(Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- The international attraction of the Fastnet Race is unquestionable. The race organizers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and in particular its CEO, Eddie Warden Owen (who has 7 races under his belt and is a pedigreed J/24 European & United Kingdom Champion) are quick to recognize the status the race has achieved and its widespread popularity. “It’s the people’s Everest of the ocean,” says Warden Owen. “It’s a tough challenge but one people enjoy.” A view plainly echoed by the some 3,000 sailors drawn to the contest every two years and the intrepid yachtsmen who have gone before.
Over 20 different nations from four continents sailed this years Fastnet. Around 40% of fleet and half the sailors are non-British. From the United States to Russia, the United Arab Emirates to Australia, the fleet reflects the continued international reach of the sport of offshore yacht racing pitting together the finest professional sailors and passionate Corinthians. From young Omani female sailor Raiya al Habsi, taking on the event for the first time, to 83-year old Dutchman Piet Vroon making the nautical pilgrimage to the Fastnet rock for a 25th time, the allure is irresistible.
The majority of the record-breaking 336 race starters share two common goals: the first naturally enough is to finish this 611-nautical mile test of skill and character. The second is to win the event overall and to claim the coveted Rolex Fastnet Challenge Cup and Rolex timepiece. Remarkably, with just a few hours left to go in this year's race, the French J/120 RHAPSODIE V sailed by Jean Jacques Godet was leading IRC Overall!
For Godet, competing in this Rolex Fastnet Race was almost psychotherapy sailing his J/120. "The last time I did the Fastnet was in 1979 and I have very bad memories of that; I wanted to break that. Now I've done it..." While the 1979 race was his last Fastnet Race, his first was in 1971, and he sailed three races as part of the Admiral's Cup onboard Ron Amey's famous NOREYMA.
Godet, who comes from a dynasty of French Cognac makers, acquired his J/120 in the last two years. He sails out of La Rochelle with a crew that includes his two sons Jean-Édouard and Maxime, they work the bow on Rhapsodie V, while Vendée Globe sailor Yannick Bestaven calls tactics.
Aside from his sombre memories, Godet was otherwise thrilled by the results, which earlier this morning had Rhapsodie V as the overall IRC leader. "It was very interesting - a great race. There were a few options, because the wind dropped a little bit when the ridge came in and we played the north side of the course where the wind was a little stronger, because our boat isn't fast when the wind is below 8 knots."
Rounding the Fastnet Rock, the wind dropped and the fog descended. "We passed the Rock during the night," said Godet. "I think we only saw the lighthouse 500m before we arrived at it. It is still a magical place." And to think for a moment, Godet nearly had his hands on the Rolex Fastnet Race's top prize-- the Fastnet Challenge Cup and a Rolex watch/ chronometer for the first of the 302 boats winning under the IRC Rating rule.
After their extraordinary performance, here's how other J teams faired in the race. For starters, the "big boat" IRC 1B Class saw the J/133 SPIRIT OF JACANA (Alan, Bruce & James Douglas from Ireland) take 6th overall and the French team on the J/133 JIVARO sailed by Yves Grosjean managed to finish 10th.
In IRC 2A Class, the winning French team from 2011 sailing J/122 NUTMEG IV, with skipper Francois Lognone, again sailed a great race to capture a 4th place. Behind them in 9th were the Netherlands J/122 JUNIQUE sailed by double-handers Chris Revelman & Pascal Bakker. And, in 10th was the French J/122 LORELEI sailed by Alain Catherineau. After them were a trio of J/111s from 13th to 15th: OJE (Andrew Hill), BRITISH SOLDIER (Henry Foster) and XCENTRIC RIPPER (John van der Starre & Robin Verhoef- who also sailed doublehanded).
At the top of IRC 3A CLASS was the J/120 RHAPSODIE V sailed by Frenchman Jean Jacques Godet with a truly remarkable performance!
The IRC 3B Class was swamped with J/109s and J/105s, in fact 8 of top 10 and 18 of top 25 were J/Teams! Of the top ten, there were eight J/109s that collected some silverware and some serious "mojo". In second was JE VANTE (Todd Wells), third was JARHEAD (Greg Nasmyth), fourth JANGADA TOO (Richard Palmer), sixth JIBE (Robin Taunt), seventh JOLLY JACK TAR (Adrian Wheal), eighth JEDI (Andrew Sarratt), ninth
JUMBUCK (John Allison) and tenth MOJITO (Peter Dunlop & Stephen Tudor).
In IRC 4A the J/35 RAGAZZA (Gabriel & De Bie & Malchair from Belgium) managed to hang in there and get a respectable seventh overall in an enormous class of boats.
The double-handed world saw a record forty-five entrants and, again, the J/Class sailed remarkably well considering the difficult conditions. A former J/105 stablemate (the French father/son Poison team) won the entire Fastnet Race overall (kudos to them!). Not far off the pace behind them were the third place Netherlands team on the J/122 JUNIQUE (Chris Revelman & Pascal Bakker), the fourth place J/109 JANGADA TOO (Richard Palmer) the eighth place J/111 XCENTRIC RIPPER (John van der Starre & Robin Verhoef) and the ninth place J/122 J-BELLINO (Rob Craigie). As a fleet, the J/Teams did great, capturing nearly 50% of the top prizes in the 45 boat strong doublehanded fleet! Sailing photo credits- Rolex/ Kurt Arrigo. For more Rolex Fastnet Race sailing information