Sailing: Wild Thing on Fastnet record track

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Personal Everests come in all sorts of sizes and there is one to suit everybody in that most British and classic of ocean races, the Fastnet.

The popularity of a race which saw entries plummet after the record 303 in 1979 was hit by the worst weather in its history, with 15 lives lost plus four in a boat following the race, is growing.

There are 288 boats this year, the majority from the bedrock of club racing, due to muster off Cowes tomorrow for the 608-mile trek down the Channel. They then cross the Celtic Sea to the lighthouse on Fastnet Rock, off south-west Ireland, before turning to pass the Scillies on the way to the finish in Plymouth.

In the past, all eyes were on the boats in what was a make-or-break race for the Admiral's Cup. That international event has again bitten the dust, perhaps partly because the Fastnet had been dropped from the schedule.

Which leaves the focus on record-breaking, with two 100-footers, Grant Wharington's Wild Thing and Charles Crichton Brown's Maximus, in the frame to challenge the 53hrs 8min 5sec set by Ross Field on his 80-footer in 1999.

But eyes will also be on a boat called movistar, the first time that one of the new Open 70s for the Volvo Race will have been seen on the race track.

"Apart from plans to change the mast and keel bulb, we are ready to race," said movistar's skipper Bouwe Bekking.

"It is best to go racing rather than training by yourself. The conditions look a bit light, but we hope to be able to hang in with the 100-footers."

Other eyes will be on pop singer Simon le Bon, back 20 years after his boat, the 80-foot Drum, lost its keel and capsized, and there is a major Anglo-French clash in a fleet of 14 Open 60s.