by Matt Carter
In the Rolex Fastnet Race, five young sailors from the British Keelboat Academy have proved themselves as promising keelboat sailing talents by completing the world famous 608-mile Fastnet challenge which concluded in Plymouth on Friday (16 August).
Andrew McIrvine’s First 40 ’La Réponse’ in action in the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race
The historic 45th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race – the world’s largest offshore race – saw three sailors from the RYA and UKSA joint keelboat racing initiative compete on board First 40 'La Réponse' finishing first First 40, 14th in IRC 2, while a further two sailors mastered the biennial race aboard Ker 40 'Magnum 3', finishing sixth overall, first in IRC 1.
The BKA’s Christopher Robinson, who was sailing on-board Andrew Pearce’s 'Magnum 3' along with BKA teammate Rob Bunce, was pleased with the overall performance and end result in what was his first Rolex Fastnet Race.
'I’m very pleased, and happy that we were rewarded as a team for all the hard work that has been put into the boat during the season,' he said.
'Our tactics and teamwork were exceptional, even when we had fallen behind the pack at the Scilly Isles, no one’s head dropped and we just kept working hard,' continued the Mastman/Grinder and secondary trimmer from Edinburgh.
Robinson was full of praise for Andrew Pearce and his 'Magnum 3’ crewmates, who pulled together to keep the boat racing as fast as possible during some very tame Fastnet weather conditions which didn’t see more than 20 knots of wind across the six days of racing.
'The crew we have on board are very experienced, and I am constantly learning new things by sailing with them. During the race we never saw more than 20 knots of wind, so we were constantly looking to be in a fast mode rather than a high mode. The highlight for me was the last night blast reaching down the Irish sea topping out at 18knots - spray everywhere, torrential rain, pitch black and a huge smile on my face!'
Meanwhile in IRC class 2, Ollie Kemp, George Johnson and Cameron Ho were satisfied with their result on board Andrew McIrvine’s First 40 'La Réponse', with Ho admitting that the experience gained from competing in one of the world's classic offshore races will be invaluable in their future sailing careers.
'Our sailing careers are all built upon all of the unique aspects of every race we sail. The Fastnet is an excellent race to have under the belt, and we look forward to sailing many future Fastnets on a variety of boats and in a variety of conditions to further our career development,' said the Bow and Mid-Bow from London.
'Also, though we each specialise in certain roles, we all spent a good amount of time in almost every position on the boat, which in the long term helps us become well-rounded sailors.'
Ollie Kemp, who was Trim and Helm on board 'La Réponse', cited the high points of the memorable race which welcomed 336 yachts from 20 different countries.
'The entire La Réponse crew was excited for the race as the boat had to retire in 2011 due to a steering failure. We worked our way up the fleet coming out of the Solent and were third in Class 2 and in the top 10 overall within 18 hours. On the run back from the Isles of Scilly to Plymouth we worked especially hard, pumping on every wave. In doing so we made good gains all the way to the finish.'
Johnson, Mast and Main, from Southampton, added: 'The race was generally just a fantastic experience. The most enjoyable part was definitely just the sense of accomplishment that you feel when you round the rock and when you cross the finish line. Also, appreciating the beauty of nature – looking up at the clear night sky and seeing shooting stars every few minutes, having a group of dolphins race up to the boat and play in the bow wake for half an hour at night, their bodies glowing in the phosphorescence was just incredible.'
British Keelboat Academy