Tonnerre off to a fine start
The De Guingand Bowl race provided another exciting chapter in the 2011 RORC Season's Points Championship. The RORC Race Committee decided to send the fleet on an upwind start, westward out of the Solent, before turning east, down the south side of the Isle of Wight and offshore after St Catherine's Point, to a top mark mid-Channel: the Greenwich Light Vessel. The fleet then turned for home, a gruelling 50-mile upwind leg to finish back in the Solent. Most of the fleet enjoyed a tactical race with many twists and turns along the way.
"The course of roughly 127 miles was designed to give the fleet options," commented RORC Racing Manager, Ian Loffhagen. "To make the most of tides but also giving them the opportunity to go offshore in search of more wind on several occasions during the race. These factors changed throughout and kept the competitors focused on tactical decisions, as well as boat handling."
The start off the Squadron Line was a gentle one with ten knots from the northwest, however as the fleet entered the Western Solent big gusts and wind shifts had the fleet concentrating on sail trim. The breeze built as the fleet turned east and with an increased sea state, the competitors in the De Guingand Bowl Race enjoyed some fast running conditions before blasting offshore bound for the Greenwich Light Vessel. With blues skies punctuated by scattered clouds, the 71-strong fleet enjoyed a day of fantastic offshore action. Just before sunset, the breeze shifted north and colder air, often in excess 20 knots, gave a chilling night sail. By dawn the breeze had abated somewhat and returned to the northwest and by early afternoon, the majority of the RORC fleet had been accounted for.
Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens made a strong start to the RORC European circuit with a triumph in IRC One and IRC overall to lift the De Guingand Bowl Trophy.
"We have a great crew who handled themselves very well but the race was not a straight forward one and we have certainly got plenty to think about before our next race," commented Piet Vroon dockside after the race. "We could see the Farr 52 Bob for most of the race and they were a good indicator for us about the conditions ahead. It is still early in the season but I am very happy with our result and the performance of the crew."
Gray and Laidlaw's Bob took line honours and second place overall by the narrow margin of just over four minutes on corrected time. Chaz Ivill's Grand Soleil 54 John B had another excellent race to place third overall and second in IRC One. John B is currently third overall for the championship.
Quokka 8 corrected out to win IRC Two. This season Peter Rutter's Grand Soleil 43 is crewed by Phillippe Falle and the team from Sailing Logic. "It is great to have Peter on board, as he has vast experience and knows the yacht so well," commented Falle. "However, Quokka is very different to the Reflex 38 that we campaigned last year and not quite as forgiving. We found that to our cost, some 15 miles offshore when we Chinese gybed. It took a while to get going again but the crew were magnificent, hiking to the maximum throughout the night. We had an excellent beat back to the Solent, with great trimming from the crew. We also capitalised by going the right way on a big right hand shift, just before sunset. We are absolutely delighted to get off to such a great start, a big thank you to Peter and all of the Quokka crew, we are really looking forward to the season ahead."
RORC Commodore, Andrew McIrvine's First 40 La Réponse continued her impressive start to the season taking second place in IRC Two, to lead the class for the championship. Niall Dowling's J/111 Arabella placed third to keep up the pressure at the top of the class.
Noel Racine's French JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew was once again in sparkling form, holding off an admirable challenge from Peter Olden's A 35 Solan Goose of Hamble, to win their second race in a row by just over 10 minutes on corrected time. Foggy Dew is based in Le Havre and besides racing over 127 miles, Noel and his crew had to deliver the yacht to the race and sail back home, requiring nearly 400 miles of sailing.
IRC Four produced the closest finish in the 71-yacht fleet. Fabrice Tropres' Dufour 34 Major Tom had a virtual photo-finish with Harry Heijst's S&S 41 Winsome. Major Tom won the class by just 19 seconds. Mathias Kracht's JPK 9.6 Ultreia! was not far behind in third, racing two-handed.
There were 14 yachts racing in the Two Handed Class. Paddy Cronin's Psipsina had an intense battle for third place with Matthias Kracht's Ultreia! But Peter Olden's Solan Goose of Hamble corrected out to win the class and retain the class lead for the season so far, with Jammy Dodger coming in second behind them.
"I am planning on competing in all of the Offshore RORC races in the British Isles this season, after a positive experience in 2010," commented Peter Olden. "Solan Goose is based in Hamble, we were runner up in the RORC Two-Handed division in 2010. Both my partners for the season are very good dinghy sailors with good offshore experience, gained with me. I am organising a 1000 mile solo race in 2012 in association with the Solo Offshore Racing Club but the RORC Season's Points Championship is very much the focus this year."
Racing continues for the RORC Season's Points Championship on 20 May with the East Coast Race, there will be plenty to celebrate in Burnham on Crouch as this year is the Centenary Houghton Cup.
The prizegiving for the Cervantes Trophy, Guillaume le Conquérant and De Guingand Bowl races will be held on Tuesday 17 May 2011 at 1930 at the RORC Clubhouse, London.