RORC Ile d’Ouessant Race
The start will mirror the Rolex Fastnet Race and getting a good start in the Solent will be on the minds of every competitor. Playing the tide and wind along the South Coast of England offers many tactical options and once the fleet round Wolf Rock, the next leg is fully offshore to Ouessant, 120 miles away.
Also known as Ushant in English, Ouessant is the largest of a group of islands marking the most north-western point of France and the south-western point of the English Channel, as well as the southern point of the Celtic Sea. To the west there is no landmass until Nova Scotia, over 2000 miles away. From Ushant to Scilly ’tis thirty-five leagues, or so the British naval ditty ‘Spanish Ladies’ explains. The passage can be a rough one.
Ushant itself is a notorious maritime location. Guarded by five lighthouses, the area is prone to dense fog, frequent gales and Atlantic swell with up to nine knots of tide. Shipping lanes also form a man-made hazard and the RORC fleet must successfully round this infamous landmark. The Fromveur Passage, sometimes called St. Vincent’s Channel, is a strait that lies between the island of Ushant and the Kéréon lighthouse and is an area prone to big tidal rips and huge seas.
Having rounded Ushant, the RORC fleet competing in the Île d’Ouessant Race still have about 120 nautical miles to go along the Normandy coast, and if the fleet are inshore cheating the tide there are many rocks and sandbanks to negotiate and the tidal height for St Malo, around the finish time for the race, will be close to 10 metres.