Andy Rice reviews the competition in classes IRC Zero, One and Two
Perhaps it is because people are becoming increasingly time poor, or because it neatly side-steps the problem of keeping a large crew together, but one area of offshore racing undeniably gaining popularity is doublehanding.
198 boats have entered the 2019 Royal Ocean Racing Club's Cowes-Dinard-St Malo, the largest fleet for the race since 2007.
Day two of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s IRC National Championship saw conditions come good with a less severe tidal effect on the Solent due to a later kick-off time and a breeze that peaked at 16 knots. This allowed both race committees (IRC 3-4 run by the RORC racing team’s own Steve Cole and Stuart Childerley PRO for the larger classes) to run two windward-leewards rounding off the afternoon with a longer round the cans race. The windward-leewards for the bigger boats was on the Brambles bank with the course for the smaller classes set further west.
While in some classes the leaderboard remains tight going into tomorrow’s final day, in others there are some exceptional, stand-out performances. In the six boat FAST40+ class for example Peter Morton’s Carkeek 40 Mk3 Girls on Film holds a perfect six bullet score line. Glyn Locke's Farr 280 Toucan has the same tally in the seven strong HP30 class, leaving the likes of Malcolm Wootton's modified Farr 30 Pegasus and Richard Woof's J/90 Jo 90 to scrabble for the last podium positions.
One of the tightest fights is taking place among the biggest boats in IRC 1 where today the tables were turned with David Collins’ IRC 52 Tala getting the better of Tony Langley’s Gladiator, posting a 1-2-1 to the polished 52 Super Series team’s 2-1-2.
“It was nice sailing - less one-sided than yesterday and a lot of options,” explained Tala’s tactician, Brett Aarons. “Yesterday, being a higher-rated boat, it was hard to extend enough away from Gladiator and we were still getting used to racing the boat inshore. Today we got over any issues we had.
“We are a little bit faster than Gladiator, with a slightly deeper keel and a slight taller mast. In shorter races you don’t extend enough, but the races today and wind strength allowed us to use our extra power and, together with some good sailing, that allowed us to get away.
“David [Collins] is new to the TP, but he did a great job driving today. In the starts he was not afraid of getting the boat into some small gaps…”
The most competitive class here is also the biggest – IRC 2, with 22 boats, including the whole Performance 40 fleet. Overall Stuart Sawyer’s Falmouth-based IRC Nationals first timers on their J/122 Black Dog continued to score well. A 1-4-2 today has left them with a 15 point lead ahead of the Blair family’s King 40 Cobra. The Goubau family from Belgium had an excellent day on their Beneteau 47.7 Moana, posting a 4-2-4, while also on the ascent was Adam Gosling’s fine crew, including double Olympic 470 silver medallist Nick Rogers, on the JPK 11.80 Yes! whose 5-3-1 today has elevated them to fourth overall.
“It was more our conditions, a slightly more orienteering-type course and the boat is good on that,” said Gosling, who over the winter has had Yes! twin rudders replaced. Gosling also paid tribute to Black Dog: “It is great to see such a well-sailed boat. It is good they are winning.”
Today’s third winner in IRC 2 was the all-star cast, including Andrew Cape and Jerry Hill, on board Robert Bicket’s Fargo. Yesterday their Swan 42 shone in race two finishing second and today was the same, sandwiched by otherwise deep results. Bicket described their moment in the sun: “It was a tricky start at the boat end and we managed to just get away and stretch our legs on the beat to get clean air. So it was all the usual classic stuff. It is a difficult fleet with 20+ boats, so you have to get a good start. It is basically about not making mistakes. If you do, you are in the mid-teens.”
He added: “There’s a great fleet of IRC boats here - well done to the RORC for getting so many to come and race.”
One point off having a perfect scoreline is the leader in IRC 3, David Franks’ J/112E Leon, which today scored straight bullets, despite having one of her crew Medevaced off with a head injury. Leon's six point lead is still vulnerable, but the dominance of the 2012 IRC National Champions is such that sisterships, Xanadoo and Happy Daize, plus the First 40.7 Incognito, are most likely to be left fighting for the remaining podium positions.
On a roll after his exemplary 1-2-1 yesterday is Christopher Preston’s J/109 Jubilee. However while they posted a third bullet today, they are facing increasing ferocious competition from defending IRC National Champion, Giovanni Belgrano’s and his 1939 vintage Laurent Giles-designed classic Whooper.
Preston admitted that their scoreline was let down today by a 7-5 in the opening windward-leewards. “We had a problem in the first race with a twisted kite, but we had really good starts all the way through. With a J/109 it is a problem when it is wind against tide, because the beats become very short and the JPKs are faster downwind. We got most of it right. We have got a great crew and are having a great time. We had 2-3 knots more wind than yesterday. It made for lovely racing.”
Preston was pleased to observe that at this national championship for the RORC and UNCL’s jointly owned rating system, the standard of racing is noticeably higher than other events in which he typically competes.
Racing continues tomorrow with a third and final day with an impossibly light forecast when ‘no racing can possibly happen’. The common hope is that the race officials will defy the wind gods for a third successive occasion.
A strong line-up, ranging from TP52s, FAST40+s and Performance 40s, down to nimble HP30s and the cruiser-racers majority will take to the Solent this Friday for three days of intense competition at the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s IRC National Championship.
French Farr 36 Absolutely II, skippered by former Finn sailor Yves Ginoux, Union Nationale Course Au Large’s vice-president and flying the colours of CNTL Marseille, is the IRC Europeans overall winner.
Much patience was needed from crews and organisers to kick off the IRC Europeans in Sanremo finally. Despite the warning signal being scheduled for the early morning, in the hope of getting some thermal breeze, the wind refused to materialise until the late afternoon, keeping the sailors waiting in the Race Village until then. Eventually a westerly of around 4 to 6 knots filled in, enabling racing for the 40+ strong fleet to get underway.
The gun for IRC O, 1 and 2, comprising the bigger boats, was fired at around 18:00 but with several over the line early, the Race Committee was forced to sound a general recall. This first attempt also saw a number of incidents and collisions, resulting in one boat retiring and several protests that the Jury discussed until late evening. The second starting procedure was tidier and the bigger boats were swiftly followed by the IRC 3 and 4 on the first leg of the coastal course, heading to the top mark close to Capo Nero, the wind light but enough to keep the boats moving.
On the leg back to Sanremo, the wind was progressively falling and the Race Committee opted to shorten the course, setting the new finish line just off Sanremo’s old port breakwater, reducing the total course length to 6.5 miles.
The first boat to cross the line, shortly after 19:00 was Howard Dyer’s TP52 Rowdy Too, followed by two other TP52s: Russian Vadim Yakimenko’s Freccia Rossa and Italian Gianpiero Russo’s Macchia Mediterranea. On corrected time though, it’s Freccia Rossa that got the fist win of the Championship. The rest of the fleet managed to finish in slow succession, with the last boat crossing shortly after 20:00.
After Race 1 the provisional class leaders are: Freccia Rossa in IRC0, the Italian Ceccarelli 46’ MC Seawonder skippered by Andrea Zaoli in IRC1, French J/111 Michel Buffet’s Merlin in IRC2, and Italian Grand Soleil 34 Sagola Aigylion in IRC3 and First 34.7 Faster 2 in IRC4.
Full results are available here
After racing, the crews were welcomed at the historic Casinò di Sanremo for an aperitif, where some also tried their luck at the gambling tables.
The fleet will convene again for the IRC European Championship’s third day at 13:00. The weather forecast is for light winds that should progressively build enabling the fleet to race a maximum of two windward-leewards.
The Championship, open to offshore boats with an IRC endorsed rating, comprises five days of racing, a minimum of four inshore or windward-leeward races and an offshore lasting approximately 10 to 18 hours. On Friday 28 the crews will gather in the historical rooms of the Casinò di Sanremo for a buffet dinner. On Saturday 29, at the end of the last racing day, the Yacht Club Sanremo will host the prize-giving ceremony.
The opening day of the IRC Europeans, hosted by Italy’s Yacht Club Sanremo, got underway under sunny skies, scorching temperatures but nearly no wind.
Sue Wescomb has been appointed as the new General Manager of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Cowes clubhouse.
While crew lists for August’s Rolex Fastnet Race are far from finalised, currently just over 10% of those competing in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s biennial voyage from Cowes to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock will be women. While this is a long way from parity between the sexes, it is at least a step up from races say 20 years ago when the equivalent figure had yet to reach 5%.
To date only one female skipper has won the Rolex Fastnet Race – French solo sailor Catherine Chabaud (with a full crew) on board her IMOCA 60 Whirlpool-Europe 2 in 1999. Dona Bertarelli claimed line honours in both 2013 and 2015 with her partner Yann Guichard on board the 40m maxi trimaran Spindrift 2.
One reason for increased female participation, not just in the Rolex Fastnet Race, but also sailing generally, is thanks to female role models from Tracy Edwards and her high profile Maiden, Royal & Sun Alliance and Maiden II campaigns and, before her, Dame Naomi James and Clare Francis’ round the world voyages. Since then there have been the phenomenal, headline grabbing exploits of Ellen MacArthur and the round the world voyages of Dee Caffari. In France there has also been a wealth of accomplished female offshore sailors from the late Florence Arthaud, outright winner of the 2000 Route du Rhum to Isabelle Autissier, and an exponentially large group of contemporary sailors benefitting from their ground work. There are similar, albeit fewer, examples across the globe.
While role models provide the inspiration and the motivation for women, thereby creating the demand, there still needs to be opportunities to go sailing. Fortunately these are increasing, albeit too slowly, for those with all levels of experience.
For first timers and newbies, there are more companies offering the chance to buy a berth on a boat doing the Rolex Fastnet Race as well as the required qualifying races. They offer essential training while those expecting to make a longer term commitment to the sport can work their way up the syllabus of qualifications available from the RYA from Day Skipper up to Ocean Yachtmaster.
For women looking to get into sailing professionally the path remains hard, but again more opportunities are gradually becoming available when before they were close to being non-existent. Women’s sailing received a huge shot in the arm when a rule change for the last Volvo Ocean Race made it highly beneficial for teams to take at least two female sailors. Introducing such quotas or incentivising teams to take women or young sailors is something which is being slowly adopted elsewhere in competitive sailing. In last year’s IRC European Championship for example the RORC permitted teams with two 25 year olds or two females or one of each to sail with one extra crew. The RORC also has an Under 35 crew competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race on board Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise, which includes two female crew.
On the Rolex Fastnet Race website today we publish the case studies and views of six female sailors. They range from the top pros down to first timers:
Sam Davies - two time Vendee Globe sailor and former skipper of the all-female Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Hannah Diamond – former Olympic campaigner and Volvo Ocean Race sailor, now embarking on an Olympic campaign for the new mixed two handed offshore class for Paris 2024.
Laura Dillon – top Irish amateur female offshore racer, best known recently as the helm on Harry Heijst’s S&S 41 Winsome, who will be competing in the Fastnet four up on a Figaro Beneteau 3.
Flic Gabbay – a businesswomen who came late to sailing, who will set off on her sixth Rolex Fastnet Race this year competing in IRC Two Handed.
Catherine Keohane – accomplished cruiser and newbie racer, setting out on her first Rolex Fastnet Race on a chartered boat with the aiming of skippering her own campaign next time.
Nannette Netal – sailor from San Diego, USA who has bought a berth on the Farr 60 Venomous and is competing in her first Rolex Fastnet Race.