Spinnakers and optimism order of the day at Fastnet start

Anchors may replace survival suits as early essential equipment as a fleet of 300 yachts, plus 11 Open 60s, set off from Cowes yesterday for what is the 30th anniversary of the frightening Rolex Fastnet Race.

But yesterday a south-easterly breeze, coupled with a west-going, favourable tide, meant that spinnakers and optimism were the order of the day as competitors, both professional and adventurous amateur, streamed down the Solent, through Hurst Narrows, where King Charles I was once imprisoned, and past the Needles Lighthouse at the western end of the Isle of Wight.

In 1979 it was also light at the start but within 36 hours the 300 boats that year were being battered unmercifully by a storm which triggered a major air and sea rescue operation, 15 competitors died, four more on a trimaran shadowing the race also lost their lives, and two more nothing to do with the race perished in the same storm.

As the breeze lightened and switched in direction yesterday, plus the tide turned against them, many boats who could not make it past the tidal trap off Portland Bill were ready, if necessary, to anchor rather than being swept backwards.

The 608-mile course, which has not changed since it was first contested in 1925, takes the fleet down the English Channel, across the Celtic Sea, along the southern coast of Ireland, around the lighthouse which is on the Fastnet Rock off the south-west tip of Ireland and back to Plymouth.

The record, set in 2007 by Mike Slade’s 100-foot Leopard, stands at a few seconds over 44 hours. It will take a change in the forecast to beat that, but Leopard has been modified since last time, is lighter and slightly longer, and navigator Hugh Agnew’s computers are predicting a time of 48 to 50 hours.

Many may not make it until Thursday, even Friday, but weather forecasts, much improved since 1979, were striking no alarm bells in the organising Royal Ocean Racing Club, which has also fitted a tracker device to every yacht, relaying its position every 30 minutes.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...