Two-Handed growth for Fastnet Race

Published on July 19th, 2021

While the International Olympic Committee denied the Mixed Offshore Keelboat event for the Paris 2024 Games, interest remains high on this segment of the sport, with 91 duos among the 400+ entrants set to start the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race on August 8.

With 64 entrants in 2019, the 2021 race has moved the finish line from Plymouth, UK to Cherbourg, France, extending these shorthanded sailors from 608 to 695 nm and crossing the English Channel … real gets realer.

The 2013 race was a golden edition for the father and son duo, Pascal and Alexis Loison, racing JPK 1010 Night and Day to overall victory. Alexis Loison’s success continued in 2019 with JPK 1030 Léon. Racing with the boat’s builder Jean Pierre Kelbert, Léon was the winner of IRC Three and IRC Two-Handed.

Léon was leading the Two-Handed Class by 17 minutes at the Fastnet Rock but won the class by nearly five hours by the finish. “After the Rock we had strong reaching conditions with big seas,” recalls Alexis Loison. “With the A5 spinnaker up we were surfing at 19 knots and by the time we reached the Scilly Isles we were with IRC One!”

For the 2021 edition, Alexis will race Léon with a rising star. Guillaume Pirouelle has excelled in the 470 Class, won the Tour de France à la voile and has been selected to skipper Region Normandie in the Figaro Class. Should the pair taste success in this year’s race, the two Normans will undoubtedly receive a hero’s welcome in Alexis’ home port of Cherbourg.

“We don’t think about the finish; all of our effort is put into preparing Léon for the race,” continued Alex. “The competition in the Two-Handed Class is very strong from the British Sun Fast teams and like Léon, they will be very fast in strong reaching conditions.”

A new Two-Handed pairing this year and proven race winners are James Harayda and Dee Caffari racing Sun Fast 3300 Gentoo. Dee has vast offshore experience, including the Volvo Ocean Race, six Round the World races, the Vendée Globe, and was the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world in both directions.

James competed in 2019 on Gallivanter and is looking forward to the new course and tactical decisions that come with it. “I love the race for the adventure, excitement and challenge and am looking forward to the new finish destination of Cherbourg,” said Harayda.

Henry Bomby and Shirley Robertson will be racing Sun Fast 3300 Swell in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Henry was second in the Two-Handed Class in 2019, racing Fastrak XI with Hannah Diamond. Four times Figaro sailor Henry Bomby also competed in the last Volvo Ocean Race and this will be his fifth Rolex Fastnet Race. Shirley Robertson was the first British woman to claim consecutive gold medals in the Olympics. This will be Shirley’s third race, but she is under no illusion that it will be a very different experience, racing doublehanded in the Rolex Fastnet Race for the first time.

2015 Two-Handed winners Kelvin Rawlings and Stuart Childerley will be racing Kelvin’s Sun Fast 3300 Aries. Kelvin is an amateur sailor with decades of big boat racing success. Stuart is a two-time Etchells World Champion and double-Olympian. Stuart will be racing after returning from the Tokyo Games where he is Race Officer for the Finn Class. The Aries crew has a combined age of 126 years.

Earlier in the 2021 season, Aries put in a winning performance beating both Bellino and Gentoo. “It’s all down to Stuart Childerley, I am only the labourer on the bow!” joked Rawlings. “Our aim is to win by sailing as best and as hard as we can. I enjoy every second of it.”

Veteran racer Alex Bennett will be racing Two-Handed with fellow pro-sailor, Conrad Humphreys in his 1984 Swan 46 Ginny B. The British teams accolades run off the page with Bennett excelling in the Mini Transat and Class40 arena, whilst Humphreys’ success includes winning skipper in the BT Global Challenge and completing the Vendée Globe.

“The challenge is always bigger when you go shorthanded and it offers the greatest challenge over this kind of course,” says Bennett, who is in awe of the IRC Two-Handed fleet. “It is huge – like the Mini Transat fleet in terms of numbers.” Bennett first sailed the Rolex Fastnet Race in 1995, when, aged 19, he led the Fastnet Youth Challenge to second place in class aboard a Sigma 36.”

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The 49th edition of the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race will start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line on August 8 in Cowes, UK. The 2021 race has moved the finish line from Plymouth, UK to Cherbourg, France, extending the distance from 608 to 695 nm.

Source: RORC, Scuttlebutt

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