Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 – An inspired performance


Rolex Fastnet Race 2021

There are many factors that play a part in determining the eventual winner of an offshore race, but it is the approach of the successful crew that is the most decisive. This was never more so than at the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, where the young crew of the British yacht Sunrise demonstrated the tenacity, skill and moments of inspired intuition required to outperform the opposition at one of sport’s greatest challenges of human endeavour and resilience.

First held in 1925 and organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) ever since, the 695 nautical mile race (1,287 kilometres) has been supported by Rolex since 2001. The Swiss watchmaker’s partnership with the biennial race flows naturally from its reputation as one of the world’s most demanding offshore contests. This year’s edition attracted a fleet of 337 yachts of which 264 were competing for the overall win on time correction.

Significantly, for the first time in its near 100-year history, the course did not end in Plymouth, England. The change to Cherbourg, France marks an evolution in this historic race adding 87 nm (161 km) to the length as well as fresh tidal complexities.

The assembled fleet was as impressive as ever. From professionally crewed maxi trimarans and monohulls, through the ocean racing one design classes to the usual mix of more Corinthian yachts, entries reflected the appeal of offshore yachting and the broad range of opportunities the discipline offers.

The 49th Rolex Fastnet Race began on Sunday, 8 August with crews setting off into the teeth of a fierce south-westerly, gusting 30 knots, and a building sea state. It was a brutal first 12 hours or so, with dozens of yachts retiring through equipment failure, injury or overwhelming crew fatigue. It is often said that you cannot win a yacht race on the first day, but you can lose it. One of Sunrise’s expected close competitors was involved in a collision on the first afternoon that left them dismasted.