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Rolex Fastnet Race: Confirmation for some, assertion for others

by Perrine Vangilve (translated from French) 19 Jul 2023 03:38 PDT 22 July 2023
Charlie Dalin's IMOCA MACIF Santé Prévoyance © Maxime Horlaville / disobey. / Macif

This Saturday 22 July at 12:00 UTC, the 50th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race will cast off from Cowes in the UK. No fewer than 500 boats, 29 of them IMOCAs, will set sail on the 695-mile sprint for Cherbourg-en-Corentin, via the legendary Fastnet lighthouse off southern Ireland.

Shaping up to be very technical, the course is bound to involve a steep learning curve for the sailors, whatever their experience. Indeed, some will have already racked up one or several legs of The Ocean Race this season, or participated in the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race in May, whilst others will be racing on machines 'fresh out of the box' or just out of refit after some significant modifications over recent months.

The third race of the 2023 IMOCA GLOBE SERIES schedule, the Rolex Fastnet Race will set off this weekend from the Isle of Wight and it promises to be colourful with no fewer than 29 duos signed up for the event. Over the decades, the race has become legendary and the 50th edition is already set to serve up a spectacular battle royal out on the water. "Since its creation in 1925, the race has built up an extraordinary history. I'm delighted that this year will mark my fourth participation in the event, though it's quite soon after the launch of the new boat," says Charlie Dalin, skipper of the 60-footer MACIF Santé Prévoyance, which only came out of CDK Technologies' sheds on 23 June.

"To be at the start of a competition just four weeks after the end of construction is quite some feat. The team has done and continues to do a fantastic job to make that possible. The four or five sea trials we've done so far have been very encouraging, but naturally we're yet to fulfil the boat's true potential," announces the sailor, who is pleased with the initial sensations of sailing his new steed, as well as how she handles and how well she slips along. "We're holding the reins of a very good machine, but there's still a lot of work to do and there's plenty to discover in terms of the optimum trim. As such, the race will enable us to fast-track our apprenticeship," admits the skipper, reigning champion in the IMOCA category, who will be teamed up with Pascal Bidégorry this year.

IMOCA's latest additions and older 'remodelled' versions eye glory

Though the performance of the latter duo will undoubtedly be under intense scrutiny, they're certainly not alone. In actual fact, there are a slew of new additions to the class like Paprec Arkéa - Yoann Richomme and Yann Eliès, For People - Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière (recent winners of the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race), Charal 2 - Jérémie Beyou and Franck Cammas (winner of the last two editions of the event in the Ultim category and event record holder), Maître CoQ V - Yannick Bestaven and Julien Pulvé, Initiatives-Cœur 4 - Sam Davies and Nicolas Lunven, as well as V and B - Monbana - Mayenne - Maxime Sorel (who recently summited Everest) and Christopher Pratt.

There will also be a number of eagerly awaited revamped versions, including Bureau Vallée - Louis Burton and Davy Beaudart, DMG Mori Global One - Kojiro Shiraishi and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, Prysmian Group - Giancarlo Pedote, as well as Medallia sailed by British hopes Pip Hare and Nick Bubb. Some feature new bows, some new foils, whilst others have gone all out with both options. Indeed, the latter duo will be targeting the 2020 generation boats after making some major updates over recent months.

"We're really excited coming into this year's Rolex Fastnet Race. It'll be the first major test for the boat with her new set-up, which involves a fuller, rounder bow and foils which have been extended from 3.4 to 5.4 metres. It's a giant leap forward in terms of performance, but we also need to adapt to these changes with regards trimming and handling and then refine the new polars," explains the Briton Pip Hare, who's keen to make her return to the fray.

Entering the fray again - a primary focus for the vast majority

It's the same scenario for Denis Van Weynbergh and Erwann Le Mené aboard D'Ieteren Group, Romain Attanasio and Grégory Gendron on Fortinet - Best Western, Sébastien Marsset and Sophie Faguet on Foussier - Mon Courtier Energie, James Harayda and Stéphane Le Diraison on Gentoo, Manu Cousin and Clément Giraud on Groupe Setin, Szabolcs Weöres on New Europe, Olivier Heer on Olivier Heer Ocean Racing, Isabelle Joschke and Pierre Brasseur on MACSF, Clarisse Crémer and Alan Roberts on L'Occitane en Provence, as well as Tanguy Le Turquais on Lazare.

"This Rolex Fastnet Race will be the first clash of the season for us. The main objective of the season remains the Transat Jacques Vabre - Normandie Le Havre. Félix (de Navacelle) and I already have a fair few miles to our credit after a major public relation programme in the Mediterranean in particular, but we're eager to switch back into 'race' mode, stresses Le Turquais, who's eager not to put too much pressure on his shoulders for this first largely 'coastal' round.

"We're setting sail without any real objective for a result. Our primary aim is to get more experience, not to make too many mistakes, to continue to raise our game and to slowly but surely get up to speed. If all goes well, we'll have done a good job," explains the sailor from Brittany's Morbihan department, who's already very familiar with the course having sailed it a number of times in Figaro Bénéteau. However, he makes no secret of the fact that he has a few concerns, particularly regarding the exit from the Solent. Convinced that this section of the course will be crucial for the rest of the race, he's all too aware that there will be plenty of other pitfalls along the way, including the much dreaded passage around Le Raz Blanchard. The epilogue? From Monday evening through into Tuesday morning at Cherbourg-en-Cotentin!

Race Program:

  • Thursday, July 20 - 6pm (French time): Crew presentation (Cherbourg-En-Cotentin)
  • Friday, July 21: IMOCA boats set sail for Cowes (Great Britain)
  • Saturday, July 22 - 2pm (French time): Start of the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race
  • Monday July 24 (evening) - Tuesday July 25 (morning): ETA for the first IMOCA boats
  • Tuesday, July 25 - 6pm: Prize-giving ceremony (Cherbourg-En-Cotentin)

The Course

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