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Light winds, strong tides and shouting on day one of the RORC’s IRC Nationals

Despite a dismal light wind and strong tide forecast that had most crews preparing for an afternoon ashore, a light breeze built early in the afternoon, miraculously allowing the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s two race committees to lay on a full three race opening day of the IRC National Championship.

As the rating rule jointly operated by the RORC and the Union Nationale pour la Course au Large (UNCL) in France, IRC seeks to create a level playing field between all kinds of boats. At this year’s IRC Nationals this is being put to the test with a wide array from grand prix racers to cruisers, from brand new thoroughbreds to 80 years wooden classics, and in size from the two TP52s down to Quarter Tonners and HP30s.

Due to the high tides this weekend, the RORC divided the fleet in two so that the larger IRC 1, 2 and FAST40+ boats could race in deeper water in the western Solent while IRC 3 and 4 sailing windward-leewards off Hill Head.

A particular feature of sailing in the western Solent today was the powerful ebb tide particularly in race one that was causing difficult pile-ups and tricky manoeuvring at the marks. This was especially true at the top mark where the fleet arrived in strongest favourable current on port, directly into the path of boats looking to gybe set and get inshore, out of the foul tide. Because of largely tide-related incidents the jury was sitting late this evening.

baraka ircn19d1 1048Baraka Gp, Harmen Jan De Graaf's Dutch Ker 43 One-off in IRC 1 © Paul Wyeth/

Leading the charge in IRC 1, as expected, is Tony Langley’s high polished Gladiator team. The 52 Super Series team won two of today’s three races, only dropping one point to the De Graaf family’s Ker 43 Baraka GP.

“We had fun!” said jib trimmer Dirk de Graaf. “It is a long time since we sailed against two TP52s and it is always nice to race the best Tonnerre ever. We did a good job!” However the light wind and strong tidal conditions made mark roundings challenging. “The first bottom mark was hard - we dropped the kite too early and we really had to point low. We lost 30 seconds over that. But then our laylines were better.” And this was the race they won.

toucan 1ircn19d1 944Toucan, Glyn Lockes Farr 280 Toucan competing in the competitive HP30 class © Paul Wyeth/

In the FAST40+ there was a clean sweep for Peter Morton’s Carkeek 40 Mk3 Girls on Film. Similarly the only other boat to score three bullets today was Glyn Locke’s Farr 280 Toucan in the HP30 class, which she leads from the modified Farr 30 Pegasus and Jessica Fries’s Fareast 28 Mittens Revenge.

irc 2 fleet shot ircn19d1 1318IRC 2 fleet racing on the first day of the RORC IRC National Championship © Paul Wyeth/

Largest class by far is IRC 2, including the entire Performance 40 fleet. Here after three races two boats are tied at the top - the Ker 39 Rumbleflurg and J/122 Black Dog. However thanks to the conditions it was a high scoring day for all.

Tor McLaren's MAT1180 Gallivanter claimed race one, however the next two were claimed by Stuart Sawyer’s Falmouth-based Black Dog, which leads IRC Two on countback.

“We are delighted although somewhat shocked too - hopefully it will be a long evening so we can enjoy this as long as possible,” enthused Sawyer. This is his first IRC Nationals, although he has previously won the IRC South West Championship. “The IRC Nationals is a benchmark to see how we are doing as a Cornish boat. Other than our tactician, we are all Corinthians although this is our ninth season sailing together.”

As to today’s competition Sawyer continued: “The first race was tricky - we got caught out at the leeward mark and were about seven deep and got buried. In the second race, we had a really nice start and felt quite comfortable and managed to hold our lane quite well because we are one of the slower boats. It feels like we are threading the eye of a needle - being rolled from top and with someone higher below.” On board North Sails’ Shane Hughes calls tactics.

black dog ircn19d1 496Performance 40 class: Stuart Sawyer's J/122 Black Dog © Paul Wyeth/

Surprisingly it is not Black Dog but Ian Schenkel’s Ker 39 Rumbleflurg that leads Black Dog by a point when Performance 40 results are extracted from IRC Two.

Looking strong to recapture the IRC Nationals title he last won with Strait Dealer in 2012, David Franks and his J/112E Leon was one point off a perfect scoreline in IRC 3.

Franks congratulated the race officials for getting in three races. “It was a pleasant surprise when the wind came in and then we got three races.” Perhaps equally surprising was recovering a second, the only blemish on their scoreline, despite being called OCS in race two. “We had a good recovery and a good first beat, which got us back into play.

leon ircn19d1 767Leon, David Franks' J/112E in IRC 3 © Paul Wyeth/

“I have been racing too long to get too excited about the first day of a three day regatta. We are going well but our competition might give us a thrashing tomorrow,” Franks concluded.

Stand-out boat in IRC 4 is Chris Preston's J/109 Jubilee posting a 1-2-1.

Nigel Goodhew’s Sun Fast 3200 Cora holds third but on equal points with Nick and Adam Lunday's J/97 Induljence. Goodhew who usually races Cora offshore doublehanded with son Tim, says they enjoyed today. “The race officer snatched it out of the jaws of disaster and it was an absolute victory. We had really good racing which it got better and better – we had about 16 knots at the end.”

cora ircn19d1 642Racing in IRC 4 - Cora, Nigel Goodhew's Sun Fast 3200 © Paul Wyeth/

While Christopher Preston’s J/109 Jubilee won the first and last race, coming out on top inrace two was Giovanni Belgrano’s defending IRC National Champion, the 1939 Laurent Giles-designed Whooper.

Racing is again looking light tomorrow but maybe the race committee will again get lucky with the conditions.

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Royal Ocean Racing Club - since 1925

The RORC was founded in 1925 to encourage long distance yacht racing and the design, building and navigation of sailing vessels in which speed and seaworthiness are combined. Today the club encourages ocean, long distance and other forms of yacht racing and yachting activity.