October 17 2016
The Fastnet Race, one of the most revered and feared tests in sailing, and a new Lisbon-Alicante Prologue, will both feature in an intense period of pre-race qualifying for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, serving as a first clash of the fleet while providing an early form guide for the fans.
In August, the fleet will assemble for Cowes Week in the Isle of Wight, UK for ‘Leg Zero’, which will include the 600-mile Fastnet Race.
The Rolex Fastnet Race – always unpredictable – will take the teams from Cowes, through the English Channel, around Land’s End and out into the Celtic Sea. After rounding Fastnet Rock off the southwest coast of Ireland, they race on from Plymouth. The boats will then race from Plymouth to Lisbon, Portugal to complete Leg Zero.
Teams will then tackle a brand new Prologue race from Lisbon to Alicante, where they will remain until the start of the 2017-18 edition.
France’s Charles Caudrelier, who skippered Dongfeng Race Team in 2014-15, commented to Yachting Art : “You train for months, alone, and so it’s good to be able to do more racing as a team before the start. It’s very different, racing under pressure, than training, and good for boat testing. I’ve done a few Fastnet Races, some were windy and some were light. It’s a nice course, very fun and interesting to sail around the coast, with the effect of the currents. It’s a good test and a very dynamic race, with interesting weather. In two or three days, you have a lot of decision-making to do, so it’s good to test not just everyone’s speed but also taking decisions quickly under pressure. And of course, you get to see which teams are stronger.”
Many Volvo Ocean Race teams have used the Fastnet Race as part of their preparations but it has never before been a mandatory qualifier.
The maxi yacht Drum, preparing for the 1985-86 race, famously capsized during the Fastnet and pop star Simon Le Bon was among the crew who had to be rescued by the Royal Navy.
Richard Mason, four-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran and now Operations Director for the Race, said: “It’s super important to be doing these miles, at the right time of year. It’ll provide some awesome hours on the water for the teams, and that’s where they’ll learn the most – getting out there in the middle of the ocean, and getting amongst those weather systems, in a race that no sailor would dare take on lightly. The Fastnet Race is on the bucket list of every ocean racer in the world. It’s famous for being very tricky and coastal. You can have no wind, you can have enormous amounts of breeze, and vicious seas, out near Fastnet Rock, it’s navigationally and tactically challenging, you don’t get much sleep. It’s the perfect race – an amazing thing to be a part of.”