Pulling the wind rabbit out of the hat
With a forecast indicating no wind on the Solent, the race committee and competitors were blessed in being able to get two races in on the second day of the RORC Easter Challenge, once again held in unseasonably summer-like conditions.
While the first start was scheduled for 1000, a windless Solent saw racing postponed for three hours. Competitors were kept occupied in the Cowes Yacht Haven Events Centre with a valuable talk from Jim Saltonstall on race preparation.
Early afternoon the race committee made the brave call to get underway on a course off Hill Head despite the apparent mill pond. In fact there was wind off the water and a meaningful race was held. As women’s match racer Josie Gibson, helming the new Mat 1010 in IRC 3, observed: “It was really good of them to try and do it, because the alternative was to wait for the new breeze. It wasn’t totally unfair but it was just very very light. There was an awful lot of shear. At the top we were getting 5-6 knots but it was really glassy on the water.”
At the end of the first race the wind began to veer into the southwest as the sea breeze prevailed and for race two, the wind picked up to an unexpected 13-14 knots with the tide running left to right across the course on the beat. From the first race, where crews were being sat down to leeward, for race two they were up on the weather rail, fully hiking.
At the end of play, in IRC1 Mike Bartholomew’s King 40 Tokoloshe now shares the top spot with Rob Gray and Sam Laidlaw’s Farr 50 Bob, the biggest boat in the RORC Easter Challenge fleet.
“Sam sailed the first race and we got away quite nicely. She goes like a rocketship in the light stuff,” recounted Gray of his Farr 50 which is looking very smart with a new paint job and, for this season, a stiffer mast, new mainsail and an enlarged asymmetric kite. “We were sailing faster than the apparent wind. Tokoloshe is sailing very very well. In the second race today she was way to the right and was first to catch the new breeze.” The two boats share the top spot due to Tokoloshe posting a fourth in today’s light opener.
In IRC Two, frustrating Andrew McIrvine in his second placed First 40 La Réponse, Andrew Williams’ Prima 38 Max ‘Ed Out! holds the lead having won both today’s races, putting them two points ahead of the RORC Commodore. Williams and his crew have made the trip up from Plymouth to compete. For this season they have changed the name of their boat from Mighty Max III after they enlarged the size of their biggest spinnaker by 35%.
“This is the first time we have raced her with the new rating and it has made a tremendous difference,” said Williams. In today’s ultra-light first race Williams said it was all about keeping the boat moving. “She is a 14 year old design and we have had three firsts and a fourth, which for a scratch crew with a boat with a new sail configuration we’ve only been out once with - we feel quite pleased with the way she is performing.”
Chris and Hannah Neve’s high experienced crew on the Lymington-based First 35 No Chance are slipping away in first place in IRC 3 after posting a 2-1 today. They lead Louise Morton’s Mat 1010 by three points. The RORC Easter Challenge is only Mat 1010’s second competitive outing. The boat is being sailed by Morton’s all-female crew that normally races on the Quarter Tonner Espada, with the exception of Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator Jules Salter, taking time off from his latest campaign with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. “This morning was quite like Abu Dhabi,” quipped helm Josie Gibson.
IRC4 is the only class to have a run-away leader in Grant Gordon’s J/97 Fever, now nine points clear of Paul Blowers and Nick Daniels Impala Patriot Games, while in the J/80s Kevin Sproul made a good come back after yesterday’s rig issues to win both today’s races.
Despite the light wind to start with today, the conditions once again proved ideal for the on-the-water coaching provided by Jim Saltonstall, Barry Dunning and their team. The RORC Easter Challenge is a ‘coaching regatta’ and the competitors have been lapping up the advice during races as well as the post-race video analysis ashore.
“Today was brilliant because you could concentrate on sail shapes and not get too distracted. At least you aren’t battling around in survival conditions like you normally are,” commented Ben Jones, the main trimmer on Mike Greville’s Erivale of today’s coaching. “It is always nice to have a view from outside of the boat and there are some good people there telling you gently and sensitivity that you’ve got it slightly wrong. We have suffered from a bit of pressure. It is very useful.”
“It is really good to have it,” agreed Louise Morton of the coaching. “We enjoy going to the briefings and seeing on video how far forward we are for the starts or not. You pick up one or two things every time. Just things like trim and whether we should be sitting further forward on the boat. Jim is very incite-full.”
A further two races are scheduled to start at 1000 tomorrow, the final day of racing at the RORC Easter Challenge with a forecast similar to today’s.