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First gets the oyster, second gets the shell

A crystal-clear day in Cowes, where the sky shines a bright corn flour blue. Up high atop of a grey flagpole, white Rolex Fastnet flags flap in the wind. Down below, sailors voices drift up in a chatter of excitement. And for Sydney sailors Cecily Conlon and Dinah Eagle today is truly a day unlike any other. The world is their oyster.

Their titters only add to the chorus of sailors awaking on the Isle of White for race day.

After all, Cecily Conlan and Dinah Eagle are like most ocean sailors — simply dying to catch site of the mythical rock as they round the Fastnet in Ireland. In doing so they’ll enter history books, becoming part of the wonderful Rolex Fastnet Yacht Race which dates all the way back to 1925.

Representing the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Noel Coleman’s Blue Oyster is a trusty steed. When they line up to compete in the Rolex Fastnet later today (2200hrs AEST or 1300hr BST) these two courageous women will represent the CYCA along with Jules Hall and Jan Sholten (Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth), Jiang Hui Lin (Min River), Sean Langman (Maluka), Thomas Eizinger (Mad Dash) and Robert Griffiths (aboard Eve).

Along with the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the Newport-Bermuda Race, Rolex Fastnet is considered one of the classic big offshore races with a distance of approximately 625 nautical miles to cover. Ahead of the race the Rolex crew talked with both female sailors on Blue Oyster just hours before the gun, they wanted to hear how they’ve been preparing and to check the pulse on the ground in Cowes.

“It’s very exciting to be here in Cowes before the race starts on Saturday 22nd at 1pm,” says Dinah Eagle. “It’s a staggered start, so our boat Blue Oyster will be starting in Division 4 at 1445hrs British Standard Time. Cecily Conlon and I are the only two Aussies on an Irish registered yacht that’s usually based in Crosshaven, Ireland,” says Dinah.

“Rolex Fastnet is a bucket list race for any offshore sailor, so when I was offered the chance I jumped at it,” says Cecily.

Each sailor is happy to be working with a tight crew who are fast becoming great friends. “I’ve always wanted to race the Rolex Fastnet and Rolex Sydney Hobart,” says Dinah. “They are very different races, so I’m looking forward to my first Rolex Fastnet.”

“The boat is an oyster 37 from the Royal Cork Yacht Club,” explains Dinah. “The owner and skipper is Noel Coleman, our crewmates are Karen Coleman, Alan Coleman, Conor Twomey, Maurice Bryson and Elise O’Byrne White,” she says.

To prepare each sailor kept a strict sailing regime designed to ensure they are at peak fitness.

Based in Cowes, the pair have been closely monitoring the conditions prepping for whatever comes next.

“My preparation has been very similar to Cecily,“ says Dinah. “We have both been keeping fit, doing the LGT Crestone Winter Series on NADM (Never a Dull Moment), checking weather and provisioning for a possible five to six nights at sea,” says Dinah.

Coastal landmarks they’ll pass along the route include The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, The Lizard, Land’s End, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and the Cherbourg breakwater.

“The tides here are a significant factor in the race, so route planning is constant based on the weather predictions,” says Cecily.

“It’s sunny this morning but there is a low predicted for Saturday with winds of up to thirty plus knots,” says Dinah. “They have changed the starting order to accommodate the tight exit from the Solent at Hurst Castle, it will be a bumpy and windy start,” says Dinah.

As the days of preparation blur into the past, and the excitement builds, each describes a growing anticipation to get out on the water.

“I’m excited and a little bit nervous. Just keen to settle into race mode now,” says Cecily.

Dinah is also feeling the tension. “There is a huge sense of anticipation. I am fairly calm today, but I know the adrenaline will be pumping at the start line,” she says.

Soaking up the vibe on the Isle of White is all part of the journey for these Sydney sailors, neither is immune to social side of sailing.

“Isle of White is very yachty at the moment!” says Dinah laughing.

“They had a fantastic crew party at RORC on the deck, looking out over the start. There’s a lot of French, German and Spanish conversations going on. There is a real undercurrent of excitement and nervous energy.”

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