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James Haryada of Gentoo reflects on the Rolex Fastnet Race 2023

by Gentoo Sailing Team 5 Aug 2023 16:20 BST
Gentoo Sailing Team at RORC Rolex Fastnet Race 2023 © Gentoo Sailing Team

A race that really has it all, the 50th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race was full of highs and lows as James and Stéphane navigated the iconic route amongst legendary boats and sailors...

The Rolex Fastnet Race was the first IMOCA Globe Series event this year for Gentoo Sailing Team. A brutal race and true test of skippers and boats as the race started in a blustery 30-40 knots of wind and challenging sea state.

Gentoo Sailing Team crossed the finish line in Cherbourg at 23:35:33 on Tuesday 25th, after racing for 3d 10h 28m, putting them in 24th place.

"I'm generally really pleased with how we sailed the boat and how Stéphane and I worked together as a team. Despite feeling as though the result did not reflect how we sailed, the race offered a perfect test for the boat in the lead-up to the Défi-Azimut, Transat Jacques Vabre and Retour A La Base later this season. It's the beauty of sport and competing in such an incredible class against the best in the world!" - James Haryada

The Fastnet Race is a 700nm race from Cowes on the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg, France. This iconic race took the 450 teams West along the South Coast of the UK, before a sprint across the Celtic Sea, rounding the ominous Fastnet Lighthouse off the South Coast of Ireland before heading back to the English Channel and into Cherbourg. The Fastnet Race is known for its extremely tactical and challenging navigational hurdles and complicated tides, where one small mistake can cost several places. With the Vendée Globe in our sights (and of course many others), it was a bumper fleet of 29 IMOCAs this year with world class skippers setting new records.

This year was the race's 50th Anniversary. In the first night, the conditions took its toll on the fleet, forcing more than 100 retirements in the first 24 hours with several boats having dismasted or even sank. Despite the unforgiving conditions, Gentoo was pushed hard and stood up to the challenge, providing James a perfect opportunity to trial the new systems and set-ups worked on over the recent Spring refit.

The team is now back in full preparation mode ahead of our next IMOCA event, the Défi-Azimut starting on September 20th. The Défi-Azimut is one of the teams favourite annual events, consisting of three different events; Speed Runs on Day 1, a 48hr double-handed offshore race starting on Day 2, and finally a fully-crewed coastal race on the final day. Last year, this was James' first solo race on Gentoo where he firmly established himself as a rising talent in the class, securing a 19th place.

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