Race time

This week sees the staging of the Rolex Fastnet race.

There are three Devon-based sailors amongst the 3,500 competitors in 347 boats from over 20 countries in the world’s largest offshore race.

Now in its 45th year, the race started with seven boats in 1925 and nowadays, sailors worldwide are drawn by the history and sporting lure of the greatest offshore contest. The challenging 611 mile race from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland and back around the Scilly Isles to Plymouth, is now by far the biggest of all the international 600 mile offshore races.

As well as attracting some of the fastest and largest record-breaking boats on the planet, three local boats and their crews will be on the start line for the world’s best-known historic offshore race: Apollo 7 with Plymouth’s Nigel Passmore, Harmattan with Terry Williams also of Plymouth and Vento di SardegnaFirst with Samantha Evans from Torquay.

Another boat in the fleet will be supported by local award-winning Devon food writer, restaurateur and fishmonger Mitch Tonks.

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It’s easy to find out when the boats will be passing your local coastline and to follow the progress of the fleet as all the boats are fitted with a race tracker. Go to the official website and follow just one boat or the whole fleet, plus all the latest news and race reports, images, video can be found here: http://fastnet.rorc.org/

Or, tune in to Fastnet Radio 87.9FM or listen online via the official website http://fastnet.rorc.org/.

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They will be broadcasting with live commentary from the start, right the way through to the prize giving in Plymouth.

As for the course, it passes several famous landmarks on the south coast of England. Initially, from Cowes, the race heads westward down The Solent, exiting into the English Channel at Hurst Castle. As the fleet leaves the notable rock formations of The Needles to port, it enters the next phase in the race: the series of headlands and tidal gates that mark the journey to Land’s End at the south-west tip of England.

The legs across the Celtic Sea to and from the Fastnet Rock are long and unpredictable. Openly exposed to fast moving Atlantic weather systems, the fleet often encounters the toughest weather of the race on its approach to and return from Ireland. The Fastnet Rock has significant standing in the minds of competitors, and is viewed as the halfway mark, even though the actual distance remaining is less. The finish in Plymouth, with its maritime heritage is always memorable for crews and yet another historic Fastnet Race.

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