ROLEX FASTNET RACE: FIRST ROCK ROUNDING
Rounding the Fastnet Rock on the southern tip of Ireland at 15:49 BST, Tony Lawson’s Concise 10 leads the fleet in the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race. The MOD70 became the first yacht to round the race’s emblematic landmark and is making rapid progress some 115-nm ahead of the next boat on the water, George David’s Rambler 88. With 242-nm still to negotiate, Concise 10 was forecasting arrival in Plymouth on Tuesday morning and some way outside the current multihull line honours record of 32 hours, 48 minutes.
After a wet and windy first night, the leading monohulls, chiefly Rambler 88, Nikata, CQS plus a group of Volvo 65s and IMOCA 60s, are equally unlikely to set new records with the frontrunners currently negotiating the open water passage across the Celtic Sea from Land’s End to the Fastnet Rock. The majority of the record fleet are grouped between Start and Lizard Point. The forecast of light conditions around the Scilly Isles later today could spell a frustrating second night at sea. The 265-nm gap between the fastest and slowest yachts, provides an indication of scale of the task organisers the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) face in managing the international fleet.
ORGANISING THE WORLD’S BIGGEST OFFSHORE RACE
“The Rolex Fastnet Race is an amazing challenge on so many fronts – it’s an intellectual, emotional, physical and financial challenge and above all an organisational challenge that rewards good teamwork and preparation,” revealed RORC Commodore Michael Boyd shortly before this year’s 47th edition.
The Commodore is right to highlight the complexity of organising a race like the Rolex Fastnet, which this year welcomes 368 yachts from 29 countries and some 2,700 sailors, and is a task of considerable proportions. The RORC, founded immediately after the first race in 1925, and enjoying a global reputation for its outstanding racing programme and leadership in the discipline of offshore racing, is well placed to manage the world’s largest and most diverse race of its kind. A core feature of Rolex’s yachting portfolio is its support of the world’s most famous and challenging 600-nm offshore races and deep-rooted ties with influential yacht clubs across the globe. Its partnership, since 2001, with the Rolex Fastnet Race and the RORC is an embodiment of both.
“As the name of the club suggests we have been focused on offshore racing ever since the club was founded,” explains RORC Chief Executive Officer Eddie Warden Owen. “Races between the UK and France form the backbone of our domestic programme. Then, every two years, the Rolex Fastnet pushes us to another level. It is because of this extensive programme that the RORC has gained its experience and is continually developing its race management systems to cope with the demands of modern yacht racing.”
Back in January, the online entry list for this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race filled in an incredible 4 minutes, 24 seconds. It is at this point that the challenge intensifies for Nick Elliott and the team in the RORC Racing Office. “One of our main priorities is getting across to all of the skippers the importance of everything we put in place to keep crews safe,” explains Elliott. “In doing these offshore races, yachting people are independent and self-sufficient by nature so we need to work with them to make sure all the processes and paperwork are completed.”
The race’s popularity in itself brings its challenges. “In the initial phase people may be disappointed not to make the entry list,” explains Elliott, advising patience and perseverance. “We try to encourage crews to carry on with their plans as, when the race approaches, things can happen. If you are standing by and ready to go throughout the year, you’re likely to get a place. In 2007, Ger O’Rourke and Chieftain got their place one week before the event when a boat dropped out. They went on to win the Rolex Fastnet Race!”
One of the first steps the RORC puts in place to aid crew preparation is the publication of the Notice of Race, a document which provides competitors with key information pertinent to safety, regulations and communication. As part of their qualification process for the Rolex Fastnet, crews are required to complete 300 nautical miles of offshore racing. Fundamental experience which can be acquired through competing in the RORC’s weekend races or, for many overseas entrants, by competing in 600-nm offshore classics like the Rolex Middle Sea Race or Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Durng the race itself, the RORC is able to follow the fleet through the tracking system placed on each boat. This innovation provides organisers pinpoint accuracy regarding yacht positioning, an indispensable tool to help locate yachts in distress and to provide data to calculate virtual race standings. “When we first did it, we bought and helped develop 300 trackers suitable for this type of race. Technology has moved on hugely since then, and we continue to help the development. The reliability now is fantastic and the information from the boats has improved greatly,” closes Elliott.
Preparation, professionalism, innovation and attention to detail are all qualities which define the RORC’s organisation of the Rolex Fastnet Race and make Rolex a natural partner.
To follow the Rolex Fastnet Race please visit www.rolexfastnetrace.com