Tall Ships, Short Crew
Yacht Style|Issue 59
Zoë d’Ornano, the 12-year-old daughter of Malaysia-born Lay Koon Tan, is set to become the Rolex Fastnet Race’s youngest competitor in August when she competes with her parents on one of the Tall Ships Youth Trust’s two Challenger 72s in a record 450-plus entry list.

Just 12 years of age, Zoë d’Ornano is so far the youngest competitor entered in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, with organisers stating she would become the youngest-ever entrant in the biennial race, first held in 1925 with seven boats. Zoë will sail with her parents in a 16-strong crew on one of the Tall Ships Youth Trust’s two Challenger 72s entered in this year’s race.

This year’s edition is set to break the record for entries, with over 450 boats already signed up for the 695nm race that will start from Cowes off England south coast on August 8, round the Fastnet Rock in Irish waters, and finish for the first time in Cherbourg on France’s north coast.

Zoë holds both British and French passports, but has Asian parentage on her mother’s side. Lay Koon Tan is the co-founder of Nature Squared, a London-based company founded in 2000 that specialises in bespoke luxury surfaces made with sustainable materials such as bamboo, mother of pearl, tobacco leaves and reeds. Superyachts and luxury car manufacturers are among her clients.

Tan was born and raised in Malaysia and educated in Singapore, moving to the UK at the age of 12 to attend boarding school before developing a career in the finance industry. She met Philippe d’Ornano in London while they were colleagues at Arthur Andersen and the pair married in 2000.

Philippe, now Partner, Global Financial Services at EY (Ernst & Young), is an experienced sailor and in late 2019 became a Trustee on the Tall Ships Youth Trust Board.

Zoë is now helping to raise funds for the Tall Ships Youth Trust after her father confirmed with race organiser Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) that his 12-year-old daughter would be allowed to join him as he competed on a 72ft Challenger this year.

Zoë, a keen dinghy sailor with experience of crewing while cruising with family and friends, will use the race to help raise funds for a Trust that since 1956 has provided life-changing experiences at sea for disadvantaged young people from the ages of 12 to 25.

Philippe is excited that Zoë will sail with both her parents in a diverse crew led by Sue Geary, a skipper on Tall Ships’ sailing staff, and featuring several notable yacht designers.

“It will be a great adventure for her. Zoë is the same age as the youngest kids who sail on these boats with the Tall Ships Youth Trust and the Challenger 72 is a strong ocean-going vessel built in steel,” said Philippe, a rock climber, RYA yacht master, PADI scuba diving instructor and qualified Swiss skiing instructor.

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