Written by: Plymouth University Sailing Club https://www.upsu.com/sports/clubs/sailingpowerboat/
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George, a previous commodore and current member of the UoP Sailing Club has just completed his 3rd Fastnet Race, the largest offshore event in the world and one of the most prestigious. Racing onboard Sunrise in a team of 8 they secured a class win as well as the overall win. Having now won the overall RORC Season they have shown to be the team to beat!
''George winning the Fastnet is hugely impressive on any year, but with the added complications this year with COVID and the extended course, being the first British team in 18 years to manage it's incredible!"
- Alaric Bates, UoP Sailing Club Commodore
^ Sunrise and team, 2021
The race started with a slight delay due to weather before the fleet set off from Cowes and headed west out of the Solent in boat breaking conditions of 25-40mph winds and a large sea state. It was a game of survival with a number of boats retiring and a close competitor to Sunrise becoming dismasted shortly after the start.
Conditions eased throughout the afternoon and the next couple of days but the fight out of the English channel was more difficult than usual, as due to the later start time multiple tide gates were missed along the south coast. Missing these tidal gates increased the time sailed with the current flowing against which slowed progress and put a larger emphasis on the navigation & tactical calls made.
^ Route Map, 2021
A smooth crossing of the Irish Sea to the Fastnet rock (the turning point just south of Ireland) allowed them to extend on the fleet, with the decision to split north just before the Scilly Isles to locate a more favourable wind direction proving to be successful. A small hiccup of a broken halyard preventing the optimal sail selection for the last 10 miles to the rock was the only blemish, although with a 20 mile lead on the closest boats in their class it did not seem to hinder.
In previous years it would have been a ‘short’ sail to the finish in Plymouth but with a course extension to Cherbourg, this year adding additional complications of more tidal gates off the Channel Islands in addition to extra miles sailed. The return to the Scilly Isles was completed quickly with the boat being sailed to its maximum in an attempt to stay ahead of a weather system, speeds of 26mph were reached, with sustained speeds of 18+ mph. Managing to stay ahead of the high-pressure system proved to be key, with the lead on their class growing to 100 miles by the time they had reached the channel islands. A final call to sail south of Alderney in the dropping breeze was made to take advantage of a tide change before the boat cross the line, the closest class competitor being some 115 miles behind.
With only 206 of the 450 strong fleet finishing the race this year crossing the finish line in Cherbourg is arguably a huge achievement. Winning the race overall, something which has not been done by a British crew for 18 years is incredible.
'Winning one of the most prestigious races in sailing and the largest offshore race in the world was one of the best moments of my life, a dream come true and a moment that will stay with me forever'
- George Kennedy, UoP Sailing Club Member
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