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Fastnet Race, new Hugo Boss, 470 Worlds and the Pan America Games

by David Schmidt 6 Aug 08:00 PDT August 6, 2019
A massive fleet started the 48th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race © Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

It's fair to say that the eyes of the international sailing world have been riveted to the waters off of Cowes, UK, for the past few days as the 48th edition of the Fastnet Race, the 608 nautical mile offshore contest that's organized by the Royal Offshore Racing Club, in association with the Royal Western Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron, unfurled in fast conditions that saw an impressive new racecourse record set. The 2019 edition was marked by a record-setting fleet of 388 entries, which ran the gamut from fully professional and sponsored teams to Corinthian programs sailed by family and friends, and included everything from tidy monohulls to globe-trotting maxis and behemoth multi-hulls.

While there was plenty of sailing hardware on hand to keep spectators happy, there's little question that most spectators, both in person and online, spent a sizeable percentage of their bandwidth "gawking-off" at the massive "Ultim" trimarans that dominated the show, both in terms of their LOA and beam, but also of course their mind-numbing speeds.

All told, four of these massive sea creatures sailed the course in their fully crewed configurations, with Volvo Ocean Race winning skippers Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, sailing aboard Maxi Edmond De Rothschild nipping line honors off of round-the-world-record-holding skipper Francois Gabart, sailing with his team (which included America's Cup winning skipper Jimmy Spithill) aboard MACIF, by just 59 seconds. All told, Maxi Edmond De Rothschild sailed the course in 1 day 4 hours 2 minutes and 26 seconds, which represents an improvement of 4 hours 45 minutes and 34 seconds over the race's previous multihull record, which was set by skipper Loïck Peyron and his crew aboard Banque Populaire V in 2011.

"I've never experienced a finish like that before... It was incredible!" said Cammas, in an official team press release, upon finishing. We really had to work hard for this one."

Meanwhile, amongst the monohulls, skipper George David and his globetrotting and all-conquering crew aboard the American-flagged maxi Rambler 88 took line honors and also established a new race record for the fastest time from the starting line to Fastnet Rock, beating their previous benchmark reference, which they established in 2011 aboard Rambler 100, by 88 minutes. (N.B., The team's 2011 record doesn't officially count, as they dropped their keel and capsized shortly thereafter, thus not completing the course; fortunately, no one was harmed in this potentially life-threatening accident.)

"We're delighted to have that outcome," said David after finishing his successful race. "It was a contest this year because we had the big hundred-footer Scallywag and they had some, should we say, strong statements ahead of the race about how good they were! And so we were especially motivated to get here 10 or 12 miles ahead of them, which we did. And we were in heavy competition right from the start."

Be sure to stay current with the website as more Fastnet news breaks, and as corrected-time victories are determined.

Meanwhile, also in offshore sailing news, Vendee Globe skipper Alex Thomson wetted his latest Hugo Boss IMOCA Open 60 over the weekend, ahead of the boat's official launch and christening in September. The boat was designed in partnership between the designers at Alex Thomson Racing and VPLP, and features massively streamlined bow sections, hard chine lines, state-of-the-art hydrofoils, and a stern section unlike anything previously seen in the IMOCA world.

"What makes us one of the most exciting teams in this sport is that we display the courage to lead," said Thomson, in an official release, as Hugo Boss's hull first experienced saltwater. "We innovate, we push boundaries and we're not afraid to do things differently. We accept that, in doing so, we might not always be right. But we are certainly not afraid to explore things that have never been done before."

As with all radical new designs, time will tell if the designers at Alex Thomson Racing and VPLP got it right with their radical new design, however no one can ever accuse this team of being static or conservative in their approach to high-performance sailing. And, given Thomson's downright impressive showing in the 2016-2017 Vendee Globe, during which he girdled the bulk of the planet on a single foil while giving the frontrunner (and eventual winner) a strong fight, there are precious few takers lining up to tell Thomson that a boat is too radical.

The Hugo Boss team will spend the next month-plus commissioning and testing the glossy black weapon before her scheduled official launching and christening ceremony takes place in mid-September. Then, Thomson will sail her in October's doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre race before matriculating to singlehanded mode for the 2020 season.

And finally, this week also marks two important Olympic class regattas, namely the 2019 Pan American Games Regatta (August 3-9), which is taking place on the waters off of Lima, Peru, and the 2019 470 World Championships, which is taking place on the waters off Enoshima, Japan. Both of these high-level regattas are giving aspiring Olympic sailors a chance to speed check themselves ahead of their rivals, and an opportunity to qualify for next summer's Olympics.

"This is part of the qualifier for the Olympics in 2020, so it is a qualifier but a big part of it is to continue to learn," said Emma Cowes (USA), who, along with her twin sister Carman, is competing against older, more experienced sailors at the in the Women's 470 class at the 470 Worlds. "Walking around the boat park and being around all these World Champions and Olympians is very inspiring and there is a lot we can learn from them, especially watching them on the water. It is basically like having a video session just sitting next to you on the downwind!"

Sail-World wishes all teams competing in the Fastnet Race, the Pan American Games Regatta, and the 470 World Championships the best of luck, boatspeed, and tactical opportunities to make great things happen.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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