Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise has been crowned overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Kneen is the first British winner of the race since Charles Dunstone and his maxi Nokia Enigma in 2003.
After being confirmed as runaway winner of the IRC Two division Thursday, no other boat still racing on the 695 nautical mile course can catch the British boat for overall honours in this, the 49th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s offshore classic.
Volvo Ocean Race veteran Dave Swete was the only pro sailor on the Sunrise crew. Apart from Swete and Kneen in their late 30s, the rest of the crew are all in their 20s, some of whom have come up through the RORC’s Griffin youth racing programme aimed at fostering young offshore talent.
Suzy Peters and Tom Cheney were co-navigators on the race. They were joined by Quentin Bes-Green, Angus Gray-Stephens,
George Kennedy and Victoria Tomlinson.
For someone who only took up offshore racing just seven years ago, Kneen has come a long way in a short time.
When he started he admits “I didn’t know what IRC was. I’d never really heard of the RORC, but what I had heard of was the Rolex Fastnet Race. I was brought up in the southwest, and as a boy I used to sail dinghies at the Royal Western Yacht Club.”
By his own admission, Kneen’s first Rolex Fastnet Race in 2015 was a comedy of errors aboard his secondhand Elan 350 cruiser/racer called Sunrise. But he has proven to be a fast learner who has quickly worked out what it takes to put together a race-winning campaign.
Loyal Plymothian that he is, Kneen admits to being pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome he received coming into Cherbourg. “It’s not lost on me the irony that the first year the race finish moves to a French town it’s won by a Plymouth boat, by someone who voted against moving the finish to Cherbourg.”