Fastnet Week: Update

The legend itself- Fastnet Rock
The legend itself- Fastnet Rock

The Fastnet Race starts this Sunday, so it seems like time for a pre-race blog or two. I’ll be joining Inseyandra on Saturday morning and we’ll take her across the Solent from Haslar to Cowes that evening to join the pre-race festivities. Our starting gun will be at 12:40 pm on Sunday afternoon! The Fastnet race is a 608 mile course from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, passing west along the south coast of England before rounding Lands’ End and making for the Fastnet Rock, a tiny island with an iconic lighthouse which lies in the Atlantic Ocean, four miles south of Cape Clear, Ireland. Rounding the Fastnet, yachts head back across the Western Approaches towards the Scilly Isles, rounding them to the south before heading for the finish line at Plymouth.

The route of the Fastnet Race 2015
The route of the Fastnet Race 2015

The Fastnet is the Royal Ocean Racing Club‘s marquee event and the world’s premier yacht race. 335 boats are competing this year, ranging from Jim Clark’s new 100 ft super-racer Comanche to Corinthian entries like ours. You can watch the preview video on the RORC’s Fastnet minisite here.

Following Inseyandra

Along with all the other competing boats, Inseyandra will have a yellow brick tracker fitted. This is a satellite tracker which will work even when the boat is far offshore, so you can check our position at any time. Simply type the boat’s name into the search field on the RORC’s fleet tracking webpage here:

Join the race!

It was news to me, but it seems you can enter the Fastnet from the comfort of your armchair! at you can play along while the race plays out, steering a virtual boat through the real wind and wave conditions that the fleet themselves are experiencing. Worth a shot?

The Big Questions- the weather, and how long will it take?

Because the Fastnet involves crossing the western approaches (twice), the race is exposed to Atlantic weather conditions, and in 1979 the event achieved infamy when an unforcast storm wreaked havoc amongst the fleet, with the loss of 15 lives. Now boat design and weather forecasting have come a long way since then, and our priority with Inseyandra will be to sail safely and enjoyably; which means if gales are coming, we will be heading home. We also have plenty of advanced weather routing from RORC (via Squid) and from PredictWind. So, what does PredictWind think the Fastnet has in store for us? By plugging the course, and some data on Inseyandra’s speed on different points of sail (called polars) I can get an estimate of the weather conditions we might experience day-by-day, as well as an overview of the conditions for the race as a whole.

Summary forecast for Fastnet 2015, 11 August

PredictWind offers four weather models; the American GFS and Canadian CMC global low-resolution models, together with their own, high resolution versions of both (PWG and PWC), which are what you are really paying for. This far out there’s still some variance in the models, which is to be expected, but at the moment the weather is looking- good!

  • The PWG and PWC don’t expect weather much above a F5, and both
    Wind Speed forecast graph, Fastnet 2015, 11 August

    models expect us to spend most or even all the race reaching, or sailing downwind.

  • There is a risk of higher winds, up to about F7, expressed in the raw models around Tuesday, but these are strong breezes, not gales.
  • The maximum swell prediction is less than 2 metres.
  • The race should take us around four days.

Of course, the only thing you can say for certain about any weather prediction is that it will be wrong, and the start (and especially the end) of the race is, in weather terms, a very long way into the future. Still, it’s nice to see a decent forecast, and the excitement is starting to build!


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