50th Fastnet Race in 2023
Published on July 22nd, 2022
A record-sized fleet is anticipated for the 50th edition of Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race to start in Cowes on July 22, 2023. For a second consecutive occasion, the course will depart from the UK but have a French finish in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin via a 695 nautical mile course via the Fastnet Rock.
The first race, then simply known as the ‘Ocean Race’ and held on a course from Ryde to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock, took place in 1925 with seven starters. Since then, top sailors from all over the world have competed in this most famous of the world’s ‘classic 600 mile offshore races’.
The Rolex Fastnet Race was inspired by the Newport-Bermuda Race (first held in 1906) and US entries have remained strong. Notable US winners include yacht designer Rod Stephens Sr. with Dorade (1931 and 1933); Dick Nye with Carina II (1955 and 1957); yacht designer Dick Carter with Rabbit (1965) and Red Rooster (1969); CNN founder Ted Turner’s Tenacious which won the infamous 1979 race; and, most recently, David and Peter Askew on Wizard (2019).
The race has always attracted a powerful entry from the continent and especially France, with the great Eric Tabarly winning on board Pen Duick III in 1967. As France has come to dominate all walks of offshore racing, four of the last 10 races have been won by their yachts.
Over the last two decades participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race has skyrocketed, making it the biggest offshore race in the world. While the pro fleets such as the Class40 and IMOCA remain open, the size of the IRC fleet racing for the event’s top prize – the Fastnet Challenge Cup remains limited.
As a result, when entry for the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race opens on January 11, past experience indicates that positions will be filled and a waiting list begun within a matter of seconds.
For most of its life, the Fastnet Race has been held biennially, however, from the first race until 1931 it was held annually and three editions were lost due to World War 2. The race gained a special standing on the international stage during the decades as the hardest and deciding race of the internationally renowned Admiral’s Cup; the unofficial world championship of yachting.
Celebrations for the RORC will continue in 2025 when the club will celebrate its 100th anniversary.