Fastnet challenge looms for the British Keelboat Academy

Magnum III, Andrew Pearce’s Ker 40 Fastnet challenge
Five sailors from the British Keelboat Academy, the RYA and UKSA joint keelboat racing initiative, are about to embark on one of the toughest tests of their sailing careers to date as they set sail in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013 this weekend.

The world famous 608-mile offshore race will commence from Cowes, Isle of Wight, on Sunday 11 August and will see two BKA sailors on board the Ker 40 'Magnum 3', while a further three will compete on-board the First 40 'La Réponse' in one of the great ocean racing challenges.

The iconic 88 year old event is considered one of the world's classic offshore races, which tests both the inshore and offshore skills of competitors. The biennial race organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) is the pinnacle event of racing season and is one which the BKA sailors have been working hard towards for the past six months.

Rob Bunce, 19, from Warminster in Wiltshire, who is in his first year of the British Keelboat Academy programme and who will be on-board ‘Magnum 3’ as Grinder, said : 'We have completed every UK RORC race in the 2013 season barring the North Sea and given each race everything to test ourselves and the boat in preparation for next week’s Fastnet race.

'We are entering the race confident that we can do well as we have a very good team, we have done plenty of training for the crew and the boat to make sure our equipment is up to scratch. As far as results go we would like to be the first Ker 40, first in class.'

The biennial race, from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland and back around the Scilly Isles to Plymouth, is now by far the biggest of all the international 600 mile offshore races.

'The Fastnet Race is one of the most challenging races you can compete in. It encompasses a lot of elements, from making tidal gates along the South Coast to crossing the Irish Sea and then coming back into Plymouth past another headland means there is always something to be thinking about with tide and weather,' explained 21-year-old George Johnson from Southampton who will be on mast on-board ‘La Réponse’.

The biggest and best offshore racing boats from around the world will descend on the Solent with a diverse, international fleet challenging the 608-nm course. Brimming with talent throughout the size ranges, one third of the fleet, 119 boats, will be coming from overseas giving the BKA sailors a fantastic race experience.

'It is an honour to compete in the Fastnet race, especially as it is my first year racing offshore,' said BKA squad sailor Cameron Ho from London.

'The Fastnet is going to be very challenging and like no other race I have competed in not only because of the possibility of heavy weather, but also because of the race's rich history and reputation – crews come from all over the world to compete in this prestigious race and have a lot to live up to.'

'The team is exceptionally well prepared, with the crew having hundreds of years of sailing experience between themselves. The team on La Réponse will focus on endurance and sail fast throughout, although that said, safety is a priority - we are confident but never complacent,' said the 18-year-old Bowman.

Ash Holmes, BKA Head Coach, added: 'Both teams have trained hard throughout the season, with each boat achieving some great results. The sailors joined the boats at the start of the season, immediately gelling with the other crew members on-board. Owners Andrew McIrvine (La Réponse’) and Andrew Pearce (Magnum 3) have provided the squads with fantastic opportunities within key positions on board their boats. We will be following their progress closely via the online tracker with great anticipation.

Ker 40 (Magnum 3) BKA crew for the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013:
Rob Bunce (Warminster, Wiltshire)
Chris Robson (Edinburgh)

First 40 (La Réponse’) BKA crew for the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013:
George Johnson (Southampton)
Cameron Ho (London)
Ollie Kemp (Wadhurst)
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