Among the 300-350 boats in this August's record-sized Rolex Fastnet Race fleet, many of the 3,000 crew members are competing to fulfill a personal challenge or to tick the world's largest offshore race off their 'bucket list', but several crews are also using the Royal Ocean Racing Club's premier event to convey a special message, or support a chosen charity.
Unless there is a flat calm, it is very likely that the outright record will fall in this August's edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's premium event, the Rolex Fastnet Race. For leading the charge in the world's biggest offshore yacht race, with a fleet of 300-350 competing, will be the world's fastest offshore boats - the Ultimes.
While the main kudos in the Rolex Fastnet Race comes from class wins or ultimately the Fastnet Challenge Cup for the overall IRC winner, who will simply be first home to Plymouth often turns into an engaging, heavyweight bout.
On Saturday 3rd August, 25 double-handed crews will set sail from Cowes (Isle of Wight) aboard IMOCAs for the start of the 48th Rolex Fastnet Race, an ocean racing classic which sees hundreds of boats competing every other year. There has never been such a huge number of IMOCAs sailing this 608-mile course to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock.
China’s Dongfeng Race Team edged out MAPFRE by just 56 seconds in a Rolex Fastnet Race thriller in the early hours of Wednesday, as an intense night of lead changes and fickle winds ended with the entire fleet separated by less than 40 minutes after more than 600 miles of racing.
The second stage of Leg Zero qualifying is the Rolex Fastnet Race, starting on Sunday (6 August), and it will present a very different challenge to the Volvo Ocean Race fleet – as well as an early chance for the chasing pack to show they can match early pacesetters MAPFRE.
Second-guessing the winner under IRC among the 340 boats competing in August's Rolex Fastnet Race is tough. The outcome of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event will depend on the weather: A brisk start should favour the big boats; a light start and lively finish the smaller ones, but it is not simple given the race's complexity with headlands and tidal gates to negotiate, shipping and Traffic Separation Schemes to avoid, the mix of coastal and oceanic sailing, amid the largest fleet of any offshore race in the world.