The Fastnet Race, one of the world's largest offshore races, began in epic conditions on Sunday, August 8. Of the 337 yachts that made it to the starting line, one was the well-known LIS yacht, Hiro Maru, skippered by her owner, Hiro Nakajima. This second iteration Hiro Maru is a Sparkman & Stephens 49-footer, in which Nakajima raced the 2019 Transatlantic Race and Fastnet Race. While racing was on hold in 2020, Hiro and his crew were able to navigate the unpredictable quarantine complexities and make it to the starting line last week. The first day off Cowes saw 25 knot winds gusting to the mid-30s and a commensurate sea state. At least 25 boats retired during the first day. By day two, It was still gusting to the low 20s, but dropping further to the west with 15-20 knots off the Lizard and 13-15 off Land’s End. Hiro shares his post-race report below.
The 2021 Fastnet Race started in gnarly conditions that one only reads about in books about Solent conditions. It was a beat into 30 knot headwinds against an outgoing tide in the Solent. High breaking waves of short frequency was encountered by everyone. For those of you familiar with LIS conditions, imagine beating up Gardiners Bay into 30+ kts head winds into Plum Gut with a 4 kt ebb tide against you and add steep, closely spaced, and 12' breaking seas while tacking alongside several hundred competing yachts at the same time.
We started with a storm jib and 2 reefs in the main as we made our way out of the Solent past Hurst Castle, past the Shingles at the Needles (the famous landmark at the entrance into the Solent), and into a decidedly lumpy English Channel.
Aside from my boat and crew there was another LIS team from Black Rock YC led by past Commodores Rick Oricchio, Bob McHugh, and Rob Stephens on a First 47.7 finishing 8th in IRC-2. It was nice to see familiar LIS faces across the Pond!
The rest of the race saw conditions vary from being becalmed to 25 kts from all different points of the compass. The Irish Sea was its usual self with shoaling waves from the open Atlantic funneling in from different directions creating lumpy confused seas similar to what one would have in Block Island Sound in a Northeast gale.
The Fastnet finish this year, for the first time, was in Cherbourg, France at the harbor entrance (much like a Vineyard Race finish). The last 50 miles of the race were sailed in areas with 5+ kts of tidal current. Imagine sailing through the Race at the entrance to LIS for 50 continuous miles. We were able to catch a favorable 4 kt tide off of Alderney Island (Channel Island) on our approach to the finish flying our A3 for an elapsed time of 5 days and 2 hours finishing 33rd out of 71 boats.
Due to this year's vagaries with Covid, we crossed the Cherbourg finish line and sailed back to the UK without stopping in France and unfortunately missed the post-race village and events.
Looking back at this year's race, we all felt like we had experienced a small piece of the conditions encountered during the infamous ‘79 Fastnet Race.
Everyone should sail the Fastnet Race at least once in their life. Not as a bucket list but to experience a different kind of racing than typical in the US.
~Hiro Nakajima, Hamble, UK