An “awesome experience”. That’s how Emily Nagel summed up her second straight appearance in this month’s Rolex Fastnet Race in a nutshell.
The Bermudian sailor was among the crew on board Peter Harrison’s 72-foot Maxi, Sorcha, which finished second overall in the famous 605 nautical mile biennial race.
“The Fastnet Race was an awesome experience,” Nagel said. “It was my second Fastnet, I did the 2017 race on board Team AkzoNobel Volvo 65.
“This year, I raced on board Sorcha which is a Maxi 72, we had a total crew of 20, all professional sailors although I was the only female on board.
“I’ve spent the past month working and training with the team, getting the boat prepped for the Fastnet. “
The race actually turned out to be much quicker than Nagel had anticipated based on the weather forecast.
“Originally the forecast suggested a lightwind race, but just before the start the weather models all began to align and we ended up with some glamour conditions, which made for a very quick race,” she added.
“We had a brilliant start that set us up well for the first few hours of the race, and held out in front of Jethou and Wizard until we were past the Needles.
“The first night, we saw a big drop in wind as we passed the first weather ridge which meant not a lot of sleep for me as I was working with our navigator to keep an eye on the other boats.
“The following day saw an increase in breeze and in the final 80 miles to the Fastnet rock we saw an hour of sustained 30 knot winds which was definitely interesting on a 72ft boat, it was very bouncy.
“We rounded the Fastnet Rock just before sunset on Sunday night, at this point still ahead of Jethou, our main competition and a slightly larger Maxi at approximately 78 feet.
“The way back across the Irish Sea was comprised of more reaching and downwind and up until the Scilly Isles we were still holding the lead on Jethou.
“Unfortunately, during a sail change we managed to damage our best downwind sail which saw Jethou slowly crawl over us eventually finishing nine minutes in front.
“While it was frustrating to see them beat us over the line, we actually scored ahead of them on corrected time due to their size advantage. Overall it took us only 48 hours 12 mins to sail the course of 605 nautical miles.
“It has been a great team to be a part of with a solid group of sailors on board who stayed positive throughout the race despite the hurdles.”
Wizard, an Volvo Ocean 70, led an overall fleet of nearly 400 yachts across the finish line with Rambler 88, last year’s Newport Bermuda Race winner, finishing third behind Sorcha.
Nagel competed in the same class as compatriot, Mustafa Ingham, who was among the crew of Lucky which finished 17th.
“Congrats have to go to Mustafa Ingham who was also racing on another Maxi 72, which finished a couple hours behind us,” Nagel said. “It was awesome to have another Bermudian in the same class to race against.”
The Rolex Fastnet Race is organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club and named after the Fastnet Rock which the racecourse rounds.
The race is considered one of the classic offshore races as it is a difficult contest testing both inshore and offshore skills, boat and crew preparation and speed potential.
British sailor Weston Martyr conceived the idea of the race, which was first held in 1925, after competing in the Bermuda Race, later changed to Newport Bermuda Race.