2007 program for short-handed sailors

Jerry Freeman reviews the races that lie in store

Friday January 5th 2007, Author: Jerry Freeman, Location: United Kingdom
Two handed and solo racers are looking forward to another exciting year as the sport expands dramatically throughout Europe with new races and new designs proliferating. Owner-drivers have discovered the simple pleasures of sailing their own boats over testing courses and keeping all the plum jobs for themselves while the logistical nightmare of recruiting 500 kilos of live ballast fades in the memory. The Seahorse Rating Office have recognised this trend by issuing special two-handed handicap certificates this year for the first time.

The season gets underway on 14 April with the enormously popular two-handed series organised by the Royal Southampton YC. Masterminded by Dave Giddings and Kathy Smalley this series attracted 180 entries last year competing in over 10 events throughout the season. The RSYC flagship event is the 500-mile Santander race that starts on 30 June, while the annual Island Double sets off on 7 July with over 100 boats anticipated this time. The J/105 is the weapon of choice in the Solent - these fast and easily handled boats exemplify all that is good in modern bow sprit craft often beating fully crewed and complex boats for absolute speed on the water.

Solo sailors have their first outing on 28 April with a nice little test, racing around the Isle of Wight in the second edition of RIOW Solo organised by Racing at Petit Bateau. Race Director Paul Peggs is confident of a 50 boat entry in 5 classes including yachts from 25 to 40 feet and class mini. An early start is planned to give the smaller boats the best chance of completing the 50-mile course before sunset.

The Rolex Fastnet Race beckons this year and a strong two-handed contingent will again contest this most famous of offshore races. Last time the light airs favoured the low handicap boats that carried the new breeze to the finish in Plymouth, what odds on a pasting this time? The fleet gets away from Cowes on 12 August. The RORC encourage two-handers in all their classic races and those aiming for Fastnet will need to plan their qualifying events and review all safety requirements in good time. The magnificent Psipsina trophy is the prize for the best RORC two-handed series result, currently held by Shaun Murphy and Ric Searle in the famous J/105 Sling Shot.

Ireland is the destination for the skippers of this years Petit Bateau Solo event that starts from Mylor YC, Falmouth on 14 July and visits Kinsale, Baltimore, (Fastnet), Dingle and returns to Mylor. Not for the faint hearted, this is a tough 600 mile test set in open blue water with green hills as the back drop, the two week event is aimed at experienced skippers in mono hulls from 28 feet to 40 feet

AZAB 2007 certainly hit the spot when the entry list was closed last summer at 70 boats on completion of the Royal Cornwall YC’s innovative qualifying race. Founder of the race Colin Drummond leads the charge from Black Rock in Falmouth on 2 June. The magic of this enduring event is the opportunity to enjoy a 1200 mile open ocean adventure with ample time for recovery or crew change in the exotic Azores destination before the return leg on 19 June. There is a waiting list for those who have not twigged that this race has been coming around every four years since 1975.

Royal Western YC in Plymouth, home of the OSTAR and the birthplace of all shorthanded races, has introduced a new five race double-handed series for West Country boats starting on 12 May and concluding on 18 August. OSTAR 2009 is already in the minds of serious soloists who will be choosing boats and planning qualifying cruises, there is not long now!

Satellite Tracking devices were first used in shorthanded racing in 1980 when OSTAR yachts carried AROGS beacons across the Atlantic but since that time UK race organisers have refused to employ this exciting technology on the grounds of cost. Today small robust and inexpensive devices have encouraged many skippers to provide their own tracking though OceanRaceTrack. The facility to follow an offshore race in not only invaluable to sponsors in bringing the excitement of the race course to a worldwide audience, it is also a vital safety aid in knowing the frequently updated position of each competing yacht. Is it time for clubs to fully embrace this technology and move the sport into the modern age?

Links to all these events and many more are be found on the excellent shorthanded race calendar at www.petitbateau.org.uk

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