22 in #22 – Richard Matthews reports on his 22nd Fastnet
As a measure of experience, six of the eight crew on board the Humphreys 39, Oystercatcher XXXI, taking part in this year’s RORC Rolex Fastnet Race, had a combined total of 64 races, each of over 600 miles. Two of the crew were sailing in their first Fastnet – 19-year-old Hamish Cock from West Mersea and double Olympic medalist and ISAF World Sailor of the Year, Saskia Clark MBE.
The fleet had a 350-mile beat to the Fastnet Rock, eight miles off the Irish Coast, in moderate 12-16 knot headwinds, which freshened to around 20 knots for the final 50 miles to the Rock. There was a full moon and on board Oystercatcher the crew spotted two whales and numerous dolphins but that was cold comfort for a disappointing 110th place on corrected time for our night rounding of the Fastnet.
The run back to the Isles of Scilly was perfect for our asymmetric spinnaker and, with winds in the 20-24 knot range, Oystercatcher almost literally flew downwind averaging over 15 knots for the 150 mile leg, with a top speed of 24 knots!
At the Scillies we set a jib topsail and jib staysail with one mainsail reef for the close reach to The Lizard, and onward to the finish at Plymouth. Even under our fore and aft sails, on one surf Oystercatcher hit 21 knots. As a result of our excellent off-wind pace we climbed the leaderboard to score a 22nd overall in this 360 yacht fleet, a happy result considering our disappointing position at the Fastnet Rock.
At the Rolex sponsored prize giving, I was delighted to be presented with the Dennis Doyle Memorial Trophy for the skipper to have completed the most Fastnets, in my case 22 in total of which 18 of those as skipper.
Oystercatcher XXXI Crew
Richard Matthews – Skipper; Al Fraser – Sailing Master; Alan Brook – Navigator; Geoff Hunt – Watch Leader; Saskia Clark MBE – Tactician, Hamish Cock – Bowman, Owen Kenny – Trimmer and Patricia Lee – Trimmer.