David Harding's excellent shots of overfalls as 314-strong fleet beats out of the Needles channel

Sunday saw a record-breaking Fastnet race fleet on the startline at Cowes, ahead of a long upwind slog westwards. 314 yachts of all sizes, from the giant maxi trimaran Banque Populaire to cruiser-racers like the Sigma 33 and Contessa 32 short-tacked their way up the Solent in a south-westerly breeze that rapidly freshened to a brisk 25 knots. 

Conditions were lively, with the Solent being churned up by a large fleet of spectator craft as well as the hundreds of racing boats, which made a fine sight as they knifed their way through the wind-against-tide chop.

Not all of the boats got away cleanly – two boats were involved in a start-line collision, with one returning to Cowes to get the damage patched up before continuing. The giant 100ft Rambler tore her headsail before the start. Later on, overfalls at the Needles, as seen in David Harding’s excellent photos here, took their toll on the fleet, with 43ft trimaran Strontium Dog dismasted.

At the time of writing, the giant multihulls are mid-Celtic sea, and expected to round the Fastnet Light today. The small boats in the fleet benefited from an overnight north-westerly wind, which freed them to clear Start Point. It’s expected to back to the south today, with potential gains for those situated to the south of the main fleet.

You can follow the race at http://fastnet.rorc.org, where there is a tracker, updated half-hourly, and crew blogs sent from competitors.

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Photos: SailingScenes.com