fastnet fandango

Update:  And to complicate this Fastnet problem even further, there’s also a snag at the UK end after the finish. Any sailors who have gone ashore in France after the race and then returned to England or Wales must quarantine at home for 10 days – even if fully vaccinated. 

The Rolex public relations machine is cranking up its publicity for the Fastnet Race, run by the Royal Ocean Racing Club. They have good reason to be pleased with the 400+ entries the event has attracted. The race begins off Cowes in the UK on August 8 and finishes at the new destination of Cherbourg in France.

But what the pre-race promotion hasn’t emphasized is the potential difficulties posed by the persistent Coronavirus. When a race starts in one country and ends in another things can get tricky.

The UK has just dropped all restrictions relating to COVID despite still registering 50,000 new infections per day. Crazy, but true. Meanwhile, France is maintaining a more cautious policy that places quite strict obligations on foreigners arriving in the country.

There will be around 3,000 sailors taking part in the Fastnet. Some boats will avoid any problems by starting in the UK, dipping through the finish line off Cherbourg and then returning home across the English Channel. Others will do it the other way – depart from France, cross the Channel, sail through the starting line, and then finish back in France.

But not every crew will want to self-isolate like that. There are 190 visitor berths at Port Chantereyne (Cherbourg’s harbour, above) and you can bet they’re all booked, mostly by UK boats. After four tough days at sea those sailors will be busting to come ashore for a beer and a baguette.

But there’s a snag. 

France has a system of classing countries as ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’ for travel. The color determines the rules for people traveling from those countries and for people traveling from France to them. 

The UK is currently classed as ‘amber’, meaning that fully vaccinated people are only allowed to enter with proof of a negative COVID test. That test must have been taken less than 24 hours before departure.

It is highly unlikely that every member of every foreign crew wishing to dock at Cherbourg after the race will satisfy that requirement. If not vaccinated, arrivals must pledge to self-isolate for seven days. Good luck with that, mes gendarmes.

  We know that the Olympics – the most highly policed gathering in world sport – are already struggling to contain the virus. It would not be a good look for Rolex and the RORC if the Fastnet became an inadvertent super-spreader event.

– anarchist David