Near record line-up for trials
The Royal Ocean Racing Club's more open rating bands for the 2012 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup are having the desired effect: As the deadline closed for teams wishing to enter the British trials for this July's Cowes-based event, so 17 boats had registered - a near record compared to past trials.
In addition to his important role as Chairman of the Royal Yachting Association, Stacey Clark is also Chairman of the Selectors for the British Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup team, a panel he sits on with professional sailor, Chris Mason, now Yachting Secretary of the Royal Yacht Squadron, and Cowes Week CEO, Stuart Quarrie.
Clark himself has been helmsman on the various Cutting Edge campaigns, including most recently a Farr 45 and a TP52. "I think given the world the way it is at the moment, we are pretty pleased," he says of the turn-out. "We have a healthy number of trialists and we are optimistic about being able to put forward very strong teams."
While 17 boats are entered in the trials, still unresolved is the number that will make it through, as the GBR selectors have yet to decide whether they will enter three or four teams (each comprising three boats). Clark says that originally the fourth had been allocated to go to a team from the north of England/Scotland, but this hasn't materialised. "We have the option to go to four teams, but we have decided that we'd like to see the trials before deciding whether to enter three or four. We want to enter teams that will do credit to the GBR name in this regatta, as well as look to build for the future."
This year the selection is focussing on the performance of the 17 boats at two events: the RORC's Morgan Cup offshore starting on 5th May and the Royal Corinthian YC's Vice-Admiral's Cup inshore series over 18-20th May. The latter will feature a 'Commodores' Cup class'. "With the wide rating band, these boats don't usually race each other on the same start line, on the same course, at the same time," explains Clark.
As to why so many boats have entered the trials in these austere times, one reason is certainly the RORC's amendment to the rating bands. For this year's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup there is effectively one large rating band, with eligible boats required to have an IRC time correction co-efficient (TCC) of 1.020-1.230. Among each three boat team only one can be a 'big boat' (ie with a TCC of 1.150-1.230), so a team could field a team with no 'big boat'.
Clark believes this has opened up the competition, making it more even across all of the trialists. "Last time around there was strong competition for some of the smaller boat slots, but it was hard to find the right big boat," he says.
As present the British contenders include three Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup 'big boats' - the two Ker 40s, Jonathan Goring's Keronimo and Andrew Pearce's Magnum III, and Ian Blair's King 40 Cobra.
Several others are repeat customers from the 2010 British team. Former Commodore of the RORC, Andrew McIrvine is back with his First 40, La Réponse, while his co-2010 co-skipper Peter Morton has entered his own recently acquired Corby 33 Salvo. Steven and Jane Anderson are back, but on a different boat having bought the well known Corby 40, Cracklin Rosie, which Brian Wilkinson campaigned two years ago.
For Andrew Pearce this will be his third Commodores' Cup having previously competed in 2004 and 2008. This year he is greatly looking forward to campaigning his new Ker 40, one of three likely to be taking part, including Keronimo and another in the Hong Kong team.
"These boats are so unbelievably well matched," says Pearce, whose new Magnum III was delivered just before Christmas, replacing his previous IMX40. "We've been racing against Keronimo and they are just so even out on the water - it's very exciting racing. And the boat is awesome. Even in 10 knots, you get the kite up and get the boat well heeled, and you are doing 8-9 knots. Already we've had the boat doing 18 knots in flat water and we are going to get over 20 knots."
As to the trials this year, Pearce says it will be interesting because with the new rating band, the selectors have a more open hand. "When we have done it in previous times, generally we have been in what has been colloquially called 'the heavy weather team'. The IMX 40 I took down the non-overlapping route, so we were set up for stronger winds - 15 knots and above we were unbeatable, a real bandit, but below that it was a bit tricky. Now they can't end up with three Ker 40s, because there is a limit to the boats above 1.150, but they could end up with a team of three J/109s, if they felt that type of boat might have a niche in the weather patterns where they are going to excel. So it is a very different set-up this time around."
Like the selectors in previous years, Stacey Clark won't elaborate on how they will divide up the teams this time.
As to the competition in this year's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, Pearce concludes: "They have got the right level. I think it is going to be a brilliant Commodores' Cup. There has been a good level of interest from abroad, so I think it will be a very successful regatta."