Ahead of the start of this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, hosted by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, a press conference was held in Cowes.

A selection of crews were interviewed by Matt Sheahan of the Rolex Fastnet Race broadcast. One of the biggest boats in the race is the Rambler 88 and her American owner George David has said he looks forward to the race and hopes to win a third title, but weather conditions will play a big part. This year there will be opposition from Dmitry Rybolovlev’s ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, which is much larger than the Rambler 88.

Round-the-world sailor Dee Caffari, this time competing in the two-man class with James Harayda aboard Gentoo, said she was also looking forward to the race but believed she would stay behind the boat and let James do all the work. !

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A weather forecast of strong winds and heavy showers at the start of the race followed by lighter winds towards the end of the week, when most of the smaller boats will still be racing, was received with mixed reception.

At the start of the race, conditions were very windy. The first of 7 departures started at 1100 BST. During the last 3 days before the start, strong southwest winds blew over the English Channel and the competitors suffered these same gusts of wind in the 1930s at the start of the race. When the tide cut the needles and the boats entered the western Solent, a sea state of wind against the tide developed.

International travel restrictions due to COVID made this year’s race unique with French boats leaving from France and having, in most cases, just a short break before the start of the race. This along with the weather forecast caused entries to plummet, but crossing the line off Cowes saw 337 boats from 24 nations.

Despite gusts of wind at 35 knots, the departures went well. In multihulls, it was the favorites and reigning champions, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier on the Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild trimaran who escaped. They were followed by Sodebo Ultim 3 by Thomas Coville and L’Actuel by Yves le Blevec.

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The 2 MOD70s Maserati and Argo, with local sailor Brian Thompson on board, followed in the lead of the MOCRA fleet. The maxis in IRC Zero, led by Dmitry Rybolovlev’s ClubSwan 125 Skorpios and George David’s Rambler 88, cut through the Solent and in the sea state off Hurst, those who watched said it was a sight to see.

Despite their great disparity in length, the Rambler 88, winner of the honors of the monohull line during the last 2 editions, has done well to keep up.

The crews of some of these larger boats decided, instead of the usual load to Land’s End via the south coast, to cross the Channel and sail to France or the Channel Islands.

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Incredibly only 3 hours after leaving Cowes, these boats had already crossed the English Channel and were tacking west of Cap de la Hague, exceptionally preparing to pass south of TSS des Casquets.

On Monday noon, the fastest of the fleet had rounded the Fastnet Rock off the coast of Ireland and were heading towards the finish in Cherbourg. However, the bulk of the fleet was between South Devon and Land’s End and their race will continue over the next few days.

Some 8 hours later, after leading most if not all of the race, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier on the Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild trimaran crossed the line off Cherbourg and took Line Honors- Multihulls ending the race at 20.24 BST on Monday August 9.

As this is the first time the race has taken this route, it is a new course record – 1 day 9 hours 15 minutes and 54 seconds. As Edmond de Rothschild crossed the line, the small boats were off The Lizard in Cornwall with over 500 nautical miles to go to the finish. The overall winner of the race is designated on the basis of handicap.

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