Applications for the 2009 Rolex Fastnet opened on 1 January and effectively closed two months later when the 300 cap on entries was reached.
Organizers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, immediately set up a waiting list, which currently stands at seventy confirming the enduring and considerable interest in this classic offshore race that this year starts at 12:00 on Sunday 9 August from the Royal Yacht Squadron line at Cowes.
As one would expect with so many yachts entered, the fleet is a broad cross-section of the international offshore racing scene, with the smallest yacht (Fore Winds from Poland) at 30ft (9.5m) up to the largest at 100 feet (30.5m). Crews range from the full on professional through the Corinthian racers to those just taking part for the adventure and challenge presented by the 608 nautical miles. Entries have been drawn from near and far. The allure of Rolex Fastnet continues to attract competitors from across Europe, the USA and, even, Hong Kong and Australia.
The highlight within the substantial fleet looks to be the current race record holder - Mike SLADE's (GBR) Farr 100 ICAP Leopard, which has undergone some surgery since setting a time of 1 day, 20 hours, 18 minutes in 2007; given the right conditions she could well lop more time off the benchmark. Leopard will not be the only 100-footer on the line, Liara the Bill DIXON-designed Performance Yachting 100 will be there too. Whilst Liara is performance oriented, she should be no match for a race-prepared Leopard, which looks likely to be cutting a lonely furrow at the head of the fleet unlike 2007 when it took until near the finish to shake off the smaller Rambler. Just behind the big boys will be a much-anticipated battle in the 65 to 75 foot mini-maxi range with the STP65s Rosebud (USA), winner of 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart, and Luna Rossa (ITA), new this season, set to do battle with Ran (GBR) the 72-foot Judel/Vrolijk design owned by Nicklas ZENNSTROM of Skype fame.
The 2007 Rolex Fastnet overall winner was the Cookson 50, Chieftain. In this entry zone of 45 feet and up to the mini-maxis, there are number of modern and performance-oriented boats, including two Ker 46s - John SHEPHERD's Fair Do's VII (GBR) and Piet VROON's latest Tonnerre de Breskens (NED). VROON is a former overall race winner, in 2001, the first year of Rolex's partnership with the event. Amongst others, these seasoned campaigners will be up against three Rogers 46s, including past-Commodore David AISHER's Yeoman XXXII and two German competitors, Chris WUTTKE's Guts 'n' Glory and Jens KELLINGHUSEN's Varuna.
The 40-45 foot segment looks to be dominated by a two very-different class battles. There are 19 Class 40s on the list, including Giovanni SOLDINI's Telecom Italia (ITA), along with ten First 40.7s. The Class 40 specifies a minimum weight of 4,500kg and carries 115 square metres of upwind sail area with 120 sq m of asymetric spinnakers flown from a stayed carbon bowsprit, so for their size these boats are very fast. 40.7s are more cruiser/racers with close to 7,000 kg displacement and only around 70 sq m of upwind sail plan.
Sub-40 foot is equally a mixture of the sleek and fast, slow and stable. Perhaps, most surprisingly is that only one Contessa 32, James MOORE's Katisha, is on the competitor roster this year. However, there are plenty of familiar faces including the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet in 2005, Frenchman Jean Yves CHARLES and his Nicholson 33 Iromiguy. Iromiguy's victory was the first time a boat under 40-foot boat had won the race in some thirty-years. Also competing is current RORC Commodore Andrew MCIRVINE on the Corby 36, Quokka.
As is tradition the Rolex Fastnet will start in Cowes and finish in Plymouth. There will be a change, though, once the yachts pass the breakwater in Plymouth Sound, with the majority of yachts being berthed in Sutton Harbour in the Barbican area of Plymouth.
The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet is the Fastnet Challenge Cup. In addition, there are more than thirty additional trophies that will be awarded at the prizegiving on Friday 14 August at the historic Royal Citadel, home of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooking Plymouth Harbour.
The first signal for the start of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race sounds at 11:50 BST on Sunday 9 August.
Further information about the RORC and the Rolex Fastnet Race can be found at http://fastnet.rorc.org/ and competitors are encouraged to keep a close eye on these web pages since all administrative documentation and race notices will be posted there.