IRC European Championship & Commodores' Cup: Viking victory on short day one
Light airs and tricky conditions in the central Solent on the first day of the IRC Europeans (incorporating the Commodores' Cup) saw the three classes completing one race in the week-long event © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com
With such a light forecast, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's on-the-water officials, led by PRO Stuart Childerley, did well to complete one race on the opening day of the IRC European Championship, incorporating the Commodores' Cup. Unfortunately the 5-7 knot north-northeasterly wind, all but disappeared just prior to the final IRC Two and Three boats finishing. After sending the fleet back to port, the PRO called it a day just before 1500 BST.
While only one race was held on the central Solent, there were some shining performances, none more so than the X-37 Hanson of Dane Michael Mollmann. Hansen not only beat all of her IRC Three rivals, but finished amid the front-runners in IRC Two.
The cunning Danes saw off some of the top IRC Three competition when they locked out several boats the wrong side of the committee boat at the start. This includes Ed Fishwick's Redshift Reloaded and the hot French team on the J/112e J Lance 12, skippered by J Composites boss Didier Le Moal. Hansen was one of the first to tack after the start and benefitted being able to leebow the tide, like other boats which ventured right.
They closed on the back end of IRC Two at the leeward gate and then tacked to the right again, where the leebow effect was less with the flood tide subsiding. Mollmann said their speed was still good, thanks to their new sails. Lady luck continued to smile on the Danes who, along with J Lance 12, finished just before the breeze started properly shutting down - the French J/112e staging a remarkable recovery after their second tier start. In fact it was nearly nine minutes (real time) before the next IRC Three boat finished. "Sometimes the big boats win; sometimes the small boats," philosophised Mollmann, whose team is racing on the Solent for the first time.
IRC Two also had a run-away leader on the water in the Blair family's King 40 Cobra, however they lost out a lot as the wind shut down on the final leg. This allowed their rivals on Roger Bowden's sistership, Nifty to live up to her name, sidestepping the stationary Cobra.
"It was a healthy dose of luck and little bit of judgement," admitted Nifty navigator Tom Cheney. "We rounded the second top mark fifth and we looked back upwind and thought we saw some pressure coming down while Cobra sailed towards a hole. We gybed early in pressure and then managed to gybe back in the same pressure. In fact we were able to do the whole final run in pressure that no one else seemed to have. I like to think it was down to us, but it was a big bit of luck." Nifty's personal breeze saw her win on the water by 1 minutes and 15 seconds from Rod Stuart and Bill Ram's Corby 37 Aurora, but by just three seconds under IRC corrected time from Jock Wishart's crew on the First 40 Adventurer, with Cobra licking her wounds in seventh.
There was another run-away winner and an on-the-water lead change in IRC One, where James Neville's HH42 INO XXX led around the top mark only to be rolled by South African Mike Bartholomew's former GP42 Tokoloshe II on the first downwind. "We split from them and were going a bit quicker," explained Bartholomew. "It was pleasant enough, very shifty and the breeze was up and down, but we like that light stuff - the 40s are all quick in that." The FAST40+ yachts romped around the course and also benefitted from completing the last run before the breeze subsided.
Celtic Team and Lastminute.EU tied in Commodores' Cup
Seven three boat teams have emerged to compete in this year's Commodores' Cup, being scored jointly with the IRC Europeans. After one race it is close, with the Celtic Team (Shaitan-Adventurer-Keronimo) tied at the top with Lastminute.EU (Hansen-Fargo-Juno) and just one point ahead of Haribo (Oui-Tilt Racing-Selma Racing). The Celtic Team, supported by Aberdeen Standard, benefitted today from podium finishes by both Adventurer and Keronimo.
"We are very pleased," said Celtic Team leader Jock Wishart, racing this year on Adventurer. "The crew feels very relaxed. We have got lots of good people on board - a mix of youth and old veterans like Chris [Walmsley] and the whole thing is just gelling. Today's race wasn't easy - first one side of the course was favoured, then the other, but we seemed to get it right."
Meanwhile, seeing the lead of their King 40 sistership Cobra evaporate, the crew of Nifty was torn as while they are IRC Europeans rivals, they are also in the same Kings High Commodores' Cup team. "We really felt their pain," admitted Nifty navigator Tom Cheney.
Tomorrow one of the highlights of the week is scheduled - the race around the Isle of Wight. The forecast has this taking place in much better conditions with north-northeasterly winds of 10-15 knots forecast.