The 44th Rolex Fastnet Race starts Sunday, August 14, and not only is the fleet the biggest ever at 320 boats, it will also feature the fastest yacht in the history of the prestigious offshore race. To follow the race, try this Fastnet Race tracker.

The trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire, at 133 feet, is capable of mind-blowing speed. She is skippered by the respected offshore master, Loick Peyron, while the principal helmsman is Brian Thompson, the only non-Frenchman aboard. Thompson has most definitely earned his spot on the monstrous multihull -- he has been racing two- and three-hulled speed machines for 20 years, and has notched up 25 sailing records to date. His latest record was on board Maxi Banque Populaire searing around Great Britain and Ireland at an average speed of 23.4 knots, smashing the course record.

Looking aft along the trampoline as <i>Maxi Banque Populaire</i> flies the center hull at high speed.

Looking aft along the trampoline as Maxi Banque Populaire flies the center hull at high speed.

“The yacht is capable of speeds in the high 30s for over an hour or two,” says Thompson, “but recently we managed to stay at 38 knots for six hours. At speeds like that, we’re changing helmsman every hour, sometimes less, as the concentration level has to be maintained 100 percent. We recently completed a 360-mile race in 12 hours. However, that doesn’t mean that we could complete the Rolex Fastnet in 24 hours. It’s a complicated course with many corners to turn. My dream would be to do the race and only spend one night at sea -- but the weather may not co-operate.”

The organizers of the Rolex Fastnet race, the venerable Royal Ocean Racing Club, have opened the 608-nautical mile event to variety of professional and grand-prix level boats, so Maxi Banque Populaire will be sharing the course with a number of other speedsters, including the 100-foot monohulls ICAP Leopard 3 and Rambler 100, and three Volvo 70s.

Here’s a YouTube video of Maxi Banque Populaire in action.