Prize to perseverance

Aregatta to be remembered, that is the way the organizers themselves defined the 46th Rolex Fastnet Race; undoubtedly, this edition was meant to be special, because 2015 marks the 90th anniversary of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) foundation; the same as the 1st competition of this nautical cup celebrated in 1925.

On this occasion, the biyearly regatta gathered a record of a 356 boat fleet at its exit line; faithful to its objective of “encouraging long-distance yacht racing” over which the RORC was founded; this year there were conditions to test the capabilities for tactics, seafaring, resolution and patience of the competitors.





Géry Trentesaux and his crew, on board the 10.7 m (35 ft) Courrier du Léon, were crowned victorious in this competition that faces, in the same ground, the most powerful professional teams, the same as teams formed by friends aboard recreational vessels; so the word “favorite” is meaningless, and Trentesaux demonstrated it by being regarded as an anonymous sailing sport hero, who has been adding regattas with a discretion worthy of the purest amateur spirit.

Michael Boyd, commodore of the RORC, who this year competed aboard the Quokka 8, said that the Rolex Fastnet Race 46th edition is very special because, in addition to celebrating 90 years of existence, “[we had a record number of entries and starters, an amazing collection of races within races and different classes with wonderful outcomes […] If anything, this race will have enhanced the prospect of another record turnout in two years’ time”.

On account of this, the dimension of the event, its significance, reputation and longevity are witness to a well done job.

The Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 confirmed its reputation as a referent among the worldwide oceanic regattas, by contributing all that is expected from a 600 nautical mile size test. As a proof lies that just 10 boats were forced to retire, datum that demonstrates the spirit of perseverance that has swayed.


A shared festivity


The regatta and the RORC were not the only ones celebrating their anniversary this year, owing to the fact that the Royal Yacht Squadron –which, traditionally, lodges the exit line of the competition from its historical social site in Cowes (Isle of Wight)—commemorated its 200th anniversary; because of it, the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 was a remarkable part in its program of celebration; on account of Rolex having enjoyed a long and fruitful relation with both clubs, having been sponsoring the regatta ever since 2001. So, these anniversaries added extra attraction.





Record time


As soon as the inscription period opened, the limited number of participants was reached in just 24 minutes; being that in the former cup –in 2013—24 hours were needed; from that moment on, the painstaking process of rating boats and crews started; and out of it, 356 vessels were set, 312 of them vying for the main prize. The quantity and quality of the contestants displayed the striving and daring personal spirit that flows in the veins of the sail world. Regarding that, commodore Boyd remembered, “Seven boats went out in 1925. They said their primary objective was to have fun. If you look at the beaming smiles of this year’s competitors […] I think in general they have had great fun.”

It is worth remembering that, in 1979, after a tragedy (15 people dead), the RORC established a 300 contestants limit for the Rolex Fastnet Race; such a margin was reached in 2009 and later surpassed in 2011 the same as in 2013; based on that motive, the club determined to open a subscription to as many a team wanted to accept the challenge.

In 2015, the top of the IRC fleet –those competing for the Fastnet Challenge Trophy and the Rolex—was settled in 340; with a provision for another 50 competing for their own prizes, such as the so called professional classes: multihulls, IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and Figaros.


Sailing in slow-motion


The weather conditions were not favorable at the beginning of the regatta. During the first day, there was little wind, and when the breeze arrived, it came accompanied by rain and fog; so this time, it was more of a challenge for tactical demand than for toughness. Nevertheless, later on, it became the traditional and close race to arrive at the Fastnet Rock (the most meridional location in the Éire) and return to the finish line fronting Plymouth.


Champion at the 13th time


The JPK 10.80 Courrier du Léon sailboat departure was everything except promising, because committing an error, particularly in a regatta with little wind, and wasting 40 minutes to solve the failure are used to being fatal. But Géry Trentesaux did not hesitate. Together with his crew, the 56 year old French veteran splurged his experience, zest and seamanship so as to recover, by using the tiniest opportunity to regain terrain from his rivals.

For Trentesaux, this was his 13th Rolex Fastnet Race participation; accompanied by 6 exceptional crewmembers, out of which 5 have been sailing with him ever since 1999. ““The Fastnet is an endurance race, like the 24 Heures du Mans; it is not important how you start, but how you finish,” pondered the French.

“When I was young the Fastnet was the biggest, most unique race in the world, so racing it at 18 was fabulous. Things have changed a lot over 40 years but this will be a very great memory, one of the very best of my sailing career. It is incredible to win this mythic race.”


Text: AMURA ± Photo: Rolex Daniel Forster / Rolex Kurt Arrigo