Pandemic rules ease for Fastnet Race

Published on August 5th, 2021

For the crews of the 355 participating yachts in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, the shifting winds of the COVID-19 pandemic have left teams on edge in anticipation of the August 8 start from Cowes, UK. This is because British rules required fully-vaccinated travelers from certain countries to quarantine in England upon return.

While the 695 nm biennial event attracts entries beyond the UK, the finish now in France further complicated the situation, but the Royal Ocean Racing Club, host of the race, is now breathing a little easier as England reverses course on this unpopular mandate.

For the most part, this will no longer be the case  under the new rules that come into effect from 0400 BST on the start day for the Rolex Fastnet Race. This shift has two significant effects:

• British competitors who are double vaccinated can now stop in finish line host of Cherbourg at the end of the race and then return home to the UK at their leisure, where they will no longer be required to quarantine.

• Due to the COVID travel restrictions, most non-British competitors previously weren’t able to touch land in the UK prior to the start of the race. However, the new rules now mean that overseas yachts can stop in the UK prior to the start, from 0400 on August 8, provided that their crew is double vaccinated.

“The COVID restrictions relaxing in the UK comes as a great relief, even so close to start day,” said Race Director Chris Stone. “It is symbolic of a cross-Channel handshake, a coming-together of English and French competitors in a great sports event.

“It will definitely make the race more enjoyable for the crews – overseas crews can now stop in Cowes just before the start and we are expecting a greater portion of the fleet to stop in Cherbourg. It means we can achieve our vision for the Cherbourg Race Village with English competitors finishing and enjoying all the festivities there, which is a key part of this event.”

For the first time in its 96 years, the Rolex Fastnet Race will finish in Cherbourg with boats due to arrive from the evening of August 9 and on for the rest of the week. However, British crews arriving in France where not everyone is double vaccinated, France is still requiring unvaccinated UK visitors to self-isolate.

“This is clearly not what we wanted for our unvaccinated competitors, however, French Customs officials remain happy for those unvaccinated crews to remain on their boats in the marina,” comments Stone.

For non-UK boats, stopping in the UK on the start morning may provide some welcome respite after what could be a tiring 80 nm crossing in 20+ knot southwesterlies. Nonetheless, the RORC is still expecting non-UK competitors to complete their registration in Cherbourg.

“We are expecting between 150-180 registrations,” says Stone, who is leading the team currently handling registration for the race in Cherbourg. “That is a big change from what we anticipated originally when we thought we would have probably less than one third of the fleet registering here.”

So the message for British crew considering stopping in Cherbourg is, according to Stone: “Bring your passport and your proof of vaccination. It is okay to bring your boat in and there is space in the marina for everyone.”

Border rules:

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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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