608 nautical mile non-stop race. The race entails a gripping and punishing 608-nautical mile journey from Cowes, Isle of Wight to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland.
Beginning at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, the Isle of Wight, it passes noted landmarks in the English Channel including The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, The Lizard and Land’s End, ahead of the open water passage across the Celtic Sea.
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.
Starting cannons at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes. Copyright Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
The symbolic turn around the Fastnet Rock off the southern coast of Ireland; a rounding that heralds the race’s emblematic halfway juncture. 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 sense of achievement felt by crew must be tempered by a need to stay focused on the challenge ahead. The fleet then embark on the long return leg and the finish in Plymouth.
The Farr 100 ICAP LEOPARD, leads the fleet after the start. Copyright Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Distances on the course. Total = 608 nautical miles (1,126 km)
The start of the Rolex Fastnet Race is from the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) line, Cowes, Isle of Wight. Yachts will race on a course of approx 608 miles via the Fastnet Rock to the finish line at the western end of the breakwater in Plymouth Harbour:
DSK COMIFIN, Danilo Salsi, racing to the Needles. Copyright Rolex / Daniel Forster
Cowes – Needles 16m
Needles – Portland Bill 34m
Portland – Start Point 54m
Start Point – Lizard 60m
Lizard – Lands End 22m
Land’s End – Fastnet 170m
Fastnet Rock – Scillies 154m
Scillies – Lizard 51m
Lizard – Finish 46m
40 DEGREES rounding Fastnet Rock. Copyright Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
The Fastnet Rock – The Symbol
The symbol of this 608-nautical mile race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point for a challenging race. The Fastnet Rock has a lasting memory that standing in the minds of competitors, and is viewed as the halfway mark, even though the actual distance remaining is less. The sense of achievement felt by crew must be tempered by a need to stay focused on the challenge ahead.
The Fastnet Lighthouse positioned at 51°23.3’ North 9°36.1’West is known as ‘The Teardrop of Ireland’, the last sight of Ireland for emigrants sailing to America. The Fastnet Rock is 4.5 miles South West of Cape Clear and Mizen Head. There are two pinnacles of hard clay shale with veins of quartz rising to a height of 30 metres above the low water mark, all surrounded by deep water. The height of the tower is 54 metres. The Corporation of Trinity House sanctioned the first lighthouse, a cast iron tower, in 1848 to replace the Cape Clear Lighthouse, which was too far inside the dangers, too high and too often obscured by fog. This first Fastnet light first shone on New Year’s Day 1854.
There were originally six keepers associated with the Fastnet Rock – four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Relief were twice a month when two men were taken off; each man did four weeks on, two weeks off. One man had to stay on watch during daytime to look out for fog and to signal passing ships. As soon as fog was seen, another man was called up to work the fog signal.
The Pantaenius Bouy – 51° 17’.020N 009° 41’.040W
The only laid mark on the 608 nautical mile course in the legendary Rolex Fastnet Race, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) is being sponsored for the 9th race by Plymouth-based Pantaenius Yacht Insurance.
The Rock marks an evocative turning point for a challenging and compelling race and once past the symbol of the race, the massive fleet with yachts ranging from 33-114ft, round the only mark on the course, The Pantaenius Buoy. Laid as a Special Mark Buoy, it is placed on behalf of the RORC to mark the western turning point of the course in the Rolex Fastnet Race by The Commissioners of Irish Lights.
RORC Racing Manager, Nick Elliott explains its purpose as a spreader mark and safety measure on the Rolex Fastnet Race. “The Pantaenius Buoy stops boats rounding the Fastnet Rock and heading back on the reciprocal track directly towards boats approaching the Rock. With the speed of modern yachts reaching fast in both directions there could be a collision speed of 40 knots or more so the laying of the Pantaenius Buoy avoids this.”
Pantaenius have been providing yacht insurance to yacht owners all over the world and with over 65,000 clients, is the number one insurance provider in Europe. They have sponsored the Pantaenius Buoy in the historic Fastnet Race since 1997:
“The RORC concluded that it was too dangerous to allow competitors departing from the Fastnet Rock to sail through those approaching the Rock. Yachts were getting bigger and faster. Allowing tired crews to sail towards each other at relative speeds at night in bad weather was no longer an option. It was decided to place a buoy as an additional race mark about 8 miles SW of the Rock. In order to promote safety at sea, Pantaenius agreed to sponsor the Pantaenius Buoy and are proud to have been involved for the last 16 years,” says Pantaenius UK’s Managing Director, John McCurdy, OBE MBA.
APOLLO, Nigel Passmore. Copyright Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi