IRC Nationals preview
Since it was first held in 2000, the annual RORC IRC National Championship has always attracted a highly competitive fleet and this year is no exception. Well over 400 sailors from all over Europe will gather in Cowes on Friday for the annual three day event on tight Solent courses.
Among the fleet are almost 20 yachts that are past or present competitors for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.
IRC One has produced one of the most impressive fleets for many years. Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens should be the fastest boat around the track but there will be four Ker 40s nipping at the Dutch flyer's heels. Nigel Passmore's Apollo will be highly motivated to take a national title back to Plymouth. While Andrew Pearce's Magnum III and Harmen Jan de Graaf's Baraka GP will be racing each other for the first time, prior to representing Great Britain and Benelux respectively in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. However, the depth in this class goes further including notable proven winners such as Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix, Mike Bartholomew's King 40 Tokoloshe, Andrew Williams' Mills 39 Dignity and RORC Commodore Mike Greville's Ker 39 Erivale III.
"We expect some very challenging racing, which is exactly what is required if we are to continue to improve our performance," commented Magnum III skipper, Andrew Pearce. "The championship will have some of the best competition from the south coast and beyond, it will be a thorough test for all of us."
In IRC Two the UNCL President, Marc de Saint Denis, will be racing MC34 Courrier Vintage in good company. He will face former RORC Commodore Andrew McIrvine, who has been in fine form offshore this season. But the class has many well-honed adversaries. Kirsty and David Apthorp's J/111 J-Dream came within a whisker of winning Spi Ouest this Easter and Nicolas Gaumont-Prat's First 40.7 Philosophie IV and Jim Macgregor's Elan 410 Premier Flair will both be representing Great Britain in next month's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. Philosophie IV was runner up in IRC Two last year and will be looking to go one better in 2012.
In IRC Three, Mike Bridges' Elan 37 Elaine is back to defend their title, but the class also boasts two teams representing Britain in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup: Peter Morton's Corby 33 Salvo and the British Keelboat Academy's J/109 Yeoman of Wight will both be looking to get more training under their belts.
From overseas, Philippe Bourgeois' A35 Dunkerque Plaisance won her class earlier this month at Normandy Sailing Week and Dutch J/109 Captain Jack, skippered by Round the World racer Bert Visser, is relishing the event. "We cannot get this standard of competition in Holland," admits Visser. "It is well worth the effort to come over for the championship. It is an important event for us and we expect some very good racing."
In IRC Four, Nigel Biggs is a veteran of the championship and will be looking to come out on top with the beautifully prepared vintage Half Tonner, Checkmate XV. The small boat class also has a number of well-sailed modern bowsprit boats. Father and son team, Mike and Jamie Holmes racing J/97 Jika Jika, entered months ago, having identified the championship as a key event of their season.
"It will be a testing event for us," predicted Jamie Holmes. "We are expecting some extremely close racing, I think that key reasons for the popularity of the event are that there is usually a good range of conditions and the races are always well run, which attracts impressive opposition. The IRC National Championship is an excellent event to hone our skills for the J/97 UK Nationals in Guernsey this summer."