Challenger 3With a record-sized fleet of 335 in the running, the question ‘who will win the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race’ on handicap is a tough one.

As ever, the corrected time prize is raced under IRC, which this year aims to equalise a fleet as diverse as Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze Clark’s VPLP-Verdier 100 Comanche (with a IRC TCC of 1.975) to the modest Contessa 32 Hurrying Angel 4 of Lucinda Allaway (TCC of 0.872); from state of the art carbon fibre racers, such as the new IRC 72 Mini Maxi Momo, to Matt Brooks’ classic Dorade, the 52 footer which won the Fastnet Race outright in 1931 and 1933 under young skipper Olin Stephens. In between are every imaginable flavour of cruising yachts, cruiser-racers to out and out performance machines.

This year’s winner will be partly determined by the weather. If the race has a strong start and a light finish then it is typically a ‘big boat’ race. If the opposite is true, and the wind only fills in later, then it is a ‘small boat’ race as occurred in 2005 when one of the smallest and slowest boats in the race, Jean-Yves Chateau’s Nicholson 33, Iromiguy, claimed the victor’s Fastnet Challenge Trophy.

 Whichever boats wins, IRC seeks to ensure that it is among the best sailed in the fleet.

 As usual, the Rolex Fastnet Race features many of the world’s best sailing teams. While Niklas Zennström’s Rán II, which won the race in 2009 and 2011, is not competing, the race is being contested by two similar Judel Vrolijk designs, MOMO, the new Maxi 72 of German Dieter Schön and the more travelled Bella Mente of American Hap Fauth. Winner of this spring’s RORC Caribbean 600, Bella Mente has been fitted with a deeper fin and among her all-star crew is Britain’s Adrian Stead, who was central to Rán’s winning afterguard.

Amongst the group of canting keel boats there are some strong candidates including George David’s Rambler 88, Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino, one of two canting keel Cookson 50’s (a design that has won the race before and a proven offshore race winner), plus a few IRC optimised Open (IMOCA) 60’s, which given the right conditions could upset the form book.

Nipping at the heels of the Maxi 72s will be Bryon Ehrhart’s Reichel-Pugh 63, Lucky, recent winner of the Transatlantic Race (and winner of the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart as Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki). Around 50ft, the hottest competition will be between former Admiral’s Cup winner German Tilmar Hansen and his Elliott 52 Outsider, Peter Harrison’s TP52 Sorcha, race legend Piet Vroon’s Ker 51 Tonnerre 4, and the new Carkeek 47, Black Pearl, of German Stefan Jentzsch.

In recent years, dominating the sub-40ft classes as well as the overall results has been France. Eric Tabarly, the event’s first French winner aboard Pen Duick III in 1967, would have been proud of the 2013 result when 13 of the top 16 boats were from his side of La Manche, the event won outright for the first time by a doublehanded crew in father and son Pascal and Alexis Loison. Even two years earlier, in a race theoretically favouring the ‘big boats’, half of the top 22 boats were still French and this situation remains in 2015.

Of course we must not forget the crew on Challenger 3.With just under a week to go to the start of the 2015 edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race the crew of Challenger 3, a yacht belonging to the Tall Ships Youth Trust, (TSYT) are all ready and looking forward to the race. This experience of sailing the 600+miles from Cowes Isle of Wight to the Fastnet Rock, off southern Ireland, then on to Plymouth for the finish of the race will certainly be a challenge for the crew, nine of which are members of Girlguiding.

Calling themselves the ‘Fastnet Divas’ the Girlguiding members have undertaken a lot of training and learned new skills to get to this point. Training weekends, team building and boat skills have come together over the past few months and prior to that the fund raising to enable the ‘Divas’ to take part in one of the World’s Great Ocean Races.

Challenger 3 is skippered by Beth Terrell who is one of a team of professional skippers who work for the TSYT which is based in Portsmouth and offers sailing opportunities for anyone wanting to sail.

Recently the Girlguiding members of the crew have announced that Olympic Gold Medallist Shirley Robertson OBE has kindly agreed to become their Patron. Shirley, a Guide herself when she lived in Scotland, already supports Girlguiding by being an Ambassador for Girlguiding Isle of Wight, where her home is now.

Also supporting the ‘Divas’ is round the World sailor Dee Caffari MBE, who said “I commend your efforts and think that your project sounds very exciting. Congratulations to you for pulling it all together and helping the Girlguiding movement gain momentum in the sailing world. The Fastnet Race is a challenge.”

Welcoming this support from two well known sailors, Hannah Nobbs, one of the crew and Leader in training 1st Sturminster Newton Guides, Dorset said “It is really exciting that Shirley can support our team and it is great that professional all-female teams like SCA, of which Dee was a member, are succeeding in raising the profile of sailing to girls and women.”

Other Girlguiding members of the crew are:
Amy Mossop, Unit leader 11th Basingstoke (St Michael’s) Guides, Hampshire.
Charlotte Scoynes, Leader 11th Chippenham Guides and 1st Calne Guides, Wiltshire +Term time Leader 22nd York Guides.
Jos Baldock, Leader 2nd Gainsborough Rainbows/Leader 1st Gainsborough Brownies and County Senior Section Co-ordinator, Lincs.
Kate Felton, Leader in training 1st Sturminster Newton Guides, Dorset.
Jane Brooke, Leader 1st Curry Rivel and Drayton Guides, Somerset.
Tanya Trevena, Leader 1st Sidmouth Guides, Devon.
Hilary Zayed, Leader 2nd Beaconsfield Guides and District Commissioner Beaconsfield District, Bucks.
April Ulyatt, Assistant leader 14th Mansfield Rainbows/19th Mansfield Guides/1st Mansfield Powell Rangers, Nottinghamshire.
Good Luck Divas- enjoy the race and safe sailing!