon: +44 (0) 1590 677030
fax: +44 (0) 1590 679478
Royal Ocean Racing Club
(General Enquiries, Membership, House)

20 St James's Place

 +44 (0) 20 7493 2248
 +44 (0) 20 7493 5252
Royal Ocean Racing Club
(Racing Enquiries)

82 High Street
Isle of Wight
PO31 7AJ

 +44 (0) 1983 295 144
 +44 (0) 20 7493 5252
RORC Cowes Clubhouse

The Parade
Isle of Wight
PO31 7QU

 +44 (0) 1983 293581
 +44 (0) 20 7493 5252
RORC Rating Office
(Seahorse Rating Ltd)

Seahorse Building, Bath Road
Lymington, Hampshire
SO41 3SE

 +44 (0) 1590 677030
 +44 (0) 1590 679478

Royal Ocean Racing Club - since 1925

The RORC was founded in 1925 to encourage long distance yacht racing and the design, building and navigation of sailing vessels in which speed and seaworthiness are combined. Today the club encourages ocean, long distance and other forms of yacht racing and yachting activity.