The Rolex Fastnet fleet will set sail from the Solent on 16th August in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial Rolex Fastnet Race. 2015 marks the 90th anniversary of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and with it a record-sized fleet with as many as 350 boats are expected to take part.
The entry list makes for impressive reading in terms of scale, diversity and quality of the fleet taking part, confirming the Rolex Fastnet Race's position as the world's biggest and most popular offshore race by far.
There are 387 boats entered with a further 74 on the waiting list. If all the boats currently entered were put bow to stern, the line from Cowes would stretch two thirds of the way across the Solent to the mainland (1635.75m).
The bulk of the fleet - 340 entries - are competing under IRC for the race's overall prize, the Fastnet Challenge Cup. With the two American maxis: Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark's 100ft Comanche and George David's Rambler 88, expected to be the pace setters on the water. The remaining 47 are not competing under IRC but represent some of the world's leading professional race boat classes.
There will be 13 yachts in the multihull class which features the likes of Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard's 40m long trimaran, Spindrift 2, the world's fastest offshore sailing yacht; in 2009 she covered 908.2 nm (ie 50% further than the Rolex Fastnet Race course) in 24 hours at an average speed of 37.84 knots and in 2011, as Banque Populaire V, set the Rolex Fastnet Race multihull record.
An impressive 52 entries are sailing two handed, up from 45 in 2013 when the race was won for the first time in its history by a two handed crew.
As ever the 603 mile course takes the fleet west along the south coast of England, across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off the tip of southwest Ireland, south around Bishop Rock and the Scilly Isles and back east to the finish in Plymouth. Conditions on the race course can range from benign and summery to vicious and stormy and the fact is well remembered for the horrific conditions in 1979 that claimed the lives of 15 competitors. Fortunately vast improvements in weather forecasting, safety and communications equipment as well as yacht design over the intervening years mean that a repeat of this disaster today is unlikely.
The whole fleet will have YB trackers aboard for the entirety of the race. They will collect and transmit data such as gps position, speed and direction to YB HQ servers where all of this information will be compiled onto our live race player, providing those who are left ashore with a way to follow the fleet's progress to the finish line at Plymouth.