by Sue Pelling
In one year’s time, when two of the world’s iconic sailing events like Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and the Rolex Fastnet Race follow on from one another, it is not surprising to see many competitors grab the opportunity to participate in both events.
Dunkerque Plaisance Team
Although the events are not directly connected, and are run totally independently, there is a natural historic bond between the two. The events feed off each other with many of those competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race, using Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week as a good warm up, while those participating in Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week often see the Fastnet as an opportunity to extend their sailing holiday.
Entries to Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week during ‘odd’ years when the Fastnet takes place generally sees an increase in entries, particularly international entries. This year is no exception because to date almost 20 per cent are from overseas, as far afield as Australia and the USA.
There are many high profile professional teams signed up including Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Mens Business 3.5 (Australia) and Peter Vroon with Tonnerre De Breskens 3 (Netherlands). However, one of the most interesting overseas pro entries is the 100ft yacht Esimit Europa 2. This sailing team, which sails under the flag of the European Union, and competes for the Slovenian Sailing Federation and Yacht Club de Monaco, has Jochen Schümann (German triple Olympic gold medallist, and double America’s Cup sailor aboard Alinghi) on board as skipper, with Alberto Bolzan at the helm. After achieving 19 fastest times at all the races they’ve attended so far since 2010 and setting five new course records including line honours and course record in 2012 at the Giraglia Rolex Cup, this team looks set to challenge for the big prizes at both Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and the Fastnet Race this year.
Commenting on the forthcoming events on The Solent, Igor Sim?i?, owner of Esimit Europa 2 said: 'We are eager to repeat our success outside the Mediterranean for the first time. Three inshore races at Cowes Week will serve as a great introduction to one of the season’s highlights, Rolex Fastnet Race, where we’ll try to take line honours among the monohulls.'
As well as the numerous professional teams taking part in both events, there is also a healthy number of club sailors keen to pit their wits against the cream of the big boat racers.
Philippe Bourgeois, sailing with his French team on his A35 Dunkerque Plaisance-Gill race team who won their class at Cowes Week in 2010 and took part in the 2003 Fastnet Race, says Cowes Week and the Fastnet Race hold many happy memories. 'They are two magic events during two holiday weeks. We have no professional sailors on board, just friends with competitive spirits who enjoy the exciting challenge of both events. One of the best experiences at Cowes Week is having the pleasure of passing the legendary Royal Yacht Squadron line each day with so many good competitors. The Solent is so magic for racing, and the organisation of the event is amazing.'
For some, racing Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and the Rolex Fastnet Race are lifelong ambitions. Tillmann Frank from Germany who owns an 1982-built Albin Stratus – Sagitta – says when he was a boy during the 60s and 70s a yacht from his sailing club (Flensburger Segel-Club) often raced on the Solent, and participated in the Fastnet Race. He said he was fascinated by the challenge: 'My dream was to sail my own boat to the Fastnet Rock one day, so last winter I decided the time had come. Because we were travelling such a long way across the Baltic Sea and back, we decided to participate in Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week too, so we are really looking forward to our extended holiday in the UK.'
Cowes Week website