Britain’s premature summer looks set to continue into this weekend for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Easter Challenge, running on the Solent from Good Friday until Easter Sunday.
The RORC Easter Challenge traditionally doubles as the opener for the club’s domestic season and as a ‘coaching regatta’. Aiming to try and raise the calibre of racing in the UK, the RORC lays on expert coaching for free for the entire regatta. This comes from some of the world’s top coaches, including Jim Saltonstall, MBE, who has played a significant role in honing the skills of so many successful British Olympians. He is joined by professional coach Mason King, plus Eddie Warden Owen, CEO of the RORC - who, aside from being an accomplished sailor has coached America’s Cup crews including Team New Zealand and Desafio Espanol.
They are supplemented by nearly the entire posse from North Sails UK: Frank Gerber and Jeremy Smart will be in the North RIB, while the rest will be racing, but all will be available at the post-race debriefs that will take place daily at the RORC Cowes clubhouse. North Sails is also providing drone footage from the day’s racing which will be shown at the debriefs and the clubhouse bar.
According to North Sails’ Sam Richmond the format of the post-race debriefs will be modified this year: “The aim is to make it more of an informal panel discussion rather than a straight lecture, and to keep it shorter and interesting. Hopefully the footage will draw people in, as Jim always does and the aim is for everyone to learn something technical without feeling like they’re at school.”
North Sails will also offer overnight repairs via their North Sails Certified Service experts in their Cowes Yacht Haven loft.
At present the line-up for the RORC Easter Challenge ranges from the Ker 46, Lady Mariposa, to a quintet of Quarter Tonners, including regular contenders, Sam Laidlaw on Aquila and Louise Morton’s Coutts Quarter Ton Cup winner, Bullit.
Stealing the limelight will be the five FAST40+ class yachts, including Sir Keith Mills’ Invictus. However nipping at their heels will be the two Mark Mills-designed MAT 1180s, Gallivanter and Christian Zugel’s Tschuss (one of two German competitors in Class 1, along with Soenke Bruhns’ M34, Hotspot).
Tor McLaren is campaigning Gallivanter and the RORC Easter Challenge will be the boat’s second regatta having only arrived from her Turkish builder a fortnight ago: “We are still very much in a sea trial stage - we have a few electronics and rig issues to sort out and we have got a lot of general tuning to do; getting to know the sails and how the boat performs, etc. The boat is going really well, she’s is over-delivering, but we have got a lot of work to do yet.” So, a regatta where free coaching is laid on, and particularly one with a large North Sails contingent available for advice, is most welcome at this early stage of Gallivanter’s development, being led by Andy Horrocks.
McLaren comes from a J/109 (Inspara), which he sold two years ago and a chartered First 40, Gallivanter. The program for the new Gallivanter will be a mix of inshore and offshore, including the Rolex Fastnet Race. Throughout, he has managed to keep together his young crew: “They are coming on brilliantly. It is going to be a steep learning curve, but it is a lot of fun. I have high hopes for us.”
Class 2 will comprise the 30-40 footers including a strong posse of First 40s, such as RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine’s La Réponse to David Franks’ 2012 IRC National championship winning JPK 10.10, Strait Dealer, via several J/109s and Tom Kneen’s JPK 10.80, Sunrise.
Racing in Class 3 are the Quarter Tonners as well as Harry J. Heijst’s S&S41 Winsome, plus the smaller J/Boats, including three J/97s. Also in the mix are a pair of Sigma 38s, one being the British Offshore Sailing School’s Rumour of BOSS, campaigned this season by Team Challenge Racing - a mixed youth crew aged 17 to 25, led by 18-year-old Charlie Ellis. “We are using it as a shake down,” says Ellis of his first RORC Easter Challenge. “We are squaring up against some other boats, so we can learn as much as we can. We are going to make full use of the North guys as well. We want to learn as a team and work on our communication.”
18-year-old Charlie Ellis will lead a young crew on Team Challenge Racing - British Offshore Sailing School's Rumour of BOSS
To help crews in such situations, for the Easter Challenge the RORC uniquely relaxes RRS rule 41 'Outside Help'. This, for example, would permit Rumour of BOSS to ship on board one of the Easter Challenge coaches, even for just part of a race.
Team Challenge Racing has on offshore programme this season focusing on the Rolex Fastnet Race with a view to continuing on to do the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race in 2018. Racing at the RORC Easter Challenge gets underway on Friday morning at 1055 with several practice starts.
Friday 14th - Sunday 16th April 2017 If you want to do better out on the race course, you could buy yourself a newer, more competitive boat. Or sail with a better crew. Or could buy some new sails. Or put in some practice. But keelboat crews frequently forget that one of the best value methods is to employ a coach. A coach can optimise practice time, provide detailed analysis via both stats and video, can examine specific issues, plus imparting experience and advice about boat and sail trim, mark rounding manoeuvres and techniques, boat set-up and so much more. For competitors in the Easter Challenge, over 14-16th April, the Royal Ocean Racing Club lays on coaching, both on the water and with detailed ‘post match’ analysis, FOR FREE. And this comes from some of the world’s top coaches with backgrounds in the America’s Cup and Olympic Games.
RORC Racing Manager Nick Elliott observes: "In our sport, apart from when you first learn to sail, often you don’t get any further coaching. You wouldn't dream of trying to get to the top of any other sport without joining a club that provided coaching and support for its athletes. It is bizarre that sailing hasn't embraced coaching in the same way." As is tradition, the RORC Easter Challenge kicks off the club’s domestic program with three days of inshore racing on the Solent starting on Good Friday and culminating with a chocolate egg-laden prizegiving on Easter Sunday. While the regatta offers crews the chance to blow away the winter cobwebs, it is also, uniquely, the RORC’s annual ‘training regatta’. In particular RRS rule 41 ‘Outside Help’ is relaxed for this event, so, for example, during a race it is permitted to invite a coach on board if a more hands-on approach is required. Equally during a race a trimmer could, for example, hop off their boat on to one of the many coach RIBs to examine the trim from off their boat. If there are any specific issues a team wants the coaches to look at, they can either ask while out on the water or can submit a request to the RORC in advance. Each day after racing, there is an extensive standing room only debrief held at the RORC Cowes Clubhouse, where the coaches provide analysis of the day’s racing for the benefit of all. The RORC is laying on world class coaches for the Easter Challenge, the team led by the legend Jim Saltonstall, MBE, a man who has played a significant role in honing the skills of so many British Olympians from the like of Sir Ben Ainslie down. He is joined by the RORC’s CEO, Eddie Warden Owen, who aside from being an accomplished sailor is a past America’s Cup coach for Team New Zealand and Desafio Espanol. North Sails will again support the regatta with their North U. Regatta Services, providing on the water coaching, including aerial video analysis. The North Sails team will be also be providing detailed weather forecasts and an overnight sail repair service.
A regular RORC Easter Challenge competitor is Robert Hunt, who returns with wife Rachel this year aboard a J/97, Jumblesail 2, they acquired last season. "Sometimes it just refreshes and reminds you of the things you learned last season, which you might have forgotten!" explains Robert Hunt of the Easter Challenge coaching. "Obviously when you have a new boat, it is about learning things specific to that boat. Mainly we’ll be looking at a combination of upwind trim and manoeuvres round marks. "The video analysis back on shore is excellent as you can see all the embarrassing errors you’ve made...in front of everyone else! The coaching is a good mix of having serious intent to it, without it feeling too serious."
Another team competing at the RORC Easter Challenge while still learning the ropes will be that of the Ker 46 Lady Mariposa. According to skipper Dan Hardy: "Just after we got the boat in 2015, we went down to Palma to learn how to sail the boat, because our team is very new to a grand prix boat. The previous Lady Mariposa was an Oyster 625 - so this is somewhat of a change!" This will be the team’s first Easter Challenge and Hardy says they keen to make use of the coaching leading into a busy season including both inshore and offshore races such as the IRC Nationals and Rolex Fastnet Race. The RORC Easter Challenge and its coaching opportunities are open to all entrants, not just RORC members. Nick Elliott extends the invite: "It is not often that you can get on the water coaching and certainly not at the level of Eddie and Jim and the North Sails team. So if you want to get ahead of your competitors - come and do the Easter Challenge! Why would you not come and benefit from FREE coaching. It is a bit of a no brainer really."
The world's largest, most prestigious offshore sailing event will take place this summer in the UK with the 47th running of the Rolex Fastnet Race. Some offshore yacht races struggle for entries, but the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event is not one of them. When the entry list opened on 9 January, spaces sold out faster than a Rolling Stones farewell concert, the 340 boat limit reached, incredibly, in just 4 minutes and 24 seconds. And this figure excludes the non-IRC fleets which will include a giant international turn out of Class40s and significantly, will be the first occasion the eight VO65s, set to compete in this year's Volvo Ocean Race, will line up in anger. When the Rolex Fastnet Race set sails from Cowes on Sunday 6th August, close to 400 boats will make up the combined IRC and non-IRC fleets - the largest ever entry in the race's 92 year history and a significant step-up from 356 in the last race.
So why is the race so successful? "It is within easy access for the largest fleets of offshore-capable yachts anywhere in the world," succinctly explains Nick Elliott, Racing Manager of the RORC. The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the world's oldest offshore races, but the 605 mile course represents much the same challenge today as it did to competitors 90+ years ago: Typically an upwind westbound slog along the south coast of England, then full exposure to the open Atlantic Ocean on the crossings to the Fastnet Rock (lying four miles off southwest Ireland) and back, before leaving Bishop Rock and the Scilly Isles to port, en route to the finish off Plymouth. However today, the standard of yachts and their equipment have improved immeasurably, as have the safety and qualification requirements for competing yachts and crews. This, combined with weather forecasting becoming a more exact science are all designed to prevent a repeat of the 1979 race, when a storm of un-forecast severity devastated the fleet and cost 18 people their lives. The modern day Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is also the most diverse, with yachts of every conceivable type represented. These range from the 100ft long Ultime trimarans, the fastest offshore race boats in the world, to the Volvo Ocean Race one designs, to the IMOCA 60s, used in the Vendée Globe singlehanded non-stop round the world race, while, with thirty four boats entered, the Class40s will be by far the biggest non-IRC class.
Meanwhile some of the world's most prominent grand maxis will be competing in the main IRC fleet. The longest is the Judel Vrolijk 115 Super Maxi, Nikata, while Ludde Ingvall is bringing his radical DSS-equipped 100 footer CQS all the way from Australia and one of the race favourites will certainly be George David's Rambler 88, that just missed out on line honours in 2015. But making up the bulk of the IRC fleet are the Corinthian entries. Nick Elliott explains: "The Rolex Fastnet Race has that 'challenge appeal' which people are looking for more and more at the moment. It's something people can tick off their 'list'. Also, there are lots and lots of boats available for charter and spaces available for individuals who want to do it. Generally instead of people going racing every weekend, these days they'll cherry pick, they'll choose to only do bigger, more special events." A lot are crewed by families and friends or yacht club teams, many of whom come back year after year. For example Tony Harwood is returning for his sixth race and his fourth on board Volante, a 1961 Camper & Nicholson 38 footer, in her day a Morgan Cup winner. In 2009 Volante claimed the Iolaire Block for being the 'oldest yacht to complete the course', while this year she is the lowest rated boat in the race (IRC TCC of 0.855). So what is the attraction of the Rolex Fastnet Race? "It's like 'why climb Everest?' Because it's there, I suppose," explains Tony Harwood. "We are heavy old crew in a heavy old boat, but we do about 5,000 channel miles a year. I like competitive sailing, even though the starts frighten the life out of me." It is also a 'father and son' affair, although son Simon races their Prima 38 Talisman. "It's never the same," says the younger Harwood. "It is different every time and you always try to do better than last time. About half of the times I've seen the Fastnet Rock in daylight - two years ago it was thick fog and in 1999 there was the solar eclipse. Also it is a talking point. 'Did you do the Fastnet?' 'How was it?' That all brings me back every couple of years." When his father last competed aboard Volante in 2009, she finished in just under six days, while Talisman made it round in four days 7 hours and 46 minutes in 2015. A boat that in 2015 was comfortably finishing in Plymouth at roughly the time Talisman was still outbound to the Fastnet Rock and slower Class 4 boats were just passing Land's End, was Tony Lawson's Concise 10. The MOD70 trimaran class completed their race in a mere 2 days 17 hours 35 minutes, although this was slow, way off the multihull race record of 1 day, 8 hours and 48 minutes. "That was the first big offshore race we did with the boat," recalls skipper Ned Collier Wakefield. "It was pretty light, so we'd like to do a faster race. We should be able to do it in 26 hours if the conditions are right. The Rolex Fastnet Race is a prestigious race, it's one of the big ones for us and it is nice do a 'home race'." Concise is also planning on entering its Class40. The 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race sets sail from the Royal Yacht Squadron line to the north of Cowes at 1200 BST on 6th August.
The Commodores’ Cup, a team-based keelboat event, has been running every other year since 1992 and has seen incredible competition amongst amateur-sailed IRC rated offshore keelboats representing various countries and geographical regions.
One of the main reasons for its success has been the way the racing has incorporated a variety of different courses ranging from short windward-leeward sprints through round the buoys and long day races in the always challenging Solent, along with one serious offshore race sailed around the central Channel. Demand for this successful multi-disciplinary event has stretched beyond the team format and amateur based event only and so for 2018 the event organiser, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, has responded by offering the same event to a wider audience.
A record fleet featuring 80 of the world's most spectacular yachts and crews are gathering in Antigua for the start of the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 on Monday 20th February 2017. To keep up to date with all the news and to follow the race, please see full details below.
Start: Monday 20th February - 1050 (First warning signal)
Fort Charlotte, Antigua will be the starting and finishing point for this sensational 600 mile non-stop yacht race around 11 Caribbean Islands.
Class start times:
IRC 2, IRC 3, CSA
IRC 1 & Class40
IRC Zero and CK
Note: A Warning Signal will be given 10 minutes before the Starting Signal
80 yachts will take the start on Monday 20 February. The First Warning Signal is at 1050, but yachts will leave the dock much earlier to make their way to the start area. The start sequence with nine different classes will take 50 minutes to complete.
Spectators are in for a treat. The 9th edition of the race will showcase an astounding fleet of yachts: from record-breaking high performance racers to magnificent schooners, fast production yachts and foiling multilhulls.
Due to the size of the yachts and the sheer number competing, considerable sea room is needed to manoeuvre and a team of highly experienced volunteers will act as on-the-water marshals maintaining an Exclusion Zone to keep spectator boats at a safe distance from the yachts racing.
Watch from the water:
For those wishing to watch the race from the water, please note that there will be an Exclusion Zone around the starting area effective from 1030 to 1200 on Monday 20 February 2017.
The safety of spectator vessels and competitors is paramount and therefore Marshal Boats displaying a white flag with a red "M" will be policing the exclusion zone as per the diagram below.
PLEASE NOTE: EXCLUSION ZONE FOR THE START
The safety of spectator vessels and competitors is paramount and therefore Marshal Boats displaying a white flag with a red "M" will be policing the exclusion zone as per the diagram below.
Watch from the shore:
The yachts will be starting south of Fort Charlotte on Monday 20 February. Those left on land can get a wonderful view from there, or from Shirley Heights. The starting line is formed between an orange triangle on Fort Charlotte and an orange cylindrical Outer Distance Mark approximately 0.50nm south of Fort Charlotte. The Race Committee may adjust this position with reference to the wind direction on the day of the start. Fort Charlotte is at the eastern entrance to English Harbour above the Pillars of Hercules and below Shirley Heights.
There's also a chance to catch a glimpse of the boats leaving Falmouth Harbour from Pigeon Beach and the boats leaving English Harbour from Galleon Beach from 0930 onwards. Boats will be gathering in the start area from around 1000, so get there early to get the best view. The start sequence begins at 1050.
Join the Virtual Race:
If you can't make the race but want to compete against thousands of 'armchair sailors' around the world, join the RORC Caribbean 600 Virtual Regatta now. Test your skills, but beware, you will be hooked as the delights and frustrations of the course become apparent.
"The support of the members of the Antigua Yacht Club plays a vital part in the success of the RORC Caribbean 600. The fact that we see so many familiar faces and new volunteers helping us each year, with their vast experience of the local area and conditions, gives the RORC the confidence to be able to organise this demanding offshore race with a small RORC team from the UK," says RORC Racing Manager, Nick Elliott.
"We are very pleased that ABSAR, the Antigua Barbuda Search and Rescue team will be on hand to help with the many aspects of safety and fleet management required to run an offshore race. ABSAR's highly trained team and safety network throughout the islands on the Caribbean 600 course, is vital to the safe running of the race. ABSAR will also be on hand to help identify any boats finishing in the hours of darkness," continues Elliott.
The 2017 edition of the RORC Caribbean 600, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and hosted by the Antigua Yacht Club, will start on Monday 20 February 2017.
A fleet of over 80 yachts is expected for the ninth edition of the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 in which 900 sailors from 30 different nations will race non-stop around 11 Caribbean islands, starting and finishing in Antigua. Passionate corinthians will be rubbing shoulders with Olympic medallists, America's Cup winners and round the world sailors in a race to take home the coveted RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy. The 600 mile course is designed to offer a tactical, high speed race with stunning vistas at every corner.
“The RORC Caribbean 600 is very different to the other 600 mile races and definitely not a holiday race in the Caribbean,” commented RORC Racing Manager, Nick Elliott. “The race has many tactical legs with land effects and wind-driven currents which are both difficult to predict. The heat of the day and the long nights are also unusual features for an offshore race making it every bit as challenging as the Rolex Fastnet Race, and just as exciting. It is interesting to note that the records for the Rolex Fastnet Race and the RORC Caribbean 600 are very similar.”
Featuring a magnificent collection of yachts, an incredibly varied fleet will be racing under the IRC, CSA and MOCRA rating systems, as well as Class40s racing under class rules. Rambler 88, Phaedo3 and Maserati will be gunning for course records, however, the winner of the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy will be decided by the yacht with the best corrected time under IRC.
The RORC Caribbean 600 attracts the world's fastest racing yachts, magnificent superyachts and corinthian production cruisers. Gathered in Antigua for the start of the 600-mile blast around 11 Caribbean islands, the fleet is a phenomenal sight. Among the spectacular entries this year are two colossal schooners; Eleonora and Adela, with at least 12 classic-designed yachts joining them on the race course.
Adela dates back to 1903 and at 182ft (55 metres), she is the largest yacht competing in the race. Displacing 250 tons and capable of 17 knots of boat speed, the forces on board are off the charts; the mainsail alone can generate 50 tons of load. Adela has an extraordinary record in the race; coming in the top ten overall under IRC in all four races she has competed in, including third overall in 2013. Adela is unbeaten in the Spirit of Tradition Class and is likely to have 35 crew for this year's race. Since she last competed in 2015, the schooner has undergone major modifications to her rudder and keel. Changing a headsail on Adela requires crew out on her mighty bowsprit, a position for agile, strong and trustworthy crew.
The Royal Ocean Racing Club has partnered with Rolex SA, adding the RORC Caribbean 600 to the leading Swiss watchmaker's prestigious roster of yachting events around the world.
The RORC Caribbean 600 has quickly become an important event in ocean racing circles in the course of its short history and a 'must do' race on the calendar of those who take their ocean racing seriously. The RORC Caribbean 600 circumnavigates 11 of the Leeward Islands, starting and finishing in Antigua, going as far north as St. Maarten and as far south as Guadeloupe. The race has grown steadily in its nine-year history and the 2017 edition is due to have a new record entry of over 70 boats.
Next month, more than 70 yachts are expected to take part in the RORC Caribbean 600, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's stunning race around 11 Caribbean islands. American yachts have had a winning streak in this classic offshore race, winning five out of eight editions of the 600-miler, starting and finishing in Antigua.
With 16 entries, the largest number of American boats ever seen on the race course will include several serious race teams with a chance of winning the overall trophy. Past winners from the U.S. on the start line on Monday 20th February will include the current holder of the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy from 2016, George Sakellaris, Proteus, Maxi 72 (USA) as well as some of the other American overall winners: 2015: Hap Fauth, Bella Mente, JV72 (USA); 2014: George Sakellaris, RP72, Shockwave (USA); 2013: Ron O'Hanley, Privateer, Cookson 50 (USA) and 2011: George David, Rambler 100, JK 100 (USA). Favourites, for both line honours and the overall win are likely to come from the USA, even though British contenders lead the impressive list of entries in terms of number of boats from around the globe.
The fastest boat in the race is the American trimaran, the MOD70, Phaedo³ owned and skippered by Lloyd Thornburg who grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Phaedo³ set the multihull record last year, hurtling around the course at speeds in excess of 30 knots and topping out nearer 40, crossing the finish line in an elapsed time of 31 hours, 59 minutes, 04 seconds and breaking their previous race record. Team Phaedo is back to defend their title and will be taking a tilt at their own record once again.
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.