AFTER a promising start and a ‘choppy’ night spent at sea, 18 hours into the 2017 Rolex Fastnet race, Tavistock sailor Andrew Alcock and his team members aboard the Grand Soleil 50, class two yacht, ‘Emma Claire’ reluctantly had to retire from the world famous event due to problems with their emergency back-up engine.

Although the Fastnet Race is done entirely under sail, it is a hard and fast rule that vessels must have a functioning engine that can be used in emergencies. Unfortunately for Andrew and his colleagues, their diesel engine had become contaminated by sea water, rendering it unusable.

Around eight per cent of vessels had to retire from the Rolex Fastnet Race this year.

A disappointed Andrew said: ‘We are all of course completely gutted that we had to retire from the race. However, we had to abide by race rules and it was the right decision to make. You have to be philosophical in sailing because there are so many things that are totally out of your control and the sea will always win.

‘On a positive note, the race was nonetheless a real adventure; exciting, exhilarating, and completely exhausting all at the same time. We had a great crew and we all really enjoyed taking part. For me, the Fastnet is now officially unfinished business, and I hope I will be lucky enough to complete it next time around in 2019.

‘Another positive of course is that I have now been able to shave off my awful beard, much to the delight of my wife, Helen!’

‘The Emma Claire had to retire because 30 litres of sea water had seeped into the diesel tank, meaning that the engine wouldn’t start. This would have caused real problems in an emergency and we had to call in to Dartmouth for an engineer. At this point, because of race rules we were forced to retire.

‘We were all absolutely devastated and I left Emma Claire at Dartmouth on the Monday evening feeling very sad, with Mark and Stephen and the rest of the crew planning a more leisurely sail back to Beaulieu starting early the next day.

‘Ironically we were actually doing pretty well in the race when we had to withdraw, which just adds to the pain. Needless to say, I have since spent a lot of time thinking about all the good bits and have put together a video of prep and the start of the race. Hopefully this captures the moment — a really amazing spectacle and an exhilarating start to the race.

‘For me the Fastnet is now officially unfinished business!’

The video can be seen on the website at