Shaking it up at the IRC Nationals
Day two of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s IRC Nationals on the central-eastern Solent was held in similar near perfect conditions to Friday, the wind starting stronger, and increasing to 16 knots mid-afternoon.
Competition is tightening up and unlike yesterday when boats scored perfect scorelines in IRC One and IRC Three, today there were different winners in all three races in all three classes.
Joining the regatta today was the two day long IRC Two-Handed National Championship. With doublehanded racing a new discipline for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, plus it being the first genre of yacht racing to fire up this year thanks to it being social distancing-friendly, its line-up includes some top names. Much capped round the world sailor Dee Caffari was sailing on the Sun Fast 3300 Gentoo with James Harayda and won the first of today’s two races with David Richards’ Sun Fast 3600 Jellyfish, sailed by Gareth Edmondson, claiming the second race. However overall leader is Jeremy Waitt sailing with the familiar figure of double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson on Richard Palmer’s JPK 10.10 Jangada.
Currently Palmer is laid up following a knee operation and Henry Bomby, Robertson’s partner in her mixed doublehanded offshore Olympic campaign, is absent on paternity leave. Nonetheless Waitt and Robertson are forming a formidable partnership, Waitt having campaigned Jangara doublehanded for years, including winning last year’s RORC Transatlantic Race, while Robertson brings meticulous preparation and discipline from her lengthy Olympic career. They won a doublehanded event last Saturday and then raced against one another the following day when Waitt narrowly beat Robertson. Now they are on top of the pile again.
“It is very different - about trying to limit the chaos,” says Robertson of her latest challenge. “When it is not chaos, it is about optimising, like another boat.” Waitt adds: “It is great to have Shirley on board and to get into that Olympic mindset of finding the extra percentage.”
Doublehanders usually sail longer offshore races, so competing inshore brings a much higher intensity. As Waitt explains: “This is ‘all guns blazing’ with constant tidying up. There is no way you can get around the course without making mistakes. Something will always get tangled. With this it is about stopping unforced errors. Today we just made less than other people.”
While Niklas Zennström’s Rán scored a perfect scoreline in IRC One yesterday, as did John Howell and Paul Newell and the crew of Arcus in IRC Three, today some slight chinks appeared in their armour.
In IRC One, Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator, the most highly rated boat of the event, leads around the race track and holds second under IRC behind Rán, while it was the turns of Christian Hamilton and Guy Gillon’s FAST 40+ Khumbu and Mike Bartholomew’s Tokoloshe II to win today’s second and third races respectively.
The RORC’s IRC National Championship is the third event of the 2020 FAST 40+ series and for the crew of Khumbu (ex-42° South) especially, who are relative newcomers to the class, winning today was special. “It was nice to put a race together without messing something up!” admitted Guy Gillon, who managed the runners while Hamilton steers. “We have been fast enough, but the pandemic has meant we have been repeatedly changing crew.” For this, the team’s first ever IRC Nationals, they, like everyone else, are sailing with 80% of their usual crew number. This has meant their skipper/mainsheet trimmer Luke Cross is also calling tactics.
“The whole FAST 40+ fleet is improving and getting rid of its rustiness and it’s providing some close racing. Today we had a constant 12-15 knots and sun – with some social gathering, it’d be the perfect regatta,” says Gillon.
As yesterday, today the tightest competition was in IRC Two where just two points separate the top four boats with David Franks’ J/112E Leon just holding the top spot. While Leon claimed today’s second race, the Blair family's King 40 Cobra won the first and Michael O'Donnell's smart-looking J/121 Darkwood the third and final race, which like yesterday was a race round the cans in the central-eastern Solent (following two windward-leewards).
Especially pleased were the Cobra crew, sailing their first event in almost a year. “I am really happy with it,” admitted skipper Stevie Beckett. “Yesterday we were learning how to sail again. We realised getting a clean start and finding a lane was pretty key and then it was all about following the shifts up each beat and balancing that with where you were on the course.” Despite the closeness of their competition, errors were still being made, exacerbated by the compulsory reduction in crew, most noticeable on Cobra when handing their symmetric kites.
In IRC Three two smaller boats prevailed today with Kevin Downer's heavily modified Fun 23 Ziggy claiming race one and Oliver Love's SJ320 Frank 3 race two before the mighty Arcus resumed her winning streak.
Due to the large rating range in IRC Three, Downer said that they didn’t notice they had done anything especially different to win their race, but were happy to take the bullet. They are used to doing well having repeatedly won their class at Cowes Week and the Silver Roman Bowl runner’s up prize in last year’s Round the Island Race.
Ziggy is heavily modified and part Etchells – with a mast, jib and keel from one - and a bulb from an SB20. “We like trying different things,” says Downer. Most recently they have added symmetric kites to their inventory but then reverted back to A-sails only. “She is a lovely little old boat. We must be the only boat at the IRC Nationals racing with white sails! We are a bit small! The Solent chop really does kill us, but we are having fun.”
Racing resumes tomorrow with two races scheduled and conditions forecast to be marginally lighter than today.
View images from day one and two at: https://www.facebook.com/RoyalOceanRacingClub/