48th Rolex Fastnet Race, Cowes/Plymouth, UK; August 3-8, 2019.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

48th Rolex Fastnet Race, Cowes/Plymouth, UK; August 3-8, 2019.

The start of the Rolex Fastnet Race in front of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes.

THIS YEAR, THE 48TH EDITION of a race that began in 1925 attracted a record fleet of 388 yachts, of which 333 were competing for the overall win on handicap. 

The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of sailing’s ultimate challenges: a racecourse that has achieved mythic status, a turning mark that is a true icon in sport and a near 100-years of history and tradition. By winning the 2019 race, co-owners David and Peter Askew with the crew of the American yacht, Wizard, have become part of the enduring legend.

Winning this race is a remarkable achievement, even for a team on a roll; Wizard has already achieved handicap victories in the 2019 Transatlantic Race and the RORC Caribbean 600.

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Richard de Leyser, Managing Director, Rolex UK and Peter Askew, co-owner of Wizard. 

David Askew had previously taken part in the Rolex Fastnet Race in 1985. Winning was a surprise, given the complexity of the course and the size of fleet, but not a complete surprise given the preparation and the expertise of Wizard’s crew: “It’s one of the premier ocean racing events in the world. I think it is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, to win.” In the multihull arena, Franck Cammas, co-skipper of the technologically-advanced foiling trimaran, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, along with Charles Caudrelier, another proven ocean race winner, demonstrated the talent and tenacity needed to be first in class. Fastnet is a legend. It is one of my favourite races,” remarked Caudrelier. “There are not so many like this. The south coast of England is very tricky. Crossing the Celtic Sea is special and when you pass the rock, it is like passing Cape Horn, it is something else.”

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Overall Winner of the 2019 Rolex Fastnet; The Fastnet Rock – emblematic of this race.

Eight years ago, during the 2011 race, George David endured the terrifying ordeal of his then yacht Rambler 100 losing its keel and capsizing shortly after rounding the rock. Following his rescue, David built a new yacht, the 27m (88ft) current Rambler. Over recent years, he and his highly-tuned crew have secured a series of monohull line honours victories at classic races around the world, including four in a row at the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Securing consecutive firsts to finish wins at the Rolex Fastnet Race, David came within one hour, 16 minutes of setting a new monohull race record. On his success, David commented: “It is a big deal and we’re delighted to have this outcome. It was a contest and we were in heavy competition right from the start.” 

Conditions this year were testy for the international fleet as professional and Corinthian crews alike experienced a broad range of weather and sea states. And all had to overcome the notorious tidal and tactical challenges presented by the famous course.