Victory for Magnum III
A cold, northeasterly wind piping up to over 20 knots heralded the start of the first domestic race of a busy RORC Season. Under a greyish, overcast sky the first boats away were IRC 3 & 4. The tide was beginning to run west, favouring the Royal Yacht Squadron end of the line. Although most boats were slightly line-shy, Mike West's A35 Eaujet, being sailed by Paul Worswick, positioned perfectly and had a great start, quickly hoisting the kite and leading the fleet down the Solent.
Next to get away were IRC Zero, 1 & 2 - much less afraid to get close to the line before the start - and with the tidal flow increasing two yachts found themselves being carried over the line early. Andrew McIrvine's First 40 La Réponse and Neil Kipling's J/122 Joopster had to return in order to start correctly. Jim MacGregor's Elan 410 Premier Flair and Andrew Pearce's Ker 40 Magnum III also got off well.
For the first time ever the Royal Ocean Racing Club set a course that uses virtual marks. This was decided after permission was given by the RYA and this new exciting development offers the club a new versatility in course setting, which may prove to be highly useful to the club.
The first leg took the fleet downwind to Anvil Point and the DZB Buoy. The run was quick, seeing boat speeds exceeding 10 knots even for the smaller boats. The slight differing angles between the wind and a fast flowing tide posed a tactical challenge, keeping the navigators on their toes working the angles. This run, however, couldn't last forever. On the way back from DZB to a virtual mark just south of Freshwater Bay, the competitors got a first taste of what was waiting further ahead.
A close reach spilled some cold water over the deck, and wind over tide pounded the hulls. The first victims to the weather became Harm Prins's Volvo 60 Pleomax, which broke its main track and had to retire to Lymington and Nikki Curwen's Voador, which had to retire when they were still two-handed but only three-footed. Curwen said she felt it best not to take any risks with a leg injury in the dark and bailed out just short of waypoint 1.
After reaching waypoint 1, the boats were sent south towards the shipping lanes. To hold a kite, or not to hold a kite was the question on that leg. Inis Mor tore two spinnakers and had to complete the race with only a small-heavy one remaining.
Laurent Gouy commented following the race: "When does the British winter actually end?" Matthew Hannaby also had to give up racing on Playing Around after tearing the main, and had to limp back to the Eastern Solent with a jury-rigged main up.
Mike Moxley, racing his HOD 35 Malice, said after the race: "It was very entertaining approaching the second of the waypoints, watching the yachts in front of them acting exactly as if they were rounding a physical object but with nothing there. There were even some last minute gybes as yachts realised the tide was carrying them past the point, if only I had filmed it! Unfortunately we were very busy at the time!"
Had all competitors known what lay ahead of them now, we might have seen a few more cancellations. A tough and cold 30-mile beat to Owers Buoy followed waypoint 2. With a tide of nearly 4 knots reported by some at Owers, it became the deciding factor to which class took the overall win.
Andrew Pearce and the crew of Magnum III made a spectacular start to their offshore campaign on the new Ker 40, taking IRC 1 and the Overall win in the Morgan Cup, narrowly beating her Ker 40 sister ship, Jonathan Goring's Keronimo: "A big thumbs up from Magnum for the course and what a dream start for the new boat, I feel battered and bruised, I'm tired, my muscles ache but boy am I ecstatic!" declared Andrew Pearce. "It was an electric start, we passed Poole in just two hours averaging 15 knots over the ground. However that was in sharp contrast with the long 40 mile beat to Owers. With wind over tide and a kicked up sea state, it was difficult sailing in 18-20 knots, confused seas and not easy to maintain our 'free and fast' offshore technique. We dug in and at least with tide under us we were averaging over 10 knots on this leg and so 4 hours of discomfort and misery could be contended with if not relished.
"The last leg and we were neck and neck with Keronimo, it was going to be an exciting finish. Keronimo crossed the line two minutes ahead of us. In kick the handicaps and on the duration of the race after time correction we beat her by 28 seconds. So on this most important Trials race we had beaten Keronimo. It had been as close as it comes. I keep saying that these two boats are tethered by an invisible umbilical cord, we always seem to be so close together and what makes for such exciting racing. It was a tough race but I am absolutely delighted that we have come out top boat of all the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup contenders and this sets us up so well for the inshore trials in two weeks time."
In IRC 2, Andrew McIrvine's La Réponse won the class, making a great start to their Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup trials. Another boat having an outstanding race was Eaujet, which won IRC 3 by quite some margin, nearly an hour on corrected time.
IRC 4 was won by Matthias Kracht in his JPK 9.60 Ultreia! However in the Two-Handed Class he was beaten to top spot by Peter Olden in the A35 Solan Goose of Hamble.
Luckily, as the pain dulls, we tend to quickly forget. Competitors will hopefully remember an exciting course and a great start to RORC's domestic offshore season and there is plenty to get excited about with IRC 1, 2 and 3 being won by GBR Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup triallists. Let's hope that spring comes back for the next race, the North Sea Race from Harwich to Scheveningen on 18th May 2012.
The Morgan Cup is part of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Season's Points Championship, consisting of a testing series of races, which attracts an international and varied fleet. For the serious offshore sailor, trying to win the Season's Points Championship is a real challenge. The Season's Points Championship this year includes the RORC Caribbean 600, the North Sea Race and the Round Ireland Race.