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Fastnet challenge looms for JMII

Wednesday, 05 August 2009

RYA Press Release


5 August 2009

emaining to enter 2008 RYA Youth Nationals

Fastnet challenge looms for John Merricks II crew


No fewer than 14 young sailors are looking forward to one of the toughest tests of their big boat careers as they prepare to represent the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race next week.


The famous 608-mile challenge gets underway from Cowes this Sunday (9 August) and for many of the crew of the RYA-run TP52 John Merricks II, the race will provide the longest and most high-octane sailing experience of their lives.


For nine of the crew, predominantly comprising sailors from the RYA Keelboat Programme, it will be their debut in the legendary race while the remaining five members all boast previous Fastnet experience, including the infamous 2007 race which was blighted by rough seas and appalling weather conditions.


John Merricks II has enjoyed a fruitful second season on the RORC circuit in warm up to the Rolex Fastnet, winning the IRC Super Zero Class at the Cervantes Trophy, taking line honours and finishing third overall in the Myth of Malham, and second in class at the Red Funnel Easter Regatta.


Boat skipper Luke McCarthy insists if his team can do the basics well for the entire duration of the Fastnet there is little reason John Merricks II cannot complete the gruelling test and achieve a creditable finishing positioning.


He said: “The biggest challenge the sailors face is that none of them have completed the Rolex Fastnet before and for several of them this will be their longest time at sea. However, I’ll be stressing we simply need to keep doing the same things we’ve been doing all season, but just for a little longer.


“As a crew I think we have two really big strengths. Most of the sailors come from strong dinghy backgrounds and are all used to trimming and helming, which is what is needed most of the time for offshore racing. Having the scope to switch people in to keep things focussed is a real benefit.


“The sailors have also spent hundreds of hours working on all areas of the boat, including looking after sails, winches, electronics and rigging, and everyone knows the boat inside out meaning when the inevitable breakdowns happen we will be able to get things fixed and get the boat back up to full speed as quickly as possible.”


Before getting the nod for the 2009 race, all the sailors have been involved in compulsory ISAF Offshore safety training, covering fundamentals such as life rafts, flares, heavy weather sailing and medical considerations.


Their performances in John Merricks II’s offshore outings over the past two seasons were also taken into consideration in terms of how they have coped with sailing offshore for long periods of time, how involved the individuals have been in the upkeep and maintenance of the boat and physical fitness.


“I'm really excited for the week ahead, particularly though to be doing the race on a TP52 and with a great bunch of sailors from the RYA Keelboat Programme,” enthused Fastnet first-timer Tom Smedley.

“The length of race will certainly be a new challenge for me, I'm not used to racing the boat for three or four days straight, but it’s something I'm looking forward to.

“We've all got loads out of being involved with John Merricks II this season and getting ready for Sunday's startline, it's an awesome experience to get at 22.”


RYA Racing Manager John Derbyshire added: “The Rolex Fastnet is one of the world's great offshore races. These young sailors will have the opportunity to test their sailing skills to the limit while working together closely as a team to try to achieve the best possible result for John Merricks II. The lessons they will learn and experiences they will take from the Fastnet will stand them in excellent stead for all future big boat racing they may take part in."


The maximum 300 boat limit has once again been reached for the event with the fleet boasting entries from 16 countries making it one of the most international Fastnet fields ever. The first warning signal is scheduled for 11.50am.


To learn more about all the John Merricks II sailors and to keep track of their progress throughout the 2009 Rolex Fastnet


John Merricks II crew for the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race:

Skipper/navigator – Luke McCarthy (from Brighton; now lives Southampton)

Helm – Tom Smedley (Portsmouth)

Helm – Nick Cherry (Birmingham; now Southampton)

Trim/helm – Scott Millar (N. Ireland)

Trim/helm – Ben Pym (Cardiff)

Trim – Chris Noble (Glasgow)

Trim/helm – Josh Rumbol (Poole)

Trim – Sally Olsen (Devon)

Trim/grind – Ed Dyer (Reading)

Pit/trim – Tim Jestico (London)

Trim/pit – Becky Scott (Helensburgh)

Trim/sewer – Hester Robertson (Edinburgh)

Mast/grind – Rich Graham (Southampton)

Bow/trim – Peter Cowell (Shropshire)

Bow – Phil Miller (Southampton)

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