The RORC Season’s Points Championship continues this weekend, with the historic race to St. Malo. As RORC Racing Manager, Ian Loffhagen, explains: “For over 100 years, the race from Cowes to Dinard/St Malo has always been very well attended and 195 boats are entered for this year’s race. The Royal Ocean Racing Club aims to provide fair racing for a wide variety of yachts and we are delighted with the number of participants, especially the growing numbers of two handed entries which is very much encouraged by the club. There is also a multihull fleet for the first time this season which is good to see. The course takes the competing yachts west out of the Solent and across the English Channel where the fleet must leave all of the Channel Islands to port including the Casquets and Les Hanois, this means that no one will benefit or be hindered by the tide in the Alderney Race”.
In IRC Class Super Zero Canting Keel, Andy Tourell’s IMOCA 60 The Profit Hunter may well be in with a chance of beating the record for the race set by ICAP Leopard last year, but may have some competition from the scratch boat in IRC Class Super Zero: Tony Todd’s 100ft carbon fibre performance cruiser, Liara. It is the magnificent yacht’s maiden offshore race and she is a likely contender for line honours. While Liara will dwarf the opposition in her class, the other competitors are certainly not to be under-estimated. Rob Lutener and Martin Elwood’s TP52, Cutting Edge, is racing and she nearly got line honours in the Morgan Cup only to fall into a hole near the finish for five hours. Derek Saunders’ Farr 60 Venomous, Peter Harrison’s Farr 52 Chernikeeff 2 and The RYA Keelboat Programme’s TP52 John Merricks II have all tasted victory in RORC racing this season. New to the big boat arena is Nigel Passmore’s TP52 Apollo. The Plymouth-based team will be looking to get a solid performance in their first race in their new boat.
There is a virtual feast of top boats in IRC Class Zero with a close tussle expected between a huge variety of custom and production boats. David Aisher’s Rogers 46 Yeoman XXXII is back from the Caribbean and should have a close race with Jens Kuehne’s Reichel Pugh 48 Sjambok which is over from the United States. There is also the mouth watering prospect of two Ker 46 designs coming head to head for the first time. Piet Vroon’s Tonnerre de Breskens is very different from the older Fair Do’s VII sailed by John Shepherd. Fair Do’s helmsman Johnny Greenland clearly enjoys offshore racing. "It’s always an interesting race with a number of challenges - particularly once you're across the Channel. It has been such a light wind series to date - I'd love to see at least 15-20 knots for a bit of a blast!"
The two Farr 65s, entered by On Deck, would clearly favour windier conditions as would the elegant 90ft modern classic yacht, Savannah, entered by Hugh Morrison.
In IRC Class One RORC boat of the year for 2008 Philippe Delaporte's J/122 Pen Azen is back. It will be interesting to see if the French entry can repeat her winning ways of last season. However the defending class leader is another J/122, Francois Lognone’s Nutmeg IV, and they will be relishing the prospect of taking on Pen Azen.
There are three A40s racing in this class and the beamy bowsprit design should do well if the course is off the wind. The Army Sailing Association’s British Soldier, Cyrille Legloahec’s Batistyl and Michel Peretie’s Stamina III should be pushing each other on. But there is a depth of talent in this class. Steve Anderson’s First 40.7 Encore sailed well to win class in this year’s Morgan Cup and Phillippe Falle’s Reflex 38 Puma Logic is second overall in class in this year’s RORC Season’s Points Championship.
IRC Class Two is set to be the biggest class with 55 confirmed entries, there will be some interesting battles throughout the class with many identical designs racing each other. There are eight J/105s, eight J/109s, six A35s and five HOD 35s having their own private battles. Overall RORC Season’s Points leader, Robin Taunt’s J/109 Jibe will be one to watch as will Jean-Pierre Bonnet’s J/105 Moontiger which was third in class last year. Noel Racine’s JPK 9.60 Foggy Dew and Nicolas de la Fourniere’s X-34 Exile/Mirabuad are also proven winners in the offshore arena.
IRC Class Three is no less competitive. The current class leaders of the RORC Season’s Points Championship Jean Yves Chateau’s Nicholson 33 Iromiguy and David Lees’ High Tension 36 Hephzibah in second are both out this weekend. However they will have serious competition from Harry Heijst’s S&S 41 Winsome which has returned to Europe after winning her class in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Eight Sigma 38s will be making the trip as part of their offshore championship and in all close to forty boats will be racing in this class.
There looks like there could be a change at the top of the RORC Season’s Points Championship for the Two Handed Division. The top two boats, Diablo-J and Voador, are not racing so there is a good opportunity for Mike Moxley’s HOD 35 Malice, Nick and Suzi Jones’ First 34.7 Astarte and Exile/Mirabaud. They are all in with a chance of taking pole position but with seventeen boats racing two up their first objective will be to beat the opposition on the water.
Five multihulls will be flying across the waves. Victorien Erussard’s Laiterie de St Malo is the biggest and at 50ft she is likely to be the first boat to arrive at the finish. Veteran RORC sailor Mike Butterfield is sailing his Darren Newton-designed performance cruising cat Dazzle against another Newton design, the trimaran Paradox sailed by William Claxton. Joel Malardel’s one off trimaran Tancrede is always hard to beat and the Corsair 31 Magic Hecalou sailed by Jean-Baptiste Fédide will also be competitive.
Predicting the weather is always difficult but at the start a westerly breeze of 15 knots gusting to over 20 knots is a distinct possibility. If so, after an initial beat up the Solent, it could be a fast reach to Les Hanois but it looks as if the wind will drop off towards the end of the race.