Drama over Fastnet Race course change

Published on November 16th, 2020

The 605-mile Rolex Fastnet Race is remarkable, not just for its dramatic history of horrific offshore fatality, but for its epic entry demands. Apparently a biennial trip around Fastnet rock in the north Atlantic is a necessary adventure.

But a year ago this English race first held in 1925, known to start in Cowes and finish in Plymouth, was changed to a French finish line, and that has now (finally?) sparked unrest for the organizer – the Royal Ocean Racing Club. WM Nixon in Afloat.ie provides the update:

It says everything about the iconic nature of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Fastnet Race that a General Meeting about the route for the race, which should be a private matter among the admittedly many members of the RORC, has already become a matter of public discussion despite the announcement of the forthcoming AGM and EGM on December 7th being issued via email as recently as 00.00.45 on Saturday, November 14th.

The timing thereby avoided publication on a gloom-laden and fateful Friday 13th by just 45 seconds. But inevitably there has already been much turmoil and dissent among traditionalists who felt that the time-honoured Plymouth finish was an integral and essential part of the Fastnet experience. When the proposed Cherbourg finish was announced a year ago, the RORC officers, committee and executive pointed out that they felt that facilities at Plymouth no longer met the requirements of a very varied fleet approaching 400 boats, some of them very large.

But traditionalists pointed out that expecting Plymouth to be able to cope with such a demand for an event which occurred only once every two years was like expecting a household to be permanently prepared for Christmas lunch, and that a bit of crowding was inevitable.

Nevertheless, it seemed that Cherbourg’s offer of the sun, moon and the stars in terms of facilities had won the day. But apparently, a significant group of the grassroots members of the RORC think differently, and they’ve been quietly gathering their forces and under Club Rule 16.1, they’ve secured this EGM with the proposal, for decision by a simple majority of full members, that something as significant and central as the Fastnet Race course to the RORC’s existence and ethos should be decided only by the agreement of the full membership, albeit through virtual voting under the current pandemic circumstances. – Full report

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