A group of Puget Sound sailors — including 48° North racing columnist, Stephanie Campbell — will soon head to the UK to compete in the world’s largest offshore race, the Fastnet! 

It all started with a call from my friend Mark Harang on a Friday night asking what I knew about sailing Beneteau 40.7s. Hadn’t I put in some miles? Why, yes! I certainly have.

I learned from Mark that our friend Brad Baker had an opportunity to join a crew on the Fastnet with some local sailors who already set up a charter. I was super excited for them and happy to share whatever I knew. It didn’t take long for Mark to share that they were actually looking to add one more crew, and wondered if I was interested. There would be a somewhat significant time and money commitment, but could I let him know what I thought in the next few days? I told him right then and there that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t do it. It was going to happen, one way or another! I. Was. IN.

Accomplished offshore sailor, Brad Baker, training locally for the Fastnet Race.

The Rolex Fastnet Race is the biggest race in the world, based on the number of entrants.  I believe there are already 500 boats signed up, with everything from Beneteau 40s to Volvo 70s to the singlehanded IMOCA 60 fleet with Alex Thompson on Hugo Boss, to Rambler 88 with a crew of 26 sailors, down to a handful of boats just big enough to meet safety requirements. The Fastnet starts in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, racing around the south shore of the UK, across the Celtic Sea to Ireland, where you round Fastnet Rock on the southwest shore.

After rounding, the course is traditionally back to Plymouth England for a total of 600 miles. The race has historically been dominated by French sailors, and this year the race ends in Cherbourg, France. Cherbourg is on the north shore of France, along the shores of Normandy. Finishing in France adds another 100 miles to the course, making it nearly 700 miles.

What about a global pandemic, you wonder? The race begins and ends in a compounds that are locked down, with requirements for vaccination and government-imposed quarantine. We are really hoping that the UK and Europe start to open up and that the United States earns green light status before the event. Fingers remain crossed. On the bright side, the race compounds are sponsored by Rolex and, as a Big Boat Series alumnus, I have every hope that there won’t be too much suffering if we get stuck in lockdown.

Some of the Jazz crew for Fastnet out for a sail on Audacious.

Our crew has chartered the Beneteau First 40 Jazz with a crew of nine sailors. Brad, Mark and I are joining three Russian sailors from Seattle who chartered the boat in England. Vlad, Yury, and Victor are organizing the group, while also helping us learn some Russian culture along the way. Crewmember Keegan Brown is a new sailor in town from the Great Lakes and owns the 40.7 Audacious aboard which we have been practicing. I have yet to meet our eighth crewmember Josh, who is joining us from the Midwest. Our crew has also enlisted a card-carrying professional skipper from Florida who will join us when we arrive in the UK.

After several practices I’d say that we are definitely proficient! We’ll give them a run for the money and soak in the awesomeness of an iconic bucket-list race. It’s kind of a big deal! Stay tuned for the full report in the September Issue of 48° North. The race starts on August 8th!