The 46th biennial Rolex Fastnet Race will start this Sunday on the Solent in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. With a record fleet of 370 yachts representing 25 countries on the startline, it will be spectacular to watch. The Royal Ocean Racing Club, which was founded after the first Fastnet 90 years ago, will conduct the start from the clubhouse of the Royal Yacht Squadron, which is celebrating its bicentennial this summer.
Although the 603-mile Fastnet became infamous for violent conditions after the devastating 1979 edition in which 15 sailors and 3 rescuers perished, the forecast for this year’s edition is the polar opposite. "It is looking very light at the start," says RORC Racing Manager Nick Elliot, "but there is a good possibility for a light sea breeze as the afternoon wears on." RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen advises: "In light airs, it is as demanding as it is in strong winds. Going backwards is slow — if you really want to win this race you are going to have to be good at kedging!"
Ken Read, skipper of Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark’s 100-ft Comanche, technically the fastest monohull entry, agreed: "I have never anchored more in my life than in this race! But we all have to play the same game. Whatever the breeze is we just have to adapt."
Other maxis to watch include Mike Slade’s Farr 100 Leopard, sailing in her fifth consecutive Fastnet, and the 80-ft trimaran Prince de Bretagne, which will be chasing the world’s fastest offshore boat, Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard’s 130-ft trimaran Spindrift 2 (aka Banque Populaire V).
In addition to the IMOCA Ocean Masters 60s, 59 boats in the IRC fleet will sail doublehanded. Lowest rated is Lucinda Allaway and Tom Barker’s Contessa 32 Hurrying Angel. This Fastnet could favor slower boats like theirs on handicap. The participation of women is an important factor in the growth of the event. This year’s race will feature at least 10 female skippers and seven more all-female crews.
A battle of classic S&S yawls is shaping up between Matt Brooks’ 52-ft Dorade (winner in 1931 and 1933 in the hands of her designer Olin Stephens), Christopher Spray’s 53-ft Stormy Weather (winner in 1935), and the 57-ft Argyll, owned by Welsh comedian Griff Rhys Jones. Griff Rhys Jones was hoping for stronger wind for his boat to stand a chance in the ‘yawl-off’. "If it blows up we win. If it gets quiet then Dorade wins," he said. For the Bay Area-based Brooks, Fastnet is the last event in a series Dorade has done in the Pacific, Caribbean and Atlantic campaign to repeat the boat’s original successes. "We are pleased," he said, "because just four years ago, anyone we talked to said it was impossible and thought it was crazy."
The starting sequence will begin at noon British Summer Time, which translates to 4 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Armchair sailors on the American West Coast may need to be either fanatics or insomniacs, but all can watch the start live, then track the fleet, at www.rolexfastnetrace.com. The multihulls will start first, followed by the IRC divisions, with the maxi monohulls bringing up the rear at 1:40 p.m. Fans can also play along with the race in the Virtual Regatta.
Click here for a video preview.
Since we last reported on 30-year-old Justin Hoye-House in the April issue of Latitude 38, he’s come a long way — literally — having successfully singlehanded from Mexico to French Polynesia during his first year of offshore sailing.
As regular readers may recall, within weeks of being struck by the fantasy of sailing around the world, Justin bought a vintage 1966 Alberg 30 in Vancouver, BC, for that purpose, despite the fact that he’d sailed fewer than a dozen times in his whole life. A year and a half later he set off for Mexico aboard Antares II with a couple of buddies, a trip that was essentially a trial by fire for the young adventurer. He reported that at one point he was so seasick he couldn’t stand up.
But sailing, of course, is an experiential endeavor: The more you do it, the better you get at it. Reading Justin’s responses to our Pacific Puddle Jump survey (collected for a PPJ Recap article in the September Latitude), it’s obvious that the young skipper has become a confident offshore sailor: "My highest points were those days when the sails were set just right and I sailed Antares fast and hard down the waves, with the windvane doing all the work. I had a very rewarding experience running three sails — main, symmetrical spinnaker, and yankee — on a broad/beam reach and had lines running everywhere, with the windvane steering almost 12 hours. As a new sailor it gave me some great confidence that I knew what I was doing, especially on my own."
Needless to say, the young Oregon native was thrilled and relieved to make landfall at Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva after 26 days alone at sea: "When I first got to land I started shaking from excitement and almost couldn’t walk for a good half hour!"
Additional stats from Antares II:
• miles logged: 3,384
• longitude of equator crossing: 122W
• engine hours for propulsion: 30 hrs
• best 24-hour mileage: 164 nm
• worst 24-hour mileage: 40 nm
• highest wind speed (gusts): 50 kts
• number of fish caught: 5 tuna
Look for our complete PPJ Recap in September’s Latitude. You’ll find recaps and photos of previous years at the PPJ website.
Racing to Hawaii in the Transpac or Pacific Cup is almost always an exhilarating and uplifting experience. But in recent years many racers have been sobered along the way by encounters with large patches of plastic garbage, and in some cases pieces of debris large enough to sink a good-sized sailboat.
Because the massive North Pacific Gyre (or Garbage Patch) lies beyond the territorial waters of any nation, it’s really no government’s job to clean it up. That’s one of the reasons that scientists and sailors have teamed up to support The Ocean Cleanup, an ambitious effort to clean up the North Pacific’s surface pollution using a revolutionary collection device — a prototype of which is now being tested in Japan.
Before the Cleanup can begin, however, researchers need current data on where the greatest concentrations of floating junk lie. That’s why the tracks of two dozen Transpac boats appear to be traveling close to specific latitude lines as they return to the West Coast. As reported earlier, they are participating in an effort called The Mega Expedition, which involves collecting data via specially designed trawl devices, several times each day.
The whole Cleanup idea may seem wildly ambitious and unlikely to succeed, but in an era when the voices of naysayers often overwhelm those of optimists, it’s refreshing to see a group of ordinary people at least attempting to make a positive change to a problem that, to many, seems impossible to solve. So we applaud the participating boat owners and their crews for volunteering to collect this crucial data. No extensive debris mapping of the 1.4-million-square-mile Gyre has ever been done before.
In addition to the mothership, San Francisco-based, 171-ft research vessel Ocean Starr, participating boats are:
• Patches / TP52 / Eduardo Porter Ludwig
• Between The Sheets / Jeanneau Sun Fast 52 / Ross Pearlman
• Varuna / Rogers 46 / Chris Hemans
• Lucky Duck / Santa Cruz 52 / Dave MacEwen
• Boomerang / Bashford 41 / John Spataro
• Adrenalin / Santa Cruz 50 / Andy Bates
• Lucia e Luca / Jeanneau 53 / Richard Rogg
• Westward / Lapworth 50 / Sam Bell
• Pipe Dream / Davidson 50 / John Davis
• Wizard / Reichel Pugh 74 / David & Peter Askew
• Magnolia / 65 ft Schooner / Heather Elrix
• Dos Palabras / Formosa 41 / Paul Bischoff
• Stay Gold / Rawson 30 / Jason Frechette
• ExtremeH20 / Gunboat 66 / Pat Benz
• Carinthia / Lagoon 440 / Dietmar Petutschnig
• Laysan / 462 Sedan / John Douglas
• Sleeper / Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 / Ron Simonson
• Second Wind / Swan 651 / Dean Fargo
• Hokahey / Santa Cruz 52 / George Bailey
• Relentless / Santa Cruz 52 / Bill Durant
• Destroyer / TP52 / Eduardo Saenz Hirschfeld
• Timeshaver / J/125 / Viggo Torbensen
• Swiftsure / Nelson/Marek 68 / SailingSwiftsure
• Chim Chim / Gunboat 62 / John Gallagher
• Manu Iwa / CSK Catamaran / Dave Cunningham