image of Fastnet lighthouse
Fastnet lighthouse

By William Mills

Rolex Fastnet Race

Sunday 16th August sees the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 from the Royal Yacht Squadron’s headquarters at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Royal Yacht Squadron

Around 350 yachts will head westwards leaving the Solent as they pass the Needles and out into the English Channel sailing past Britain’s most southerly point, the Lizard in Cornwall, before reaching the Fastnet Rock off Ireland and then back to Plymouth.

Competing in the biannual 608 nautical mile Fastnet is a pinnacle for many yachtsmen.This event is at the forefront of yacht racing and many new advances in design and equipment will be tested out in the coming days.

Royal Ocean Racing Club

Organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, now in its 90th year, the Fastnet has been sponsored Swiss watchmakers Rolex since 2001.

Fastnet Rock

Situated some four miles off the southern most tip of Ireland’s Cape Clear island is the Fastnet rock, some 98 ft tall from its low water mark which all the yachts must round before heading back past the the Scilly Isles and to the finish line at Plymouth. 

The winner will be presented with the Fastnet Challenge Cup at the prize giving next Friday 21 August.

The Fastnet yacht race attracts a wide variety of yachts.

Amongst the largest is Swiss billionairess Dona Bertarelli’s 135 ft trimaran Spindrift II and the smallest make up the 71 entrants in class 4 which include Contessa 32  Hurrying Angel skippered by Lucinda Allaway, and Tyke, Brian Thomas’ X332 from Sussex Yacht Yacht.

Sussex Yacht Club

The most modern yachts include the 100 ft sloop Comanche skippered by Kenny Read, sailing alongside TV’s star Griff Rhys-Jones sailing his 1948 Bermudian Yawl, Argyll, 57 ft long and designed by Olin Stephens.

Griff Rhys-Jones

Argyll 1948 Bermudian Yawl
Argyll 1948 Bermudian Yawl

 

The weather forecast for this year is for light winds until picking up on Tuesday night. RORC chief executive Eddie Warden Owen said there was ‘ a fear of lack of wind and supplies running low.’

Fastnet 1979

Past Fastnet races have hit the headlines. In 1979 the forecasters missed a catastrophic storm which came out of nowhere and devastated the fleet leaving eighteen dead with five yachts sunk and 75  reporting that they turned turtle.

Simon Le Bon, Duran Duran, Drum

In 1985 the Ron Holland designed maxi yacht Drum capsized after losing its keel trapping pop star Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran, inside before being rescued by the Royal Navy.

The Fastnet rock, looking so tranquil is our picture, had its current lighthouse built in 1904 replacing an earlier one. At 159 ft above the  high water mark it is Ireland’s highest.

In 1985 a rogue wave was measured at nearly 160 ft. Many early lighthouses were washed away during storms carrying the poor souls inside to their doom. These days they are mostly automated with the Fastnet being controlled from the shore since 1989.

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