WEYMOUTH Sailing Club members Al Doughty and Ian Cheke have set themselves the ambitious challenge of completing this year’s 603-nautical mile (nm) Rolex Fastnet Race double-handed.

They are campaigning Doughty’s 36-foot J-109 yacht ‘Jelenko’ that would usually have a crew of eight.

To qualify for Fastnet entry any boat that takes part needs to complete 300nm of offshore racing.

The season’s first qualifying race at the beginning of May was the Cervantes Trophy, a useful 159nm towards the target. This contest provided a challenging start to the European season for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s points championship.

A bitter northerly wind with squalls gusting over 30 knots produced a very demanding race for the impressive fleet of 108 boats. After a down-tide start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line at Cowes the yachts headed east out of the Solent passing No Man’s Land Fort and into the open waters of the English Channel.

Taking a course south of the Nab Channel, the fleet headed east on a reach at breakneck speed to the Owers bouy, followed by an upwind leg to Littlehampton Outfall.

Cracking sheets and hoisting downwind sails, the boats went south for a 77-mile dead-run across the English Channel.

An energy-sapping upwind leg of over 20 miles from Cussy Buoy to the A5 Buoy further tested the competitors, before a brisk downwind section to the finish.

Jelenko finished 16th out of the 34 entries in IRC Class Three. In the double-handed race she finished 14th and overall was 50th out of 108 boats. This was a commendable result considering that Cheke broke his humerus in January.

The next qualifying race Doughty and Cheke are entering is the Myth of Malham which starts from Cowes on Saturday, May 25.

This is a 256nm course that mirrors the first half of the Rolex Fastnet Race as far as the Eddystone Lighthouse, followed by a return leg to a Solent finish. A substantial international fleet is expected.