RORC Fastnet Programme
The Commodore Yachting RORC Fastnet package is an all-encompassing comprehensive package for anyone wanting to undertake this truly iconic race.
Our programme may not be the cheapest, but it’s by far the most comprehensive and detailed in the industry. We want you to feel you’ve not only gained a wealth of knowlege, but have the confidence, experience and ability to back it up all the way, when and where it matters on the race itself. For this, we can’t cut corners. We include all the usual RYA courses everyone else does and more, but we add-in three offshore practice weekends, the three RORC qualifying races and of course the iconic RORC Fastnet Race itself.
Weekend 1 (3-4th April) – RYA Sea Survival & RYA First Aid at Sea*
Weekend 2 (10-11th April) – ISAF Offshore Safety & yacht familiarisation drills*
Weekend 3 (17-18th April) – Practice weekend 1. (Start line and down to Hurst Castle, then a day offshore sailing)
Weekend 4 (24-25th April) – Practice weekend 2. (Offshore sailing)
Weekend 5 (1-2nd May) – RORC Cervantes Trophy Race (Cowes-Le Havre) Approx 110-160miles
Weekend 6 (29-30th May) – RORC Myth of Malham Race (Cowes-Eddystone Rock) Approx 230miles
Weekend 7 (11-13th June) – RORC Morgan Cup (Cowes-Guernsey) Approx 110-140miles
Weekend 8 (10-11th July) – Final practice weekend, boat drills, watch rotas, emergency drills, Q&A session
FINAL WEEK (7-15th August) – RORC Fastnet Race (Cowes-Fastnet Rock-Cherbourg) Approx 695miles
*The RYA Sea Survival and First Aid at Sea courses are subject to government restrictions regarding social bubbles and groupings. We may have to move these dates around a bit – Announcements will be made by phone/email/both.
The first weekend is where you’ll meet for the first time as a yacht racing crew. We’ll start off this weekend with a series of introductions and open discussion about the Fastnet race, the qualifiers, practice sessions and generally get a feel for what sort of sailing everyone has done. From here on we’ll get you through your RYA Sea Survival and RYA First Aid at Sea courses.
The second weekend is dedicated to a day for your ISAF Offshore Safety course, and then a day getting used to the boat you’ll be racing on. You’ll get to grips with her out in the Solent, practice raising storm sails, general operations during the race and making sure everyone knows the boat and all the emergency procedures to follow in case of emergency. This is also a good time to look at how you’ll Victual the boat and how meals will be served on board.
The third weekend is where you get out into the Solent for real. We’ll head towards the start line in Cowes, so you can see just how busy things can get, even on a normal day. You’ll be shown the iconic Royal Yacht Squadron start line and get a feel for how much room you’ll have available on the day. You’ll practice fast tacks and gybes, focus on crew communication and tactics. From there you’ll sail down to Hurst Castle, past the needles and out into offshore water for the remainder of the weekend.
The fourth weekend is similar to weekend 3, but it’s purely offshore sailing. We want you to experience sailing in rougher water, out of the sight of land, in all manner of conditions. Obviously this weekend is subject to weather so if its too fine we may postpone it for another weekend. Please keep your weekends flexible as we may have to change practice weekend dates with little notice.
Your first offshore race. The RORC Cervantes Trophy. This is a blast across the channel from Cowes to Le Havre and then back again. It’s about 110-130miles (providing you don’t get lost!) and it’s a great introduction to offshore sailing. This is easily done in a weekend and then it’s a simple sail back to our Gosport marina base for a well-earned rest and meal on board.
Here we go again! This time it’s the RORC Myth of Malham race, a truly iconic and fun race from Cowes to Eddystone Rock near Plymouth and then a blast back to Cowes. Great fun and hotly contested, you’ll love this race as it’s got a turning point very similar to the Fastnet race in that you’ll round Eddystone Rocks, which looks like a smaller version of Fastnet Rock. This is about 230miles of incredible racing and is easily done in a weekend. The return run back to Cowes is usually a great opportunity to get the spinnaker out and experience some incredible downwind sailing. What you’ll experience on this race is the run down to Eddystone which is exactly what you’ll be doing on Fastnet, except you keep going when you reach Eddystone!
Ok this one is great fun, the RORC Morgan Cup. You’ll race from Cowes to Guernsey, approximately 110-140miles across the English Channel, finishing in the channel islands, before a nice leisurely sail back to our Gosport marina base. Anther great cross-channel race to get you used to open-ocean racing.
Ok so by now you must be feeling more confident about your own abilities in offshore racing, as well as what the boat can do. You’ve done your first two offshore races of the year, you’ve done some practice weekends and should be looking forward to the pinnacle of it all, the RORC Fastnet race. Well, lets make sure all your skills are polished by having one last practic weekend to keep you fresh. What we’ll do in this weekend is look at how things have gone so far, whats worked, what hasn’t, what needs looking at and what you do well. We’ll hone and polish the crew operation, finalise watches and life on board for the Fastnet Race, as up until now all you’ve done is spend 1-2nights on board. The next time you step onboard there will be more nights on board and more to take into consideration. So, this weekend will look at all that, plus we will look at emergency boat drills again, heavy weather procedures reviews, watch rotas finalisation, kit and clothing, look at the victualling and what meals we’ll plan-out and how that’ll work on board with the watches, plus a final Q&A session. This weekend will be a mix of sailing time and shore-based tasks. By the end of the last day, you’ll feel confident and ready for the pinnacle that is the RORC Fastnet race.
Ok, here we go. This is it, this is what you’ve worked hard for as a yacht racing crew, ready to take on one of the most iconic offshore races in the world. It’s time for the RORC Fastnet Race, and the final goal we all strive for. Time to get your race-face on and focus.
You’ll need to be at our Gosport marina base by 6pm on the Friday evening for a skippers briefing, general safety chat, final Q&A and to get the boat fully victualled for the RORC Fastnet race. We will do the final food shop for the boat, but it’ll be up to you to organise it on the yacht, stow it safely and more importantly that you know where everything is. We’ll print-off and laminate the meal cards, but the rest is up to you as a yacht crew. You’ll get the boat ready to depart, check your kit and make sure everything is in working order. At this stage you may decide as a crew that a quick shakedown test is needed, and we wouldn’t blame you (subtle hint!), so why not take her out into the Solent for one pre-race sail to just double-check everything is fine.
We’ll do our race prep check on the boat in the week leading up to the race, with a freshly serviced engine and all coding checks completed. All you need to do is make sure you are happy with the yacht and that you yourself are fully prepared, this is the big one, so make sure you’ve brought everything you need with you.
The next morning you leave Gosport marina nice and early and head over to the start line for the RORC Fastnet race!
So, health……. yours mainly.
Lets face it, we aren’t all superheroes and sometimes we don’t look after ourselves as much as we should. Make no bones about it, this programme is demanding, both physically and mentally. It’ll push you, pull you, twist and bend you until you feel you are at your limits and beyond. It’s tough. So, you need to make sure you are up for it, and up to it.
So why not take some time to check in at the gym for a few weeks beforehand, cut out the booze (yes, believe it or not Jonno our resident bar-fly is writing this!), and spend a few weeks (or months) on the good healthy home-cooked food, embracing the salad a bit more and cutting out the take-aways for a while? (again, amazing Jonno is actually writing all this!) It’ll all be for the benefit of yourself and you’ll probably feel fitter and more agile at the end of it anyway, but it’s preferable to be in reasonable shape before you start one of the most iconic yacht races in the world.
At the end of the day this is a serious race programme and you may need to consider is talking to your doctor about your personal fitness. We aren’t expecting you to be superhumanly fit, but if you are a physical wreck, you might struggle. With mental health as well being in the public eye now (about time too!), you may also need to ask yourself if you are mentally in the right frame of mind for it too. There is no shame in having doubts, we are all human and a chat with us over a coffee is always a good thing (we love hearing from you all!). It may make you more determined, or it may make you think another route is best. Either way, we are here to support you through all no matter what you want to do. We want to see you succeed!
So……. give yourself a little love, it’ll pay dividends in the long-run.
Previous experience, and is this right for you?
Acceptance on this programme doesn’t require any formal sailing qualifications at all. But………We do advise that you have sailed, preferably been offshore a bit and that you’ve experienced a few days and nights on a yacht. This is a serious commitment to make, and isn’t a pleasure cruise. This is a full-on personal journey and you need to acknowledge this.
Books and course materials
There has been so much written and said about the Fastnet race that you won’t struggle to find information on it. There are some great books out there which are well worth reading, and whilst the title isn’t confidence building, it’s well worth reading the book “Left for Dead” about the 1979 Fastnet race and how the rules were changed following this race which made the headlines worldwide for a variety of reasons. Sailing magazines are great resources and the internet is full of brilliant articles worth reading.
What you have to be aware of is that the weather can be rough, you will be racing offshore and you can’t just “stop off at a marina” somewhere for a run ashore for beers/gin/kebab. Do your research, read-up on the race. Whilst this sounds very serious (it is!) this is also about having a lot of fun too and taking part in the experience of a lifetime.
Hopefully the above has given you a flavour for what the RORC Fastnet programme is all about. There is a lot to take in and it’s not a decision which should be taken lightly. It’s an investment in you, and that investment needs a lot of input, dedication and guts to achieve. So, ask around, speak to likeminded sailors, friends, family, even us! We love to chat about all kinds of sailing shenanigans, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone anytime and give us a call. We are all sailors after all, and us lot at Commodore Yachting are so obsessed we still answer the phones up to 9pm each night and sometimes even later! Don’t be a stranger, give us a shout and lets have a chat with how we can help you achieve the pinnacle of offshore yacht racing!