22nd July: Start of the Fastnet Race
Saturday, 22nd July 2023, saw the start of the 50th running of the Fastnet Race. I booked on the 09-12 watch at NCI Stone Point and then also, because the rota was short, on the 15-18 watch. So I was off watch for the period during which the Fastnet Race was started. The weather for the first race start at 1300 for the large multihulls was force 6 with light rain. The rain remained light as the next starts, the IMOCA 60s and then the Class40s came past Lepe, but then the weather closed in with the wind increasing to force 7.
In total there were 430 entries. Because of the bad weather the fast boats were sent off first. By the time the main fleet reached the Needles Channel the wind must have been at or near gale force 8 from the SW and the tide still ebbing.
We listened to a mayday on VHF with the crew abandoning their yacht and being picked up by Yarmouth lifeboat from their liferaft. Apparently there were around 100 retirements early in the race.
With tide against a gale force wind, the Bridge and Shingles Bank area west of Hurst Narrows is a place to be avoided, even if it means sailing around the Isle of Wight and entering the Solent past the Nab. I wonder at the wisdom of forcing yachts to race through an area which good seamanship would say to avoid?