Final warm-up before the Fastnet
First Warning signal: 0750
This Saturday morning sees the start of the last RORC offshore race prior to the Rolex Fastnet Race in August. It is the last chance for competitors to tune themselves, their equipment and their yachts prior to this year’s big event. However, this is more than just a dress rehearsal. The Channel Challenge Cup is the overall prize and there are many other trophies including the Inter Service Trophy for the best Armed Services Yacht. Points are also awarded for this year’s RORC Season’s Points Championship. At this stage in the season it is impossible to predict the season’s winners but certain yachts are coming to the fore.
In IRC Class Super Zero Niklas Zennstrom’s 72ft Rán makes its debut in RORC racing. The crew is a stellar cast of America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors, skippered by Tim Powell and the Judel Vrolijk designed mini-maxi is quite a head turner. Talking of head turners, the IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing, will be racing with the highly talented Sam Davies on board, having just broken the Round Britain and Ireland Record with an all girl crew on Aviva. Sam will be accompanied by Sidney Gavignet who has just returned from competing on board Puma in the Volvo Ocean Race.
In IRC Class Zero Bill Blain’s J/133 Batfish III is not only leading its class for the season but is also leading in IRC overall. However, Piet Vroon’s Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens has been steadily closing the gap. “ Tonnerre is proving to be a very difficult boat to beat” commented Batfish III navigator Tristan Nelson. “We will see how the weekend pans out but we will have to sail our socks off to keep the custom Ker at bay.”
In IRC Class One Ian Laing’s Swan 53 Sassenach is competing and the Vice Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron will be on a high, having won the Swan Europeans Regatta last week. However Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43 Codiam is always hard to beat. Two of the most consistent performers will be continuing their titanic battle which started last year: Phillippe Falle’s Reflex 38 Puma Logic and the Army Sailing Association’s A40 British Soldier are locked in a battle to win the RORC Season’s Points Championship for IRC Class One. Andrew McIrvine sailing Peter Rutter’s Corby 36 Quokka is not far behind and is also racing this weekend.
In IRC Class Two there are three two-handed entries which are having a very successful season: Robin Taunt’s J/105 Jibe returns to the fray and will be looking to get the better of Nick Martin’s J/105 Diablo-J and Nick and Suzi Jones’ First 34.7 Astarte. However Harry Heijst’s fully crewed S&S 41 Winsome is always a contender in Class Two.
IRC Class Three looks set to be probably the most competitive class competing in the RORC Channel Race. David Lees’ High Tension 36 Hephzibah, Jean Yves Chateau’s Nicholson 33 Iromiguy and Paul Marsh’s classic S&S 37 Clarionet are all past RORC winners and will be vying for honours.
The course, which will be announced on Friday afternoon, will be designed to last between 24 and 36 hours. Weather forecasts predict south to southwesterly winds of about 15 knots by Saturday afternoon.