Everything you need to know about the Rolex Fastnet 2019

Credit: Marc Alperovitch

This August, the historic Rolex Fastnet race will once again finish in Plymouth. Starting in Cowes on 3 August, sailors travel 605 challenging nautical miles, rounding the Fastnet Rock off the south west coast of Ireland, before returning to Britain’s Ocean City via the Isles of Scilly.

The race has finished in Plymouth since it first began in 1925. This year, the race village at Plymouth Yacht Haven will be open to the public with a range of free activities, from live music to stand up paddleboarding.

Councillor Peter Smith, Deputy Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome back the Rolex Fastnet Race to its home in Plymouth. We’ve lined up a fantastic programme of entertainment that the whole family can enjoy, which means that everyone can come and celebrate with the sailors who have taken on this incredible challenge.”

Visit the race village
The race village is open for three days, from Tuesday 6 to Thursday 8 August, with a brilliant range of family friendly entertainment, live music and food stalls.

There’s lots for children to enjoy with face painting and free circus skills workshops run by the team at Higher Beings. Test your balance on the tightrope, try out the aerial hoop or learn to juggle.

Families can get out on the water with free stand-up paddleboarding sessions run by the Mount Batten Watersports team. Learn a new skill and then paddle around an inflatable re-creation of the Fastnet Rock. There’s no experience needed, so complete beginners are welcome but the minimum age is 11 years (all equipment is provided but participants will need to bring a swimming costume, trainers with a sensible sole that can get wet and a towel).  

A stage will host a range of musical styles each day, from folk and blues to rock ‘n’ roll and soul, with performances from local musicians including Joanna Cooke and Jessica and The Rabbits.

Visitors are also encouraged to walk the docks, see the boats and chat to the competitors about their race experience. 

Plymouth sailors taking part
This year, there are a number of sailors from Plymouth taking part. Keep an eye out for the following boats which have Plymothians as crew: The Edge, Phosphorus II, Apollo, Ju Kyu, Hissy Fit and Challenger.

Sailor Chris Briggs will be competing in The Edge, for the second time – he competed in 2015 and won the MOCRA Munster Trophy for first multihull under 50’ on elapsed time. However, the trophy has now been changed to reward corrected time rather than elapsed, providing Chris with the focus of his ambition this year: “I would like to try to win back the MOCRA Munster Trophy!”

Huge range of competitors
The entrants into this year’s race range from 13-year-old schoolchildren to Army personnel.

  • Military crews: HMSTC Dasher will be crewed by serving regular Army personnel from across the country. Led by Lt Col Pealin, the crew are mostly novices who were introduced to yacht racing by the Army and are new to the iconic Fastnet race.
  • School children: One of the biggest success stories from the 2017 Fastnet Race was the boys from inner city London school, the Greig City Academy, who took part. The 2017 crew went on to receive the Musto Media Prize and the RYA Award for Endeavour, with Montel Fagan-Jordan winning Young Sailor of the Year. This year the crew, who are from some of the most disadvantaged areas of London, are taking on an even bigger role. Programme coordinator Jon Holt said: “We want to continue to offer challenging life enhancing experiences. Our students see this as an opportunity to demonstrate commitment and resilience. We operate on a shoestring budget so the biggest challenge is the fund-raising.”
  • Charity team: Ausome is a charity which promotes the personal and social growth of individuals of all ages who have autism. This year they are competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race with a boat almost entirely crewed by autistic crew. Leading the team as skipper will be the charity’s founder and trustee, Lottie Harland. Lottie presents on the autistic spectrum, like the crew of the entry, and it is her experiences which motivated her to found the charity. “Now 22 years old, I had a difficult childhood but started sailing at nine years of age and this built my confidence and the self-esteem that was knocked out of me by the constant bullying in school,” says Lottie. This will be Lottie’s first Fastnet Race: “It is seen as one of the great races in the world and so given the aims of our charity it fits with our mission of showing the world what autistic people can achieve when many in the world simply write them off.”

Watch the start
There’s no need to miss out on the start of the race in Cowes, as it’s being streamed online on the Rolex Fastnet and Visit Plymouth website and social media channels. You’ll also be able to watch the race live on the Fastnet big screen at West Pier on the Barbican, with footage starting on Saturday. 

Tune into Fastnet Radio
From 3 to 11 August, Fastnet Radio will be broadcast in Plymouth on 87.9FM. Listeners can enjoy interviews with participating sailors and enjoy live race updates. Follow the boats and watch their progress with the live tracker on the Rolex Fastnet website.

Find out more about the Rolex Fastnet at visitplymouth.co.uk or www.rolexfastnetrace.com.