At present the forecast for Saturday’s Rolex Fastnet Race start from Cowes shows taking place in breezy upwind conditions.
While even five days out there is some confidence in the forecast for Saturday’s start, it is also looking likely that the race will be upwind in lively conditions all the way to Land’s End.
Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator Jules Salter, racing on the Maxi 72 Notorious, observed: “With the amount of heating we have got going on – it could easily be gusting over 30 knots by the time we start at 15:20.”
This means that it may be a fraction less when the first starters set sail, beginning with the multihulls at 13:00 BST and the IMOCAs at 13:20.
However, at that point the tide is still flooding in the western Solent and the water will be flatter.
This year for safety reasons, the eight starts have been separated by 20 minute intervals.
By the time the last, for IRC Zero and Super Zero, takes place, there should be a stronger sea breeze, but also a lumpy wind-against-tide chop, accentuated when the boats pass through Hurst Narrows at the western exit to the Solent.
Come start day on Saturday the forecasts may still not align with what actually transpires on Monday/Tuesday warns Salter.
“The secondary low could be 30 miles north or 30 miles south and suddenly you have got a different scenario depending on if you are on the right or wrong side of it.”
“There is always the chance that the small boats might end up getting left a long way behind, but might get a 25-30 knots southwesterly and just beam reach in and then run up the Channel at the end. It is pretty open at the moment.”
What seems certain is that in this 50th Rolex Fastnet Race competitors could well end up using their entire sail wardrobe before they reach Cherbourg.
The winner may come from whichever part of the fleet is able to reach to, and back from, the Fastnet Rock in the best pressure.
The 50th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race starts from Cowes, Isle of Wight on Saturday 22nd July.
For further information, please go to the Rolex Fastnet Race website