(Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- The RORC's Rolex Fastnet Race is certainly not for the faint of heart. A legendary offshore classic, it's a race that has challenged the world's best offshore sailors for decades. For many, memorialized in the infamous 1979 event and seared into one's consciousness-- yes, it can be one of the world's most capricious races literally within sight of land. Ask any member of George David's RAMBLER 100 team in the 2011 edition shortly after they passed Fastnet Rock how quickly conditions and one's life can change for the worst in a split-second.
The 2013 edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race promises a challenge again to navigators and crews. Remarkably, this will be the first time that "J" is the dominant brand with 44 boats sailing or nearly 13% of the fleet in IRC Class of 340 boats. Comparably speaking, the big billion dollar French company Beneteau (supported/ subsidized by the French Government) only has 42 First's sailing in the fleet; the famous mega-yacht company Nautor-Swan company from Finland has just 17 Swan's-a-sailing; the dominant Danish X-Yachts has 15 teams participating; Italy's premiere Grand Soleil sees 11 "spaghetti-swans" cruising and the reputable French Archambault yard sees 10 teams engaged. A rather remarkable turn of events to see an American company leading the fleet in Europe in one of its legendary offshore races!?
If you recall, in 2011 the J/111 XCENTRIC RIPPER from Benelux was winning IRC Overall and Double-handed Class at the famous rounding mark, Fastnet Rock Lighthouse. Sailed by the extremely experienced offshore team, John van der Starre and Robin Verhoef, the RIPPER simply sailed an incredibly smart, fast race, even rounding Fastnet Rock ahead of another experienced offshore team on a J/111. Their performance is simply an illustration of how easy it is for any sailor to have fun and be successful offshore with their J.
Three J/111s will be participating this year, two in IRC Racing and one in IRC Double classes. Leading the charge again for double-handers will surely be the offshore duo of John van der Starre and Robin Verhoef sailing "the RIPPER"-- 3rd in 2011 and was fleet leader at Fastnet Rock! The JUST 4 SAILING syndicate from Belgium will be racing DJINN and Andrew Hill from England will be sailing OJE in IRC Racing class.
Twenty-two J/109s sailing means they're the biggest one-design fleet period (and the largest J fleet participating) with three nations represented with the majority from England and the others from Ireland- Andrew Sarratt's JEDI- and the Netherlands- Kees Mijs' ARETHUSA and Paul van der Pol's YETI. While far too numerous to list the range of possibilities for the British teams, there are both new faces and familiar ones that have campaigned J/109s for years and participated in past Fastnets. Amongst those boats will be the top five J/109s from the 2011 Fastnet, including Tor McLaren's INSPARA, Robin Taunt's JIBE, Kees Mijs's ARETHUSA, Phil Nelson's JOLENE and Greg Nasmyth's JARHEAD.
Seven J/122s are represented by no less than five countries, proving yet again the popularity of this IRC cruiser-racer worldwide and its ability to perform and garner its fair share of silverware in the major offshore races around the world. For starters, one of the more famous J/122s will be sailing in IRC Double Class, Rob Craigie's J-BELLINO from England, famous for winning not only its class, but nearly overall, in the last OSTAR trans-Atlantic Race single-handed! Other J/122 contenders include 2011 Fastnet IRC 2 winner NUTMEG IV (Francois Lognone) from France. Plus, other top teams include Ireland's AQUELINA (Jim Tyrrell), England's JOOPSTER (Neil Kipling), The Netherlands' JUNIQUE (Chris Revelman), the other French team of LORELEI (Alain Catherineau) and the first Russian J/122 owner, Artem Brum sailing KNYAZ.
Four J/133s will be racing that include local/ regional champions in their respective sailing areas, such as England's Nigel Passmore on APOLLO 3 and Angus Bates' ASSARAIN IV; Yves Grosjean's JIVARO from France that nearly won IRC 1 in the 2011 race; and the Irish family team of Alan, Bruce and James Douglas on SPIRIT OF JACANA.
Four J/105s will have the fleet divided evenly between IRC Racing and IRC Double. Leading the charge in the double-handers will be Nick Martin's DIABLO-J (a past class winner) and Jim Heald's FLAWLESS J. In IRC Racing class are Tom Hayoe's MOSTLY HARMLESS and Richard Cashmore's SLINGSHOT.
Finally, no matter how you slice IRC classes, sure to be a factor in their respective groups will be a cross-section of veteran ocean-racers like the J/120 RHAPSODIE V (Jean Jacques Godet from France), the two J/35s forming a pan-European contingent (Germany's CHOSI 6 sailed by Mike Wunderlich and Belgium's RAGAZZA lead by the team of Gabriel, De Bie & Malchair) and the equally famous J/39 SLEEPER VIII sailed by Jonty Layfield. Sailing photo credits- Rolex/ Kurt Arrigo. For more 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race sailing information