Solent not in co-operative mood
Today proved a difficult one for both competitors and race officials alike at the RORC Easter Challenge. Under a grey overcast sky, race three of the series got underway on time in light breeze, but on the second beat the wind turned inside out, causing the race to be shortened, finishing at the end of that leg. After this the wind resolutely failed to return, causing today’s final two races to be cancelled.
In IRC One, 2010 Commodores’ Cup winner Anthony O’Leary and his silver Ker 39 Antix won today’s race. “We had a good start at the pin,” the Irishman described it. “We got a little jump on our group of boats, we just rounded the top mark ahead of them. It just came and went all the way down the run and as we came around the bottom mark, the breeze had swung more to the west which hurt the guys ahead of us, while we were well ahead of our group anyway.”
Dutchman Piet Vroon and his 2010 RORC Yacht of the Year Tonnerre were looking good at the end of the run, having overhauled the Farr 52 Toe in the Water. Unfortunately she and Toe In the Water lost out on the right side of the next beat as the breeze backed left. “At one stage, we were looking good, but we were nowhere at the finish,” admitted Vroon. “It is not really representative of the sport to operate in such varying wind.”
First to come in on the new breeze and hoist their kites upwind was the Farr 45 Espresso Martini (making up for her grounding yesterday) and she ended up being first home, followed in by Jonathan Goring’s Ker 40 Keronimo, these two beating the two biggest boats in the RORC Easter Challenge fleet to the finish line on the water.
“When they [Espresso Martini] went around the leeward mark, the wind went left and they could reach to the finish,” explained Brian Thompson, helmsman on Toe in The Water. “Anyone ahead of her was way off to leeward and hadn’t made that much distance. The wind went maybe 90deg to the left. But it was good to get one race in and everyone was happy to come in early.”
Overall leader in IRC One is now Michael Bartholomew’s King 40 Tokoloshe, six points ahead of Keronimo.
In IRC Two Jim Macgregor and his Elan 410 Premier Flair have hung on to their overall lead after today’s race, now just a point ahead of Niall Dowling’s new J/111 Jazzband, although today’s race was won by Joopster, Neil Kipling’s J/122.
“The bias was swinging at the start and we were going for the pin end and then the bias went 10° the other way, so we went back to the committee boat,” Jim Macgregor described his start. “We weren’t going fast at the gun, but we were going in the right direction and we spotted the pressure up on the left and those that went right lost on the first beat.” Premier Flair led around the top mark and held on during the run.
On the second beat, matters were made all the more challenging for Premier Flair as there was a tide line just short of the weather mark. “There was east-going tide approaching and then for the last 50 yards, definite west-going tide,” Macgregor continued. “What became a good layline suddenly became a bad layline...so another two tacks, but it was the same for everyone.”
Finishing fourth today, Macgregor adds that he is finding the RORC Easter Challenge a good gauge of the competition lining up soon for the British team’s trials for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup.
Elsewhere Peter Morton on his Mat1010 won today’s race in IRC Three to take the lead from the British Keelboat Academy squad sailing David Aisher’s J/109 Yeoman of Wight. In IRC Four A Grant Gordon and his J/97 Fever continued her unbroken run of bullets as did Nigel Biggs’ MG30 Checkmate XV in IRC Four B. However in the J/80 one design class, Rachel Woods’ Jumblesail won today’s race, breaking Rob Larke’s previously perfect scoreline on J2X.
Round the world navigator Steve Hayles, racing with the British Keelboat Academy on the Farr 45 Kolga, felt that the race committee had made the right call to send the fleet home mid-afternoon.
“It was a bit confusing,” he said of today’s situation. “It wasn’t really a sea breeze, there just wasn’t much gradient about, so a bit of breeze funnels up the western Solent at 270deg, it funnels down Southampton Water and it comes off the north shore, so all it takes is a slight change in balance...”
But it was really the tide turning that finally killed the wind altogether today. “In theory that should have built the breeze a little, but I think it just held it back. To can it was the right thing to do.”
As to tomorrow, Hayles (who also runs the weather forecasting company GRIB.US) says: “We hope it will go southwesterly...I was hopeful yesterday, but I’m not today. There is a bit of southwesterly out there, it is just whether it pushes up here. It could be the same again. I am a little more hopeful tomorrow. If it starts more left it will pull left.”
Two races are scheduled for tomorrow with the first start due at 1000.