Pole position for John Merricks II

Going into the final day of racing at the Red Funnel Easter Challenge

Saturday April 11th 2009, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom
All classes remain in the balance after two days of close fought racing at the Red Funnel Easter Challenge. Today light air racing was still the order of the day, but with a change in direction to the northwest. The Royal Ocean Racing Club set a windward leeward course north of the Brambles Bank, with a leeward gate. Three courses were laid for the competitors varying in length for the different classes.

“The strategy at the start of the first race of the day was about using the advantage of a starboard lift on the mainland shore coming out of Southampton Water and keeping out of the tide,” explained Event Coach, Jim Saltonstall. “Most of the fleet got it right; heading for shallow water to escape the tide and getting a lift on starboard tack. However the area also saw a conversion zone for the wind, going too far into shore meant lower pressure.”

By early afternoon the grey skies had lifted, as the first glimmers of sunshine bathed the Solent, the breeze was still from the north west but decreased in strength providing super light conditions. The race organisers responded by shortening the windward leeward courses for all classes. In the afternoon, the tide had changed direction and there was no advantage in going to the mainland shore, as RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen explains: “With the tide and the wind in the same direction, there was at least an additional two knots of apparent wind on the upwind legs, assisting the competitors, but in light airs there are considerable gains to be made by keeping the spinnaker full downwind. Sailing angles means more distance to the mark but keeping the boat going is vital. Also careful movement of weight around the boat becomes very important, getting weight to leeward helps the sails fill to correct shape and become more efficient.”

Class Super Zero

The RYA Keelboat programme’s TP52, John Merricks II is in pole position going into the last day with Tony Langley’s Farr 45, Atomic of Cowes just two points behind in second.

“We have enjoyed close racing for the last two days which has been a great boost to our preparation for the season," commented John Merricks II skipper, Luke McCarthy. "There is nothing like racing against another boat to sharpen up. Unfortunately, we got buried on the start line of the last race and never really got our time back, but we are looking forward to the challenge tomorrow.”

Tony Langley’s Farr 45, Atomic of Cowes has so far failed to add to their bullet in race one, but with Olympic Tornado and Extreme 40 sailor Hugh Styles calling tactics, they will be pushing all the way. Peter Harrison’s young guns on Farr 52, Chernikeef 2 are still in touch in third place and Nick and Annie Haigh’s DK46, Dark and Steamy finished on a high, winning race 4.

Class Zero

Michael Bartholomew’s King 40, Tokoloshe has had a consistent start to the regatta and leads the class having scored a string of bullets and second places. Dutch entry Foxy, owned by Dutchman Jan-Willem Jannink is a MAT 12. This new design from the drawing board of Mark Mills is in second place after 4 races and Robert Blackwell’s J/133, Jammy Dodger is in third overall in class.

Class One

Tim and Sophie Harrington’s X-35 Vortex revelled in the light conditions and ended the day in pole position having pushed Toe in the Water, skippered by Paul Robson, into second place overall.

“It is great to come out at Easter when the Solent isn’t too busy," commented Tim Harrington. This regatta allows us to put the crew and the boat together after the long lay off. The race management has been excellent and this is a great start to our season.”

Peter Robson’s First 40.7, Playing Around has had a consistent performance and lies third overall in class.

Class Two

Patrick Snowball’s debut season got a boost with his First 34.7 Mongoose, getting a bullet in the last race of the day, but another First 34.7 leads the class going into the last day - Chris & Hannah Neve’s, No Doubt. They do have the advantage of a very experienced crewman in the guise of Phil Lawrence, a highly accomplished keelboat sailor. “Chris and Hannah are my next door neighbours in Lymington,” explained Lawrence and it has been great fun sailing with them this Easter. David Riley’s Corby 33 No Retreat has not won a race, but have always been high up on the score board and are in second place with Kirsty Apthorp’s J/109, J-Dream third overall on count back from Suzy and Nick Jones’s First 34.7, Astarte.

Class Three and the Quarter Tonner Class

There is a battle royale in Class Three and the Quarter Tonner Class, Louise Morton’s Espada is just one point behind Mike Till’s Bullet after four races. Espada has an all-girl crew full of talent, as Louise Morton explains; “Charlotte Lawrence runs the bow, as she has done for the last three years and is a tremendous prospect with the RYA Match Racing team. Vicky Lenz and Libby Deegan are highly experienced sailors and Deirdre Crampton represented Canada in the 2004 Olympics in the Yngling Class. On tactics is Lucy McGregor who is currently listed 3rd in the ISAF World Rankings. Bullet is definitely quicker than us down wind, but we have the advantage upwind. It should be a great finale tomorrow.”

A prize giving for Friday and Saturday’s racing was held at the Cowes Yacht Haven event centre with the traditional Easter eggs being awarded to successful competitors.

Two races are scheduled for tomorrow’s final day of racing at the Red Funnel Easter Challenge.

Full results here

More photos on the following pages...

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