IRC Nationals fleet licking their wounds after tough opening day
With the southwesterly piping up to 30 knots in the final race, the RORC IRC Nationals got off to a brisk start on the Solent today with two windward-leewards followed by a round the cans race.
Appropriately, given this is an annual championship for Royal Ocean Racing Club's rating rule, it is a mix of both the newest boats and the very oldest, that lead at the conclusion of day one.
Star performer was Ed Fishwick's Redshift Reloaded which scored straight bullets in IRC Two and now lead reigning IRC National Champion, Adam Gosling on the JPK 1080+ Yes! by five points.
Fishwick typically races his new Sun Fast 3600 doublehanded offshore, but has a full crew for this event.
"Today it was mainly about getting good starts and staying upright," he explained. "We are one of the lower rated boats in IRC Two, so it was critical to get good starts and we got them, which meant we were in touch all the way up the first beat. It was very shifty and we had to do an unusual amount of tacking on shifts, but we got it right."
While their competitors were broaching around them, Redshift Reloaded's broad beam and twin rudders helped the crew keep her on her feet as the wind reached 28 knots, although even they suffered one wipe out.
The attrition rate was highest in the FAST40+ class where only four of the nine entries completed the third race. At the end of the race two, Johnny Vincent's Ker 40+ Pace was tied on points with Girls on Film, the brand new Carkeek 40 Mk3 of 2016 FAST 40+ champion, Peter Morton. However, this was not to continue for Morton, who recounted:
"The problem was that our bilge pumps weren't working and we were slowly filling up with water which we couldn't get rid of. In the third race we were going down. We had about 2.5 tonnes of water on board and couldn't finish the race."
Nonetheless Morton was pleased with their performance up until then on his brand new boat.
"The first time we pulled a spinnaker up was at the weather mark, but the boat feels really good. We are fast upwind and downwind. It's just not designed to carry two tonnes of water..."
The previous Girls on Film, now Bastiaan Voogd's Hitchhiker holds second, tied on points with Mark Rijkse's 42°South, with Pace leading by six points.
In IRC One, Andy Williams's Keronimo is also leading on six points after scoring a consistent 2-2-1 today - a fine performance, this being the Plymouth-based Ker 40's first major outing of the year.
"We had an up and down day - it was quite busy and bumpy and windy, but we really enjoyed it," recounted Williams. However it nearly all unravelled in the breezy final race. "We managed to drop the A4 in the water on the hoist and shredded it with the whole race ahead. But we worked very hard and what got us the race was the last leg - it was a tight reach and we flew an A0 fractional. We were underwater doing 17-18 knots all the way down and we literally made all our time with everyone hanging out the side, properly submerged."
In the first two races Keronimo was playing second fiddle to her bigger, newer brother, the Ker 46 Lady Mariposa. She is fastest boat in IRC One, but had to retire from race three with broken battens.
In IRC Three, Mike Bridges' Elan 37 Elaine won race one, but in the second and third it was the turn of renowned structural engineer Giovanni Belgrano and his Laurent Giles classic shoal-draught centreboard sloop, Whooper, winning both races to take the lead overall. A 1939 vintage, Whooper is the oldest boat competing and won the IRC Nationals back in 2004 when Belgrano says conditions were similar to today.
"It was a battle for everyone," said Belgrano of racing today. "But we do well against the modern boats in these conditions." Whooper was progressively reefed during the day, having started off on too generous a jib.
"She has a good hull shape, she was ahead of her time," added Belgrano of his steed. With a displacement of 7.2 tonnes, Whooper has great stability, but even she came acropper in the lumpy wind-against-tide seas. "We were doing 11-12 knots. We did what may have been our first nosedive and we had green water on the foredeck. We came out of a gybe and we were probably 70° on our side," concluded Belgrano.
Tonight many teams are licking their wounds with much boat work to complete before another full day of racing tomorrow.