Dee Caffari, Turn the Tide on Plastic
The Rolex Fastnet is one of the ocean classics, a 600-miler that everyone wants to tick off. But it's fraught with hazards right from the start line as you leave off the Royal Yacht Squadron line through the Solent. You’ve got shallows and tide to contend with, you’ve got to get clear out the Needles, then you’ve got the whole south coast with several tidal gates along the way which are either going to make or break your race. You’re either pushing in close to make the difference or heading offshore to avoid the adverse current.
Once you get clear of the south coast you’ve got the long stretch across the Irish Sea to round the rock and everyone’s just aiming to see that Fastnet Rock. Inevitably its going to be night when we get around it, as that always seems to be the case! Everyone wants to take a picture but at that moment you’ve got a sail changes, course changes, and that's your turning mark to head back across the Irish Sea which is normally downwind so the big gear goes up. You try to go as fast as possible back to the south coast.
That corner with the Scilly Isles with all the shipping lanes is a massive transition, quite hazardous with all the shipping and the fishing boats as well as the coastline and the currents there. Then its just as fast as possible to the finish line at the breakwater in Plymouth.
It's not my first Rolex Fastnet so I’m comfortable that I know where I’m going and what I’m doing. So now it's about transitioning the crew from the intense three hours we had Around the Island and trying to keep that intensity for three days, rather than just three hours. That's a hard transition and a new thing for this crew.
Xabi Fernández, MAPFRE
Well on Wednesday in the Around the Island, we think it went well for us. We certainly sailed well as a team and manoeuvres and decisions went pretty well. We'll take Fastnet very seriously, the race itself is very attractive for us and of course it's a training and comparison against the other teams, so hopefully we can again start okay and it’s going to be a tough race of 2 and a half races sprint, all the way out to the rock and then hopefully we can relax a bit on the way back.
Charlie Enright, Vestas 11th Hour Racing
Expectations are a little bit tough to calibrate because you get out there an you see the other boats and you want to push as hard as possible, but at the same time it will be the first time that all the team are out on the boat so the objective is really to grow as a team and improve as much as we can, not only over the course of the Fastnet and also the rest of Leg Zero and then recalibrate when we get to Lisbon for the two-boat testing.
David Witt, Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag
We’ve got a bit of a strategy of having the least amount of people on board and the reason for that is for conditions like the Fastnet. Coming back from the rock it’ll be VMG running 8-12 which is sort of what the majority of this Volvo Ocean Race is. We might tick a box and say we’re right, or we might say ‘hold on’ and change our whole strategy. As a sailing team we’re not that concerned about it, we’re just using it as an opportunity to learn more about the boats and the rig set ups but on the other hand it’s extremely important for our backers and everything that we do a much better result than on the Around the Island Race. We had a big debrief – we could have quite easily come fourth, we should have come fourth if the sail unfurled. We were definitely under the radar before and now we’re not the radar, so it could be a good thing for us.
Simeon Tienpont, team AkzoNobel
We’re taking on the Rolex Fastnet race as our first real offshore test – and that's the case for the whole fleet too. It's something we're looking forward to as a team. At 600nm, it's not that long as a leg – it's a sprint, and it's going to be interesting. The weather conditions are always changing and its a race with lots of tactical decisions to make so there’s not a lot of sleep, but a lot of hard work. We’re really looking forward to just working hard and getting the right set up. It's going to be tight racing, really spectacular.
Charles Caudrelier, Dongfeng Race Team
At first it’s mandatory, you have to be there to be qualified but it’s very good to be here because before the Volvo Ocean Race we couldn’t sail against the other ones, so we trained outside and we have no reference, only the number, so it’s good to race against the other ones and see how it goes and if we did a good job so it’s very important for everybody. It’s also part of the training for the Volvo Ocean Race so the winner will be the one who uses this time of super testing and racing against the other ones to improve their level. So I think it’s really important. Fastnet is not really like a Volvo leg as it’s not really offshore, it’s a coastal race along the south coast of England, which is very complicated usually and after you have a bit of offshore between England and the Fastnet but it’s not the same game, whereas when you race three weeks, it’s a bit different, but in each case you see which ones are the strong teams because it’s about getting the speed very quickly, managing the conditions and the off-shore race.