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BKA Sailors in Fastnet Race 2011

RYA Press Release

22 August 2011

BKA crew passes Rolex Fastnet test

Eight young keelboat sailing talents from the RYA/UKSA-run British Keelboat Academy have mastered a range of challenging conditions to complete the gruelling Rolex Fastnet Race as the fastest J109 boat.

The crew, skippered by 22-year-old Henry Smith and with an average age of 21, were on board one of more than 300 yachts to embark upon the world-famous 608-mile offshore race on Sunday 14 August, and battled a range of wind conditions and equipment troubles to finish after four and a half days of continuous sailing. 

The crew, sailing on board the J109 ‘Yeoman of Wight’, generously on loan from David Aisher, were the first J109 to finish, a feat which pleased the Oxford skipper Smith.

“That was one of our main aims before the race, so we’re really happy to have achieved that,” he said.

“We encountered a real mixture of conditions during the race, from a wet and windy blast reaching across the Celtic Sea, to very light winds around the Fastnet Rock and especially coming into the finish where our boat speed was down to around one knot at times!”

Smith was full of praise for his seven crewmates, who pulled together to not only bring the campaign to the startline in the first place, but also to keep the boat racing as fast as possible during the testing conditions.

“The crew were really good, and worked the boat hard at all times – there was a really good atmosphere on board,” he explained.

“We all learned loads both in the actual race and in organising the campaign. Everyone on the crew brought different skills and experience to the team and we were able to share these effectively.”

The 22-year-old skipper cited the high points of the race as rounding the Fastnet Rock, and, in hindsight, the breezy conditions they experienced, although at the time he could only think of how cold and wet they were getting from the strong winds!

“I think I would like to do the race again, but perhaps in a faster boat next time,” he concluded.

“The multihulls were coming back past us on their way to the finish when we had only just gone around the Lizard on the way out!”

British Keelboat Academy Head Coach Luke McCarthy was quick to congratulate the achievements of the young team.

“The team were probably one of the youngest crews in this year’s race, and should be proud of finishing one of the greatest offshore yacht races,” he said.

“They will have all learned and developed a huge amount from the experience of the race itself, and from the whole campaign, which they organised the majority of themselves including arranging safety kit, provisioning, and all the additional bits that are required for taking a boat on a race of this length.

“Their achievement probably hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but after some well-deserved rest I’m sure they will see that this has been an experience which they will take forward for the rest of their sailing careers.”


J/109, Yeoman of Wight crew for the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race:


Skipper/Nav - Henry Smith (Oxford)

Helm - Sam Matson (Exeter)

Main - Steve Aiken (Southampton)

Trim 1/Bow - James Brown (Southampton)

Helm 2 - Robin Elsey (Falmouth, Cornwall)

Main/mast - James O'Mahony (Cork, Ireland)

Trim 2 - Alex Gardner (New Church, IOW)

Bowman - Neil Payne (Portsmouth)


For further information regarding the Rolex Fastnet Race visit  


The BKA’s sponsors include X-Ray at 77 and Group Dental, plus a number of generous supporters and suppliers.


For more information about the British Keelboat Academy and how you can help with fundraising, please visit the BKA website , or follow the BKA on Facebook at  or on Twitter (@tweetbka).

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