50 Knot winds predicted in Celtic Sea on Tuesday

With the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race this Sunday, 12 August, a 300-strong fleet of hopefuls is preparing around the Solent, with many using Skandia Cowes Week as a tune-up regatta.

But will the fleet leave on time? Storm force winds have been forecast in the Celtic Sea, off southern Ireland and the Fastnet Rock, next Tuesday 14 August, with GRIB files showing southerly winds of 50 knots and more. Although the maxi yachts, such as Mike Slade’s new ICAP Leopard, should be in Plymouth by then, the weather could cause huge damage to the smaller boats in the race, who would be positioned right in the storm’s path.

This year’s fleet, the largest since the tragic 1979 race, is due take to the Royal Yacht Squadron start line off Cowes on Sunday, with the first signal due at 0950 BST.

The 608-mile Rolex Fastnet is a race steeped in history. First contested in 1925 and, except for a break during the 1940s, run biennially, this year will mark the 42nd edition. There are those who return again and again to the course; for Piet Vroon and Ken Newman, once was definitely not enough. Netherlands sailor Vroon is competing this year on his Lutra 56, Formidable, in what will be his 23rd race. After over 40 years of competing in the Fastnet, Vroon struck gold in 2001, winning both the IRC and IRM classes overall.

Topping Vroon is Ken Newman aboard Swan 51 Grandee; this will be his 24th race – he has only missed one since his first Fastnet, forty years ago in 1967. What brings the intrepid 78-year old sailor back each time? ‘It’s a classic race in the sense that around the course you are in different situations and each leg is its own challenge. Never assume you’ve won and never assume you’ve lost,’ Newman says.

The Race & Weather Briefing takes place on Saturday 11th August at 1600 at the Cowes Yacht Haven Events Centre. Only two representatives from each boat may attend and tickets must be obtained in advance from the RORC to gain entry.