Every two years the classic Rolex Fastnet Race rallies more than a hundred crews on a course unchanged since its inception: starting in Cowes off the Royal Yacht Squadron, down the Solent, following the Cornwall coastline, and rounding the Fastnet lighthouse before returning to Plymouth. But this 2015 edition, the first event of the 2015-2016 IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship, will be a twofold test for the IMOCA fleet.
The IMOCA fleet lined up for the race in Cowes will be quite impressive. With over ten boats entered, we’re expecting a particularly competitive race, especially as it will be the first great confrontation between the newest IMOCA Class boats and those that competed in the last Vendée Globe. Apart from the SNSM race in which SMA won the duel against Safran and the training courses in Port-la-Forêt (Brittany, France), the advantages to be gained from the newest generation IMOCAs compared to the existing high-performance boats still remain unclear.
Testing the foils
The three-four days of the Rolex Fastnet Race should give a good first glimpse into each type of boat’s potential. Against Banque Populaire and Safran, three of the four highest ranked IMOCAs – PRB, Groupe Quéguiner and SMA – will attempt to counter the domination predicted by the architects and engineers. Obviously, once at sea, engineering theories can sometimes be demolished by stark facts. How will the foils perform in unfavourable conditions such as close-hauled in light air? Will the effective speed gained while reaching compensate for potential losses using different points of sail? These are some of the questions that may receive a tentative answer…
Testing life in tandem
The Rolex Fastnet Race also provides the opportunity for many two-handed crews to strengthen their collaboration in preparation for the next Transat Jacques Vabre starting for Itajai on 25 October from Le Havre. This joint project-building created some obvious partnerships, for instance Paul Meilhat and Michel Desjoyeaux on board the SMA or Eric Bellion together with Sam Goodchild at the helm of Stand As One (Comme Un Seul Homme).
Others have already been rubbing shoulders for a long time, such as Bertrand de Broc and Marc Guillemot (MACSF). The two men are cousins and already manned a Figaro Bénéteau together in a Transat AG2R race. The same goes for Sam Davies, Tanguy de Lamotte’s teammate, who will not find herself in uncharted waters on board Initiatives-Cœur. The two met at the time of the Mini Transat and have kept in touch ever since, a similar story to Thomas Ruyant and Adrien Hardy (Le Souffle du Nord). Finally, some made their choice based on competence and complementarity.
Yann Elies (Groupe Quéguiner) had enough time to study his teammate Charlie Dalin, his runner-up in the 2015 edition of the Solitaire du Figaro, before making his choice. In the same manner, Morgan Lagravière secured the collaboration of Nicolas Lunven at the helm of Safran whereas Armel Le Cléac’h will be taking Erwan Tabarly along on board Banque Populaire. At any rate, this 2015 edition of the Fastnet Race promises to be thrilling. This coefficient 1 event also kicks off a 2015-2016 IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship that promises to be particularly competitive.
Prospective crews lined up for the Rolex Fastnet Race:
• Banque Populaire VIII: Armel Le Cléac’h – Erwan Tabarly
• Safran: Morgan Lagravière – Nicolas Lunven
• PRB: Vincent Riou – tbc
• SMA: Paul Meilhat – Michel Desjoyeaux
• Initiatives-Cœur: Tanguy de Lamotte – Sam Davies
• MACSF: Bertrand de Broc – Marc Guillemot
• Bureau Vallée: Louis Burton – Romain Attanasio
• Groupe Quéguiner: Yann Elies – Charlie Dalin
• Le Souffle du Nord: Thomas Ruyant – Adrien Hardy
• Comme Un Seul Homme: Eric Bellion – Sam Goodchild
2015-2016 IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship program:
• Rolex Fastnet Race (double-handed), starts on 16 August 2015
• Transat Jacques Vabre (double-handed), starts on 25 October 2015
• Transat from St Barts (single-handed), starts on 6 December 2015
• Transat New York – Vendée (single-handed), starts on 29 May 2016
• Vendée Globe (single-handed), starts on 6 November 2016