The historic 50th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race sets sail with the first start at 1300 BST this Saturday (22 July) from Cowes, Isle of Wight bound for Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France via the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland.

With more than 450 entries, this special anniversary race will have a record-sized fleet, up from the previous record of 388 set in pre-COVID 2019. The Rolex Fastnet Race is by far the world’s largest offshore yacht race in terms of participants.

The line-up ranges in size from the world’s fastest offshore race boats, the French 32m long flying Ultim trimarans, likely to cover the 695 mile course in a little over a day, down to 30ft cruiser-racers and classics, such as the Australian 9m long 1932 classic Maluka, which could take six days.

Held in 1925, the first Fastnet Race (known at the time as the ‘Ocean Race’) helped established the sport of offshore racing in the UK and Europe. It was held annually until 1931 and biennially since, excluding the years over WW2. In 1957 the Fastnet Race became part of a bigger event, the Admiral’s Cup, one of grand prix sailing’s pinnacle events during the 1970s-90s. The race was marred in 1979 when an unforecast storm battered the fleet, resulting in the loss of 21 lives, including 15 competitors. Since 1925, the race has spawned numerous other 600 mile offshore events internationally such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart and Rolex Middle Sea Races.

A record sized fleet will set off from Cowes on Saturday 22nd July © Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi


Friday 21st July

The following events will be broadcast live on the RORC YouTube channel and streamed live into the Cherbourg Race Village:
1100 BST Press Conference from the RORC Cowes Clubhouse (with Pip Hare, Géry Trentesaux, Brad Butterworth, Andrew Cape, Ellie Driver, Shirley Gervolino, Paddy Broughton and Ben Ibbotson)

1200 BST
Skippers briefing from the Cowes Clubhouse

Saturday 22nd July

The start takes place from off the Royal Yacht Squadron line off West Cowes on Saturday 22 July with the starts for the classes separated by 20 minute intervals:
1300 Multihulls; 1320 IMOCA; 1340 Class40; 1400 IRC 4; 1420 IRC 3; 1440 IRC 2; 1500 IRC 1; 1520 IRC S/SZ

The live broadcast of the start will begin at 1230 hosted by sports journalist and broadcaster Holly Hamilton, with commentators including Mike Golding OBE (crewed and solo round the world race skipper and record breaker), Annie Lush (Olympic and Volvo Ocean Race sailor), Pete Cumming (multiple sailing world record holder and TV race pundit), Louay Habib (RORC Race Reporter, race pundit), Christian Dumard (leading French meteorologist), plus former round the world race skipper and Rolex Fastnet Race winner Lisa McDonald, and ex-RORC Commodore Michael Boyd.


After the start

All the yachts are fitted with yb trackers enabling the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race to be followed in near real time from (available online or via the yb app).

The tracker permits the full fleet, separate classes or individual yachts to be followed. The tracker display also features a pop-up leaderboard for each class and for the IRC classes calculates a real time ranking based on each boat’s rating. Additional features include four different map types, the ability to overlay the latest weather and to scroll back through the race.

A brand new feature of the tracking introduced for this Rolex Fastnet Race are perimeter rings around key marks of the course – the Fastnet Rock, Bishop Rock and the Cherbourg finish. This will enable both more accurate and more frequent rankings to be drawn up for each class as the race progresses. Information from these rings, permits sector time analysis which will be displayed on the RORC’s new upgraded results page for the race – SailraceHQ.

Here there is more accurate information, showing for example both elapsed and corrected times plus also the data for each sector. This will show when boats yet to finish need to reach Cherbourg if they are to win their class, but new this time is displaying this information for each sector. SailraceHQ will also show details of how the fastest boats stand in terms of race records.