A father and son team from Cherbourg has won the top prize in the Rolex Fastnet Race, and the French have been climbing all over the top honours. Sailing two-handed, Pascal and Alexis Loison beat off the threat from bigger, more powerful, and vastly more expensive rivals to take their 33-foot Night and Day to the best corrected time out of 336 starters in the 611-mile race which started from Cowes on Sunday.
Their boat is named after the 1932 Cole Porter song and both of them say they prefer to sail short-handed rather than fully crewed. Alexis, who celebrated his 29 birthday during the race, has competed eight times in Figaro solo races and hopes eventually to do the Vendée Globe round the world race.
Just to confirm Gallic dominance, heading for second, by 20 minutes, was Noel Racine in a sistership, Foggy Dew from the rival Channel port city of Le Havre. And French crews filled nine of the top 10 places on handicap.
The Figaro, a recognised graduation platform to the top tier of shorthanded racing, is also the top test for the Scottish investment house Artemis, which sponsors the academy of singlehanded sailing based at Cowes. Five were in the race.
This is the first time that a doublehander has won the Fastnet Challenge Cup and they will also take home the silverware for being winners of the doublehanded division and the IRC handicap class 3.
“My father is a very good teacher,” said Alexis while Pascal added that, while for major manoeuvres they would work together, for the majority of the time they operated as singlehanders. It had, said Pascal, been a very tactical race.
The 45 staging of the event attracted a record entry – the initial 300 places were filled in 24 hours – and its sponsorship is assured until 2021. “I think it is very good that a small boat has won,” said Eddie Warden Owen, chief executive of the organising Royal Ocean Racing Club.
“It just shows that the possibility of beating the professionals still exists, and it is because they have a chance that it encourages so many people to want to take part.”