The Rolex Fastnet race, one of offshore racing’s traditional mettle detectors, is bringing together a range of yachts, sailors and agendas for its 44th edition that seems much wider than the Solent that separates the Isle of Wight from the English mainland.
Consider the disparate cases of Ken Newman and Loick Peyron.
Newman is 82 years old, a retired British businessman and sailing amateur who lives on the Isle of Wight and treasures his local race for its camaraderie and tradition. This year, he will bring his venerable brand of ebullience and whisky aboard a Swan 46, a classically influenced, teak-decked monohull of modest dimensions.
Peyron is a 51-year-old Frenchman, one of the world’s leading professional sailors who plans to leave the America’s Cup world series event in Cascais, Portugal, on Saturday, just in time to reach Cowes and take the helm of Banque Populaire V, the 40-meter, or 131-foot, sea monster that is the largest racing trimaran ever built and has been smashing speed records of late.
“They are in a world with which I am not familiar,” Newman said this week of the trimaran as he prepared for his 27th Fastnet.
Not that Newman is any stranger to high velocity and risk. A late convert to sailing — he started at age 27 — he is an even later convert to tobogganing, becoming a regular in the 1990s on the Cresta Run, the natural ice track in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where he once separated his shoulder flying off the track at the Shuttlecock, an infamously tricky curve.
“They’re all mad as hatters, the Cresta boys,” Newman said. “I was 64 when I first did it, and I’ve gone off at the Shuttlecock 23 times now. I’ve done 26 Fastnets, so I have to do another to keep the gap.”