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Second IRC Nationals title for Whooper

Giovanni Belgrano and his victorious crew of Whooper. Photo - Paul Wyeth

With a near perfect scoreline, Giovanni Belgrano’s 1939 classic yacht Whooper was today crowned 2017 champion at the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s IRC Nationals. Today, two windward-leeward races were held on the Solent in similar brisk southwesterlies to the first two days: This year’s event may not have been an ‘all-round test’ weather-wise, but has been extremely challenging in terms of preparation and boat handling.

During the event Whooper, a classic Laurent Giles sloop that was previously IRC National Champion in 2004, scored six bullets, a fourth and a discardable DNF in the final race.

“I am relieved we don’t have any more to do – three days of this is knackering!” admitted Belgrano, a leading marine structural engineer. In 20+ knots, Whooper, with her shoal draught/ centreboard configuration is tender, but benefits from a displacement around twice that of her competition. “The loads are much higher, because we have more water to push around, so we have to be very careful. It is stressful for everyone on board, but she loves it when it is strong wind against tide, like it’s been this weekend.”

Whooper is no rating demon. She is optimised with modern sails and Belgrano has an experienced crew who do 60-70 races/year.

2017 ircn d3 pace crewFast 40+ Pace: tired but happy with their success. Photo Paul Wyeth

Elsewhere, the racing was extremely close. In the FAST 40+, Johnny Vincent’s Pace fended off charges from Peter Morton’s brand new Carkeek 40 Mk3, Girls on Film to win by a slender two points. Today Pace scored a 1-3 to Girls on Film’s 2-1.

“I think the boys were a bit tired, because it has been a bit full on, although there was not quite as much breeze as Friday,” said Vincent, who attributed much of their success to mods made to their Ker 40+. “Last year we had a lot of breakages so we made a lot of changes over the winter – keel, bowsprit and losing weight. They have made a massive difference. The boat feels like it wants to go.” Unlike last year, Pace is now also hitting the top of the FAST 40+ rating band. “The whole class has become massively close in competitiveness.”

IRC One concluded with a dog fight for the lead between the Ker 46 Lady Mariposa and Ker 40 Keronimo. The larger boat held a two point lead going into the final race in which they suffered a major blow, being over the start line early. At this point Keronimo chose to engage. Lady Mariposa skipper, Dan Hardy, observed: “They tried to hook us to stop us clearing the line. At that point we realised ‘this is on today!’” Their 20-year-old Helmsman Igor Yakunin added: “They had nothing less to lose. Their discard was a lot less than ours.”

2017 ircn d2 lady mariposaLady Mariposa had a battle on her hands to grab a tight win in Class One. Photo Paul Wyeth

Finally they managed to shake Keronimo off and were able to get up to speed until they had to make a last minute change their lighter spinnaker, despite the wind building to above 20 knots. “We were praying that it would hold to the finish,” recalled Hardy. Ultimately finishing fourth to Keronimo’s second, left them tied on points, claiming IRC One on countback.

Thanks to their spate another boats claimed the bullet in the final race in the Dutch de Graaf family on board their chartered Marc Lombard IRC 46, Pata Negra. As de Graaf son Dirk observed: “We were just watching them match race and we thought ‘that might affect us...’ We just decided to stay fast and not make any stupid decisions and be quick.” The de Graafs’ crew, most from their Ker 40 Baraka GP, sailed well, making no mistakes with their hoists and drops, despite the brisk conditions.

2017 ircn d3 yes crewYes! loses no time in showing her Class Two speed in her debut regatta of the season. Photo Paul Wyeth

In IRC Two there was a leader change with Ed Fishwick’s Sun Fast 3600 Redshift Reloaded, leader all weekend, finally trounced by Adam Gosling’s JPK 1080+ Yes! who came very close to successfully defending their IRC Nationals title.

“We only got the boat out of the box for this regatta and that shows in our scoreline,” said Gosling, adding they had also optimised for lighter conditons. “We were all sweltering in London expecting light breeze. Then we come down here and it was blowing 25 knots.”

As to relinquishing the IRC National title to Whooper, Gosling said: “Giovanni sails really well. He’s campaigned Whooper for a long time. It is nice to see an old boat win.”

2017 ircn d3 whooper racingNo ageism here: 1939 built Whooper carves through the breezy conditions c. Paul Wyeth

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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.