Finally a light race?

RORC Channel Race preview

Wednesday July 27th 2011, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom

Sunburn rather than windburn could well be a factor for this weekend’s RORC Channel Race. 98 yachts are entered and no doubt valuable experience is there to be gained prior to the biggest race of the RORC Season.

This Saturday morning sees the start of the last RORC offshore race prior to the Rolex Fastnet Race starting on 14 August. It is the last RORC race for competitors to tune themselves, their equipment and their yachts prior to the big event. However, this is more than just a dress rehearsal. The Channel Challenge Cup is the overall prize as are vital points available to go towards the RORC Season’s Points Championship.

In IRC Zero, Derek Saunders’ CM 60 Venomous was the class winner for the Channel Race last year and a good result this weekend should see the team move to first in class for this season. However, Venomous has some highly accomplished opposition. Andres Soriano’s Mills 68 Mini Maxi Alegre and Johnny Vincent’s TP52 Pace have been campaigning throughout the Mediterranean all year and will be very much up to speed. Jens Kuehne’s RP48 Sjambok may well enjoy being the lowest rated boat in the class. Alex Thompson’s IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss is joining the big boat class and will also be racing in the Two-Handed Class.

IRC One has 14 yachts entered, including the current top four yachts in this class for the championship. Piet Vroon’s Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens 3 will be hoping that their recent mainsail re-design will go well in the light and Jonathan Goring’s new Ker 40 Keronimo is also yet to be race tested in gentle breeze. Chaz Ivill’s Grand Soleil 54 John B won its class in last year’s race and won’t be giving up without a fight. The predicted light weather may not suit the three Farr 65s entered by Ondeck but it is a welcome sight to have the yachts returning to RORC racing after competing in this year’s RORC Caribbean 600.

In IRC Two RORC Commodore Andrew McIrvine’s First 40 La Réponse is the current class leader and also won last year’s Channel Race Overall. “I was delighted to see that 98 yachts had entered for the Channel Race, especially as like me, many of the competitors have so many other commitments away from sailing," commented McIrvine. "Many of the yachts entered will be looking for a final shakedown before the Rolex Fastnet Race and as we have had a very windy season of racing, I think that it is very useful to race in what looks like light conditions. This should give all of us practice in a mode of racing that we have hardly experienced at all this season.”

Two yachts vying for the IRC Two title may well be looking forward to a light airs race. Niall Dowling’s J/111 Arabella is competing for the eighth time this season and currently lies second in class for the championship. Neil Kipling’s J/122 Joopster is fourth, but should move up to third with a decent result this weekend. Both of these designs are light displacement with a sail configuration that may well enjoy the predicted light conditions.

Peter Rutter’s Quokka 8 had a magnificent run in this month’s IRC National Championship, taking a clean sweep of eight bullets. For the Channel Race the Grand Soleil 43 will be skippered by Philippe Falle and sailed by Sailing Logic. The yacht racing school has no less than five yachts racing including Visit Malta Puma, skippered by Tim Thubron, which is currently third overall for the season.

22 yachts are entered for IRC Three including current class leader Nick Martin’s J/105 Diablo-J. Peter Olden’s A 35 Solan Goose of Hamble will be looking for a good result to move up from third overall and also to defend last year’s class win in the Channel Race. Both of these yachts are very much in contention for the Two-Handed title. Last year’s Channel Race saw just three teams sailing short handed, this increasingly popular discipline has attracted 22 yachts for the 2011 RORC Channel Race.

The largest class racing this weekend is IRC Four with 28 yachts set to race. The class leader for the season is Matthias Kracht’s JPK 9.60 Ultreia! which also leads the Two-handed Class. Ultreia! has a commanding lead for the season. IRC Four is producing some extremely close racing and probably the most competitive division racing with RORC this season; the top ten yachts are all still capable of winning the class.

In sharp contrast to a season of high wind speed and adrenalin pumping sailing this weekend’s RORC Channel Race could be a very different affair. However for many crews, light air spinnakers and headsails may not have seen too much UV light this season. The Channel Race is a golden opportunity for teams to excel at a different point in the yacht racing spectrum. To achieve the result that is hoped for, concentration levels will need to be as high as possible.

Late entries for the Channel Race are possible until Friday, 29th July.

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