Final preparations are being made for Sunday’s 8 August startof the world’s biggest offshore yacht race, the Rolex Fastnet Race, with 355 boats entered.
This year, for the first time since the race was first held in 1925, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event will finish in Cherbourg, France rather than Plymouth.
Right on schedule, the British government announced the easing of restrictions for visitors from France returning to the UK. Up to that point, due to France’s unique ‘Amber Plus’ designation, visitors to the UK coming from France had to quarantine upon their arrival.
For the most part, this will no longer be the case thanks to the latest legislation, which will see France’s COVID status being downgraded to ‘Amber’. Opportunely the new rules will come into effect from 04:00 BST on Sunday 8th August coinciding exactly with start day for the Rolex Fastnet Race.
For the crews of the 355 participating yachts in the Rolex Fastnet Race this has two very welcome effects:
- – British competitors who are double vaccinated can now stop in Cherbourg at the end of the race (where there is free berthing at Port Chantereyne) 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 Sunday morning, provided that their crew is double vaccinated.
Chris Stone, Race Director of the Rolex Fastnet Race welcomed the change in the rules: “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 British crews arriving in France where not everyone is double vaccinated, sadly the story remains more difficult with France 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 Chris Stone.
So the message for British crew considering stopping in Cherbourg is, according to Chris 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.”
Latest regulations and requirements can be found on the UK government website at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/red-amber-and-green-list-rules-for-entering-england
This 49th edition of the race will start as usual from Cowes, where the first warning signal for the multihull classes will be given at 11:00.
Followed at 15 minute intervals by the IMOCAs/Class40s and then the five IRC classes starting with IRC Four and finishing with IRC Zero at 12:30.
At the latest tally 355 boats are entered ranging in size from the brand new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios belonging to Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev, to the lowest rated in the IRC fleet, Pierre Legoupil’s 11m Illingworth/Primose-designed Maica classic, Le Loup Rouge Of Cmn, to the shortest, Tim Whittle 9.33m long T3 Trifoiler L’Albatros, racing in the MOCRA fleet.
The vast majority are competing in the IRC fleet. This spans some of the top international grand prix racers down to mum and dad’s in family crews and sailing schools.
Preliminary weather forecasts show that competitors will be in for a brisk ride from start time and through the first night with 23-28 knot south-westerly headwinds.
On Monday conditions are set to ease to 13-18 knots, however the weather pattern is very unsettled with the wind generally in the south to south-west quadrant which will provide fast reaching to and from the Fastnet Rock on the southern tip of Ireland.
Chris Tibbs is providing the weather forecast for the race and will provide a weather update during the Skippers Briefing to be held on Cowes Parade on Saturday afternoon at 1600 and streamed via the RORC’s social media channels.