Race history and route
Long and distinguished history
The Fastnet is one of the most prestigious ocean races in the world, and has been organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club since 1925. Since 1933, it has been held in odd years in August to coincide with the end of Cowes week, which has been around a little bit longer - since 1826 in fact! The minimum length of boats competing in the Fastnet is 9.10m (21 feet), and they can reach maximum lengths of 25m (70 feet).
The Rothschild family and Gitana's association with the race goes back a long way too. The monohulls of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the father of Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, held the Fastnet record for many years.
608 miles in weather that can be decidedly challenging
The Rolex Fastnet Race sets off from Cowes, on the Isle of Wight off the south of England. The flotilla will set off at 20 minute intervals, with the multihulls taking up the rear prior to passing the start line at 11.50 (British time). The boats race down the Solent, the narrow stretch of sea between the Isle of Wight and the Hampshire coast where the currents can reach speeds of over 5 knots in places. Then the competitors tack around the famous Fastnet rock before crossing Lizard Point and arriving in Plymouth.
The race is renowned for its particularly tricky weather conditions. The west winds that tend to prevail at this time of year can get up fast and the low pressure fronts moving in from the North Atlantic and across the British Isles can make for fast-changing conditions. The skipper who knows where the weather is coming from, and how to make the best use of it often ends up winning the Fastnet.
As Gitana 11 skipper Lionel Lemonchois explains with three days to go before the start: “It's not really the route in itself, more the meteorological conditions that can be tricky. It looks like we'll be heading off in 10/15 knots of west-north-west winds that will become freshening south-westerlies as we head down towards Pymouth after the Fastnet. That should make for a speedy finish which should suit Gitana 11, so that's good. There will be 300 boats on the start line, and that's a lot, but whatever the number of competitors, we always set out with one objective in mind – to win!”
The Gitana 11 team:
Benjamin de Rothschild