The Fastnet Race, from Cowes, England, then out the English Channel to Fastnet Rock off Ireland and finally back east to end off Cherbourg, France, is one of the premier ocean races. The race course alone makes the Fastnet a notable event, but large in the history of the race is the infamous 1979 running. That race was hit by a Force 10 gale and ultimately 19 racers were lost. Happily, this was a one-time event and the race has not had a recurrence of the ’79 tragedy.
This latest running was won by the British yacht Sunrise. Here is a press release from the RORC press office:
Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise has been crowned overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race. After being confirmed as runaway winner of the IRC Two division yesterday, 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. Kneen is the first British winner of the race since Charles Dunstone and his maxi Nokia Enigma in 2003.
Reunited this morning with his two-year old son Sam, Kneen couldn’t hide the emotion of winning a race that has come to mean so much to him: “I’ve had 24 hours to reflect on the race after we finished yesterday, and it really is all about the people, the amazing team that sailed with me, and my incredible partner Francesca who has done so much to make this happen.”
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.
“It doesn’t really matter what level in the fleet you’re at. As long as you have a good crew, and the right support, then you can win your class. And if you can win the class you can win overall, although that depends on things like tidal gates, wind conditions, things that are much more in the hands of the gods, I think.”