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James Dadd, Director of the Rating Office in Lymington UK which is the technical hub of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, will be travelling to the other side of the world this month to meet with boat owners and race organisers in New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia and talk about the International IRC rating rule.

IRC is expanding with new territories in India and Taiwan, growth in Japan and China and very encouraging numbers for the start of the year from many Northern European countries but there appears to be an ongoing battle between rival handicap systems ORC and IRC for the hearts and minds of cruiser racer sailors around the world. 

For example, RORC reacted strongly to an article following an ORC presentation at the ICRA Conference in Limerick, in March. In a statement at the time, RORC Commodore Michael Boyd said in response to the Irish article he felt 'very strongly' that information put forward by Dobbs Davis, Chairman of ORC’s Promotion and Development Committee, 'needs correcting'. 

RORC says IRC Owners’ Forums will be hosted by Yachting New Zealand, Yachting Australia and IRC South-East Asia, giving sailors the chance to join in discussion and question/answer sessions about IRC racing.

James Dadd is looking forward to meeting owners as well as race organisers and measurers during his trip. “I’m keen to meet up again with those involved in IRC racing in the Antipodes and South East Asia which are both important regions to us,” says Dadd. “It will be good to have the opportunity to hear new ideas and address any questions people may have about IRC racing both locally and internationally.”

Published in RORC

RORC's North Sea race from Harwich UK across the North Sea to Scheveningen Netherlands, was blessed with summer-like conditions. After a beat to South Galloper Buoy, the fleet turned north for a long starboard tack reach to Smith's Knoll Buoy, followed by a port tach reach to the Netherland's coast and a beat to finish at Scheveningen.

Volvo 70, Sanya Ocean Racing, sailed by Dutchman Harm Prins, took Line Honours in an elapsed time of 22 hours and 57 seconds but the high pressure produced a light airs race that suited the smaller yachts. The overall winner, after IRC time correction, was Sigma 33, Woozle Hunter, skippered by Ian Ivermee and crewed by members of the Marconi Sailing Club, Blackwater, Essex. Ian & Laura Ivermee raced with their 2015 Rolex Fastnet Crew.

“The conditions were just perfect for us” commented Ian Ivermee. “We are quick in the light and the tide and our handicap did the rest. It was all about keeping the crew concentrating and that was easily done, when I told them we were winning the race. We had a moment on Saturday night when the wind died and we knew most of the fleet had finished but we were not becalmed for long and got going again. It is a great win for us and now we have to keep up this standard for our ambitions to win the EAORA (East Anglian Offshore Racing Association) Offshore series.”

The North Sea Race featured ten teams racing Two-Handed and five of the short handed crews made the top ten overall.

In IRC 1, Astrid De Vin's Grand Soleil 43, Il Corvo, racing Two-handed, was the class winner. Also racing Two-Handed, Bart Desaunois' J/133, Batfish in second. Third in IRC 1 and racing fully crewed, First 44.7, Lisa co-skippered by Nick Jones and RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd.

In IRC 2, the top three yachts were all racing Two-Handed. Chris Revelman & Pascal Bakker's J/122 Junique Raymarine Sailing Team was the winner. Robin Verhoef's J/122 Ajeto! Was second and Chris Schram's J/120 Maverick was third.

In IRC 3, Kees Mijs' J/109 Arethusa was the winner. Willem Schopman's Bashford 36 Intention was second, just ahead of Robert Jockin's Dehler 39, Griel.

In IRC 4, Woozle Hunter was the winner. In second place and winning a tough IRC Two-Handed Class was Yvonne Beusker & Eric Van Vuuren racing J/105, Panther. Third in IRC 4 and also racing Two-Handed was Erik Mayer-Martenson's Sunfast 3200, Blizzard Of Uz.

“My usual sailing partner for Team Panther is Edith Voskamp but she has had shoulder surgery, so Eric was my partner for the race. He is our team coach and we did some of the Global Ocean Race together in a Class40. Two-Handed racing has become very popular in the Netherlands and the North Sea Race is part of our National Championship. I believe our win was down to keeping each other sharp. It is difficult to stay alert in light winds but we made a big point of keeping each other focused, even after 30 hours with little sleep.”

The North Sea Race is one of seven weighted races for the RORC Season's Points Championship, carrying a points factor of 1.2.The championship continues with the De Guingand Bowl Race, which starts on Saturday 14th May from Cowes. The course will be around marks with a Solent finish, with a length of 120 - 150 miles. Full results for the North Sea Race are online at:

Published in RORC

After a stunning performance over the Bank Holiday weekend, local Le Havre boat Pintia is the overall winner of the 2016 RORC Cervantes Trophy Race. The French J/133, racing in IRC Two, was skippered by Gilles Fournier and crewed by the creator of the Louis Vuitton Cup, Bruno Trouble and past Commodore of the Société des Régates du Havre, Corraine Migraine. Pintia's big win was set up right from the start when the French team chose the north shore of the Solent and led overall into the English Channel. Squally conditions prevailed south of the Isle of Wight with several yachts damaging sails in the 30 knot gusts, accounting for the retirement of last year's class winner, Harry Heijst's Winsome and Brian Wilkinson's Rigit On Wild Child. Lighter conditions prevailed for the majority of the fleet as they crossed the English Channel but Pintia managed to stay in good breeze to claim overall victory. Pintia was second overall last year and Gilles Fournier was delighted with the win.

"Corraine Migraine is my daughter and Bruno Trouble is my very old friend, we sailed 505s in the 60's, Quarter Tonners in the 70s and Admiral's Cups in the 80s, so we have a good understanding in the team. At the start, we had the current with us and although we had to sail more miles, we were first overall at No Man's Land Fort, to the south the current was against the boats that went that way, so that was very good for us, very valuable. When we left the Solent we did not have much wind, which was expected but then the wind picked up again after Bembridge Ledge and we tacked very close to the shore up to St. Catherine's Point. We had a big squall and tacked at the right moment. For the Channel crossing and finish at Le Havre, we managed to stay in 10 knots of wind all the way, while the wind died behind us. We will be celebrating in the yacht club today, we are very happy to win in our home port."

IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing, skippered by Mikey Ferguson, took line honours and the class win in IRC Canting Keel. Mikey Ferguson's team are all talented young sailors with high aspirations for the future; Irish Figaro sailor Dave Kenefick, British Two Handed Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland sailor Conrad Manning, American Mini-Transat sailor Jesse Naimark-rowse and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Volvo Ocean Race rookie, James O'Mahony.

"We are looking to compete in the majority of the RORC programme and during the season we will bring in some of the Artemis Academy sailors, this year we also have Dee Caffari sailing with us as coach for the young Brits who are aiming to comepte in the 2020 Vendee Globe. We are out to retain our trophies from last year. We have a very young crew but also a very experienced team and after two individual wins and two second overalls last year, we would like to win a race outright!"

In IRC One, James Neville's HH42, Ino XXX was the winner and placed second overall. The British team's performance will be noted by the RYA Selection panel, as the Cervantes Trophy Race is a qualifier for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, a main objective for 2016 for Ino XXX. Nicholas Jones' First 47.7, Lisa, co-skippered by RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd was second in class and third overall. Alan Hannon's RP45, Katsu was third in class and fourth overall.

In IRC Two, Pintia was the class winner, in second place was Maxime de Mareuil's X-41, Orange Mecanix and third was Sailing Logic's First 40, Rocket Dog II, skippered by Richard Oswald.

In IRC Three, Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret's JPK 10.80, Dream Pearls was the class winner. Dream Pearls home port is St.Malo and the team have been racing together for about 12 years with tremendous success including second overall in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race. "We are coming back this year with the same spirit, to enjoy good sailing and we have the philosophy of " GO hard or GO home"!!! We are very fond of RORC races, which are full of nice and well suited boats, with good competitors and a nice organization. Our first objective this year will be the European IRC championship taking place at Cork this July. We will do our best for a good result in the RORC Season's Points Championship. It will be very tough with so many dangerous competitors... we love that!"

In IRC Three, second and third were both Two Handed teams. Jean-Eudes Renier's JPK 10.80, Shaitan was second in IRC Three but first in the IRC Two Handed Class. Shaitan had a terrific battle with the reigning Two-Handed champion, Louis-Marie Dussere's JPK 10.10, Raging Bee. Shaitan won the Two Handed class by just one minute and 37 seconds after 28 hours of racing. British pair, Ian Hoddle & Nigel Colley racing Sunfast 3600, Game On was third in IRC Two-Handed.

In IRC Four Noel Racine's JPK 10.10, Foggy Dew went one better than last year, winning the class. Noel was relieved to have scraped into Le Havre just before the tide really started to build and the wind shut down; leaving the rest of IRC 4 struggling to make any progress towards the finishing line.

In the Class40 division, Christophe Coatnoan's Partouche was the winner, ahead of Tony Lawson's all girls team racing Concise 2, skippered by Joy Fitzgerald.

The RORC Season's Points Championship continues with the North Sea Race, which is weighted at 1.2 for the championship. The North Sea Race is scheduled to start on Friday May 6th from Harwich bound for Scheveningen, approximate race length is 180 nautical miles across the North Sea.

Published in RORC

The World Sailing Show March edition is out now and viewable below on The show provides a monthly view of the racing world.  From non-stop around the world racers, to Olympic campaigns; from seasoned professionals, to grass roots sailors, the joint initiative between TV producers Sunset+Vine and the sport’s governing body World Sailing covers a wide range of racing activity around the world.

The March show synopsis

The America’s Cup World Series kicks off in Oman
We find out what happened at the opening event of the season. We also talk to one of the Cup world’s leading technical experts on how teams are combining the need to do well in these intense two day regattas, while also developing the advanced machines that will take them to the America’s Cup itself next year.

Bumper fleet for Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Caribbean 600
Fast becoming one of the must do events in the offshore racing calendar the promise of warm, steady trade winds and spectacular scenery has led many to imagine that this 600 mile offshore race is a walk in the park in T-shirts and shorts. Is it? We find out what happened this year and discover why the event is becoming increasingly popular and take a look at some of the impressive machines that took part. We also join experienced charter yacht skipper Andy Schell as he provides a video blog of his team’s trip around the course.

World domination – The unstoppable Kiwi combination
New Zealand sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke continue their run of world domination in the Olympic 49er class after winning their fourth consecutive world title. We find out what makes them tick and how they have managed to; remain unbeaten for four years, win a Moth world championships and engage in an America’s Cup campaign and lead the racing here too.

Sail Arabia The Tour
Now in its sixth year, can anybody stop offshore rock star Sidney Gavignet from scoring a hat-trick in this inshore/offshore regatta? Several believed they could.

Published in World Sailing

With gale force gusts forecast for the afternoon of Easter Saturday, one long race on a round the cans course in the central/eastern Solent was held today at the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Easter Challenge. Despite this, there were leader changes in two of the four classes. Royal Cork yacht Jump Juice continues in second place in IRC 2 and club mates Antix (Anthony O'Leary) move up one place to seventh in the new FAST40+ division writes James Boyd.

In the FAST40+, Peter Morton on his Carkeek 40 Mk3, Girls on Film, won to topple Texan William Coates' Ker 43, Otra Vez. Girls on Film spent today match racing Sir Keith Mills' Ker 40+, Invictus. Mills made the best of the reaching start, but Girls on Film subsequently overhauled them.

"It was very close. Too close!" declared Morton. "We managed to get them on the beat and then managed to stay in front and then move away a little bit on the last beat. It was good fun. We had plenty on!"

The performance of Morton and his crew, which includes Volvo Ocean Race winners Dirk de Ridder and Jules Salter, is remarkable especially because Girls on Film was only launched on Thursday. "We've got quite a few systems and basic things that aren't working, so there is still plenty to come out of it," says Morton. "The first time we hoisted the kite was at the windward mark in the first race yesterday!"

While today's southerly wind was typically less than 20 knots, later on it was gusting towards 30. As Morton said: "Some of the gusts were enough that you couldn't ease or feather enough - you started to be slowed down by the wind."

Having been the driving force behind the resurgent Quarter Ton class in recent years, Morton is enthusiastic about the new FAST40 class that is making their debut at this regatta: "It is a great class: 40ft has always been a perfect size for the Solent and the fact that these boats get up and go, makes it a lot of fun."

Unusually, in all three other classes there is a boat that has won three of the four races.

Holding the largest lead of all is RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine on La Réponse, now six points clear of Irishman Conor Phelan's Ker 37 Jump Juice in IRC Two. McIrvine's First 40 has been constantly beating higher rated boats and spent today match racing fellow former Commodore Mike Greville on the Ker 39 Erivale.

La Réponse made the best of the reaching start, but it was her superb crew work in the gusty conditions that really paid, while others were suffering dramatic broaches. As McIrvine said: "We put up our heaviest kite and, while everyone else fell over, we managed to keep under it."

Also up with the big boys was the J/111 Jitterbug of Cornel Riklin until she too took a tumble, leaving Erivale and La Réponse to slog it out. Ultimately Erivale won by a boatlength on the water, losing to La Réponse on corrected.

McIrvine, who is gunning for British team selection for this summer's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, attributes his success to two training sessions he's already completed this season and to the strength and experience of his new crew, many of whom raced together on Neil Kipling's J/122, Joopster.

Elsewhere Tom Kneen's JPK 10.80, Sunrise, is clinging onto first in IRC Three. Despite David Franks' smaller JPK 10.10, Strait Dealer, having scored bullets in the last three races, he remains one point behind.

The closest competition remains in IRC Four where Harry Heijst's 1972 vintage S&S 44, Winsome, won today's race to take the lead, a mere half point ahead of Sam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner, Aguila.

"It was fantastic to get a race in," reported Laura Dillon, the Irish helmswoman among Winsome's otherwise Dutch crew. "We were pleased with the heavy conditions - 18 knots, gusting up to about 26 knots. It was a good long race course and for a boat like ours it was beneficial to have some long beats.

"When we are the top rated boat, we can get into clear air which is beneficial because Winsome is heavy and tacking takes some time."

Dillon and the Winsome crew have been making use of the coaching. As she puts it: "I think it is great to have a training regatta at the beginning of the season."

Certainly with some spectacular broaches and wipe-outs this morning, Jim Saltonstall, RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen and North U Regatta Service's Andreas Josenhans and Chuck Allen, had no shortage of material to work with at this afternoon's standing room only post-race debrief at the RORC Cowes clubhouse.




Published in RORC

Sailing forums have seen exchanges in recent days about the relative global coverage of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s (RORC) measurement system - the International Rating Certificate (IRC) - and the Offshore Racing Congress’s (ORC) Offshore Rating Certificate.

Dobbs Davis (US), the Chairman of the ORC’s Promotions & Development Committee, and Zoran Grubisa (Croatia), who heads the organisation’s Rating Officer Committee, were in Limerick three weeks ago at the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA) Annual Conference to make a presentation about their measurement organisation, its methods systems, and its level of world coverage. 

This made available yet another fascinating nugget of top-level information for a wide-ranging conference which reflected the considerable influence the ICRA model has in international racing for boats with lids. And at the same time it ensured a good turnout to applaud the ICRA Boat of the Year title going to George Sisk’s WOW from Dun Laoghaire, and to witness the transfer of the role of ICRA Commodore from Nobby Reilly of Howth to Simon McGibney of Foynes. It’s the first time that ICRA has had a Commodore from the western seaboard since its foundation by Fintan Cairns of Dun Laoghaire and the late Jim Donegan of Cork in 2002.’s W M Nixon was in Limerick to take the pulse of this unique body, and his commentary in Sailing on Saturday of 12th March ruffled more than a few feathers, and greatly heightened interest in the RORC’s global programme, which has its European section swinging into action this weekend with the Easter Challenge on the Solent.

Who knows, but some time in the future it may be that Rory Staunton of Mayo Sailing Club will be remembered as the man who finally got the IRC and the ORC to get together by crisply pointing out - at the end of Dobbs Davis’s presentation to the ICRA conference - that as far as ordinary sailors were concerned, when IRC and ORC were both used in one event, the results often seemed very comparable. And while it was no harm some times to have two sets of winners (and even more if you include ICRA’s own Progressive ECHO system), at the top international level it only makes sense to Joe Public to have one undisputed winner in each class.

For the world promotion of offshore racing, the optics would surely be much better if everyone was racing to the same rating system? But it will take a while yet to reach this happy situation, for at the moment the ORC and the IRC appear to be in active competition, and regular visitors to the website will be well aware that some very powerful voices have weighed in on the RORC/IRC side recently, going so far as to question the accuracy of the fleet numbers made in some ORC claims, and pointing to the IRC’s current areas of rapid expansion in southeast Asia and other regions.

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Neil Pryde’s characterful Welbourn 52 Hi Fi won the Rolex RORC China Sea Race in 2012 and 2014

But actions speak louder than words, and this week sees the RORC hyper-busy in the Pacific with the biennial Rolex China Sea Race of 595 miles from Hong Kong to Manila in the Philippines, while on the eastern fringes of the Atlantic in the Solent at Cowes, there’s the annual Easter Challenge, an event with an approved integral training emphasis, as top coach Jim Saltonstall and his team will be buzzing through the fleet in their RIBs giving advice to those who have sought it.

With the Easter weekend’s all-too-evident weather deterioration in progress, it’s likely that yesterday will have given the fleet of fifty or so their pleasantest sailing conditions. But with the RORC secretariat decamped for the long weekend from world headquarters in St James’s in London to the club’s waterfront base in the Royal Corinthian YC in Cowes, a sense of being able to go home at the end of a hard day’s racing will ease the harshness of the conditions.

On the other hand, the fact that the RORC now has a bricks-and-mortar Cowes base in what was once the legendary Rosa Lewis’s “seaside cottage” will provide ammunition for those who would claim that the RORC, and the IRC with it, have essentially become a Solent-centric setup. Thus the fact that the Rolex China Sea Race under the RORC imprimatur is taking place at the same time is very helpful indeed for those who would promote IRC as the world’s measurement system.

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The nice little place by the seaside…..The Royal Corinthian YC in Cowes – a byword for hospitality – is now the RORC’s Solent base

In times past, leading Irish skippers with a Hong Kong base such as Paul Winkelmann and Jamie McWilliam have featured in the China Sea Race, for it has a history as a biennial event going back to 1962, when three yachts – one each from Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan – raced this decidedly disputed bit of water. The situation was such that a naval vessel from Hong Kong accompanied them for the first two hundred miles, and then a hundred miles out from Manila, they were met by a ship from the Philipinnes navy.

The line honours and handicap winner was Chris von Sydow’s yawl Reverie, one of those classic American-style yawls of the Finisterre type which were being widely built in the region at the time, mostly for export. They were guaranteed as teak through and through, for as one sardonic observer put it, the wonderwood was so abundant out there in those days that if the team in the boatyard felt like a brew-up of tea, they’d boil their kettle on a little fire made with teak kindling.

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The winner of the first China Sea Race in 1962 was Chris von Sydow’s yawl Reverie

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A trophy to match. Only a race right across the China Sea would merit a prize like this

Reverie’s time was four days 11 hours and 29 minutes, and she got the very distinctive China Sea Trophy, which is of such a style it just couldn’t be the prize for any other major offshore race. Gradually the numbers built up as it became an established biennial event, in 1972 the RORC came aboard as partners, and it hasn’t looked back since. There’s been some spectacular sailings, the record being set in 2000 by Karl Kwok’s Open 60 Beau Geste, which cracked the two day barrier by coming in on 47 hours and 43 minutes, just 17 minutes maybe, but it was 17 minutes the right way.

The races of 2012 and 2014 were won by Neil Pryde’s rather special Hugh Welbourn-designed 52 footer Hi Fi, but she’s not in this year’s fleet which got under way on Wednesday and has the front runners well in already, though only after a start in miserable conditions which improved in terms of sailing power to have a 28-knot nor’easter building in a monsoon. This made the going good the further you were down the course, but yesterday the little fellows at the tail end were taking a bit of a pasting.

Line honours were taken yesterday (Friday) evening by Australian Philip Turner’s Reichel Pugh 66 Alive, which covered 244 nm in the final 24 hours to set a new course record, though just 11 minutes inside Beau Geste’s remarkable 2000 time – who’d have thought it would stand for sixteen years? Overall on handicap, Alive currently also has it every which way, but things are also looking good for the Ker 42 Black Baza (Anthony Root).

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Cutting it close. Anthony O’Leary’s Antix in a neat-enough port-and-starboard situation with the even newer Ker 40 Invictus

Conditions in Manila may not be idyllic, but at least they’re a bit warmer than the Solent this morning with a succession of fronts set to sweep through for much of he remainder of the Easter Holiday. Irish interest is high as Anthony O’Leary’s Munster-red Ker 40 Antix is defending champion, and the skipper was in fine form in Thursday as he outlined prospects and talked us through some of the usual suspects who will be sailing on this very attractive boat.

Following his accident while racing Antix in ferocious conditions last July, it’s great news that Dylan Gannon of Howth is back on the strength, along with his shipmate Ross MacDonald who had a truly prodigious season in 2015, playing a leading role in crewing Antix while at the same time campaigning his family’s veteran X332 Equinox to such good effect that he was top boat at the ICRA Nats in Kinsale.

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Back on the strength. Dylan Gannon (left) and Ross MacDonald are both sailing on Antix his weekend. Photo: W M Nixon

Two new additions to the Antix strength are Will Byrne from Howth, who was recently making the scene with Half Ton Classics World Champion Dave Cullen and the gang in the C & C 30 championship in Florida in January, and young Cian Guilfoyle from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, who leapt to fame as the third man aboard the J/80 when Anthony O’Leary retained the Helmsman’s Championship of Ireland by a considerable margin at the NYC in October, with longtime shipmate Dan O’Grady the man in the middle.

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Cian Guilfoyle maximising his righting moment while crewing for Anthony O’Leary in the victory in the Helmsmans Championship, October 2015. Photo: David O’Brien

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Winning team. Cian Guilfoyle, Dan O’Grady and Anthony O’Leary in the NYC after winning the Helmsmans Championshjp 2015. This weekend, Guilfoyle has joined the crew of Antix. Photo: W M Nixon

The other top Irish contender in the RORC Easter Challenge is also from Cork, Conor Phelan’s Ker 36 (or is she a 37) Jump Juice of 2008 vintage. This makes her something of a veteran but she’s by no means the oldest boat competing, as one doughty skipper has turned up with a Mumm 36, which is like a bit of living history. Yet she’s in with as much of a shout as anyone else if the IRC is doing its work properly, which seems to be where we came in…….

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Back in the day…….the new Ker 36 Jump Juice makes her debut in 2008

But we cannot depart without musing on the makeup of this year’s Brewin Dolphin Commodore’s Cup team which will be defending for Ireland. As other people get agitated about the lack of heads above the parapet to indicate the beginnings of a buildup, Anthony O’Leary is reassuringly philosophical about the whole business.

He is of course very much up for it with Antix, and he’s well aware that there’s another good possibility with RORC Commodore Michael Boyd (Royal Irish YC) in line to be campaigning the works JPK 1080 as the season gets going, and of course the JPK 1080 is the boat du jour. As for a third boat, if Jump Juice is reluctant to make the commitment, they’ll be on the lookout for a boat rating 1.049 or above.

But it’s early days yet. As O’Leary recalls with quiet amusement, in assembling the 2014 team from scratch and the non-defence of 2012, he refused to let himself think that the new Ker 40 Catapult was a certainty until he actually saw her unloaded from a ship from America onto a quayside in Europe.

Yet she arrived on time. But it was the Steady Eddy of the team, the Grand Soleile 43 Quokka 8, which ended up causing the most concern. Her charter had been firmly in place since November 2013, but then there came a complete foul-up with delivery schedules back from campaigning in the Caribbean. It was more than a rush to have Quokka race ready for the preliminary jousting in Volvo Cork Week in July 2014. But not to worry. She ended up as champion in Cork Week, and made a solid contribution to the Commodore’s Cup win in which Catapult (which has since become Antix) was top-scoring individual boat.

Published in W M Nixon

This Friday's opening regatta of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's domestic calendar, the RORC Easter Challenge, provides an opportunity for the 50 or so crews to ramp up their programmes for the 2016 season. 

Those on the steepest learning curve will certainly be FAST 40+ crews, the new high performance class making its debut at the RORC Easter Challenge. Here the two latest entries, bringing the class tally up to 10, are two time Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup winner Anthony O'Leary aboard his turboed Ker 40, Antix, and Kevin Miller with his new optimised GP42, Zephyr.

The FAST 40+s will take up all of IRC One with those with the most time in their boats likely to enjoy most success - namely Sir Keith Mills' Ker 40+ Invictus, Stewart Whitehead's Carkeek 40 Mk2 Rebellion and South African Mike Bartholomew's modified GP42 Tokoloshe II.

Among the non-FAST 40+ 40 footers, Roger Bowden is fielding the King 40, Nifty (ex-Tokoloshe 1) and will face James Gair and the Cowes Race School's Mills 39 Zero II (ex-marinerscove) and another former Irish Commodore's Cupper, Conor Phelan's Ker 37 Jump Juice, part of the potent 2008 team, the same year as she won the IRC Nationals.

The RORC's coaching regatta this Easter weekend is also providing an early season warm-up for contenders gunning for spots in the British team in this year's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, due to take place out of Cowes over 23rd-30th July. The trials for the British team kick off formally in late April, but the Easter Challenge provides a first glimpse of their form.

Among the British triallists competing this weekend are Simon Henning's Mumm 36 Alice, Rod Stuart/Bill Ram's Corby 37 Aurora, James Chalmers/William Skinner's J/35 Bengal Magic, Robert Stiles' J/109 Diamond Jem, Mike Moxley's HOD35 Malice and Brian Wilkinson's Corby 30 Wildchild.

For Guernsey's Simon Henning, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of his Commodores' Cup debut and uniquely, despite having campaigned his Farr 45, Alice II, with GBR White in 2010, he is competing this year in the same boat as he did in 1996. Alice is now some way from being a Mumm 36, but Henning states: "The boat is going well and it is a fun week's racing. We thought we'd give it a go."

Over the years, the Alices have also been regulars at the RORC Easter Challenge, which Henning says is "a great start to the season. It is the first decent-sized regatta. It is great fun and it shakes up the memory a bit." Despite being based out of Hamble Point marina, the Alice crew attends the standing-room only, post-race debriefs provided by Jim Saltonstall and his coaching team, that take place daily at the RORC Cowes clubhouse.

Also celebrating a 20th anniversary will be former RORC Commodore Peter Rutter, who after many years campaigning his Grand Soleil 43, Quokka 8, has bought back the Half Tonner he campaigned so successfully over 1995-7. This winter the original Daniel Andrieu-designed Quokka 3 has been modernised with the installation of a heavier keel and swept-back spreader rig and rechristened Quokka 9.

"The trick was to keep our budget on the new boat within that of the price of the mainsail on the Grand Soleil - and we've achieved it!" explains Rutter. "We bought a swapped keel from Cornwall and secondhand mast from Devon and stuck her all together and done a lot of work ourselves."

The RORC Easter Challenge will be the first outing for the refitted Quokka 9. In 1996 Quokka 3 won her class in all eight races of the offshore championship including outright wins in a race from Rotterdam and the Morgan Cup. "That does put a bit of pressure on us," muses Rutter.

While Quokka 9 is the only Half Tonner currently entered, three Quarter Tonners are entered in the RORC Easter Challenge in William McNeill's Ceccarelli, Illegal Immigrant, Ben Daly's Fauroux, Cobh Pirate and perennial competitor Sam Laidlaw's on the Vrolijk-designed Aguila.

Mixed conditions are in store this weekend, the forecast showing sun and sub-10 knot southerlies on Friday, rain and southerlies gusting into the 30s on Saturday and sun and a 15-20 knot southwesterly for the final day, when racing will finish early enough for crews to pick up their chocolate prizes and be home in time to enjoy Easter Sunday evening and Monday with their families.

Published in RORC

For three days over the bank holiday weekend, the yachting world's eyes will be glued to the Solent as the Fast 40+ class makes its debut en masse at the Royal Ocean Racing Club's domestic season opener, the RORC Easter Challenge.

Between eight and 10 Fast 40+s will be competing and with the fleet expected to grow to 14 this summer, pundits are observing that this class represents the most competitive homegrown handicap inshore keelboat racing the UK has seen since the heyday of the Admiral's Cup.

To those unfamiliar with the Fast 40+, effectively it does what it says on the tin: Boats have an IRC TCC of 1.210-1.270 (although a lower limit of 1.191 is permitted for 2016). To put this into context, original Ker 40s such as Hooligan and Baraka GP represent the slowest, while Peter Morton's brand new Carkeek 40 Mk3, Girls on Film, is at the upper limit, along with American Bill Coates' Ker 43, Otra Vez, and Sir Keith Mills' Ker 40+, Invictus.

Otherwise Fast40+s must have:

- Hull length (LH) of 12.00-12.60m LOA (*<13.3m)
- Maximum draft of 3m (*3.15m)
- Displacement:length ratio of <90 (*<110 and <124 for 2016 season)
- Speed ratio of TCC²/LH =0.125< (*0.120< and 0.117< for 2016)
- Owner-driver
- 11 crew with a maximum weight of 950kg
- Up to five ISAF Cat 3 'pros' on board

*if launched before 1st September 2015.

Class rules have been broadened for this season to allow more boats in.

"I think it is a natural fit - we aren't trying to force anything, it has just evolved," explains Robert Greenhalgh, who is Fast40+ Class President. "It has taken a couple of years, but to get - all being well - 10 boats at the Easter Challenge, plus some new ones rolling in this season, is fantastic. All the owners have remained positive and are keen for it."

And the boats are fast. Greenhalgh, a former 18ft skiff and International 14 World Champion, and a Volvo Ocean Race winner, competes on Sir Keith Mills' Invictus. "The boat regularly hits 20 knots. We saw 23 last year when it was windy."

The largest contingent of Fast 40+s are former GP42s. At present three are entered in the Easter Challenge - South African Mike Bartholomew's Tokoloshe II, Mark Rijkse's 42° South and Tony Dickin's Jubilee. The GP42 was originally the smaller, no less high tech brother of the TP52 and competed on the Audi MedCup briefly over 2009-2010.

On the secondhand market you get a lot of bang for your buck with a GP42, as South African Mike Bartholomew found when, just over two years ago, he acquired Tokoloshe II. This Botin & Carkeek design, as Madrid, won the final GP42 MedCup season.

"I think it is great for the development of the sport generally, because it has created a lot of enthusiasm," says Bartholomew of the Fast40+. "And this enthusiasm hopefully will be carried on to other classes as well. Last year there were three or four boats, but this year there is going to be at least 12, so it should be great fun."

Bartholomew adds that he enjoys the speed of his boat, but the racing is also ultra-competitive. "That was illustrated at Cowes Week last year, racing against Invictus and Rebellion. In one race, after four hours, we crossed the line within seconds of each other, having sailed the whole race changing lead and being in very close contract - it's like dinghy racing."
Tokoloshe Easter 2015 PW
South African Mike Bartholomew's Tokoloshe II - © RORC/Paul Wyeth -

Having successfully campaigned his Corby 36, James Neville has graduated up to the Fast40+ acquiring Richard Matthews' Oystercatcher XXX, a Judel-Vrolijk designed HH42. With a TCC of 1.228, INO XXX has the lowest rating of the Fast40+s competing at the RORC Easter Challenge.

"We are really looking forward it - to have 10 similar boats out, all taking it pretty seriously it really exciting," says Neville. "The HH42 is a little bit heavier and rates a bit better and should perform in the higher ranges."

In swapping boats, Neville has also had to increase the size of his crew from eight to 11, but enjoys the HH42's speed, having already touched 24 knots.

While boat contact with team RIBs is normally prohibited in the Fast40+, this rule has been eased for the RORC Easter Challenge as the class enters into the spirit of the event being the RORC's season shake-down, training regatta.

With Easter falling very early this year, so far there has been little opportunity for training, so teams are welcoming this event too. Neville is a Easter Challenge regular and acknowledges the worth of the free world class coaching it offers from legends such as Jim Saltonstall to America's Cup veterans such as RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen and Andreas Josenhans of North U. Regatta Services. "We could be a bit rusty, but the coaches do a good job."

Racing at the RORC Easter Challenges takes place over 25-27th March with must-attend post-race debriefs occurring daily at the RORC Cowes clubhouse, chocolate egg prizes on offer as well as high level coaching on the water and a socially acceptable finish time on Easter Sunday.

Published in RORC

The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in London says a 'correction is needed' over information contained in an article following an ORC presentation at the ICRA Conference in Limerick, a week ago. Michael Boyd, the Commodore of RORC, says the offshore body 'read with interest', and 'some confusion', the press release by the ORC. Boyd says he feels 'very strongly' that information put forward by Dobbs Davis, Chairman of ORC’s Promotion and Development Committee, 'needs correcting'.

In a statement issued by RORC, who administer the rival IRC system, the club says: 

First, the numbers presented are wrong. Dobbs quotes the number of ORC certificates in total up until the end of the year, but only quotes the number of boats in IRC until the end of August of 2015. These are very different figures. Dobbs quotes 4958 for IRC in 2015 but the real number of certificates for the whole year is 7721. That makes the graph look very different and makes IRC the largest individual system in 2015 with ORC Club behind it at 7404 and ORCi trailing at 2492.

It should also be noted that both IRC and ORC are International Rating Systems recognised by World Sailing and IRC is currently in discussions with World Sailing about having its own World Championship. Rather than having two world championships for offshore boats, we are supporting the WS initiative to have one jointly scored IRC/ORC world championship which will allow the event to travel to other continents.

IRC is expanding with new territories in India and Taiwan, growth in Japan and China and very encouraging numbers for the start of the year from many Northern European countries.

IRC is also flexible and not limited to using time-on-time scoring - as has also been suggested. A simple time-on-distance calculation can be applied to create a time-on-distance value, should race organisers want to use it. Similarly, crew number or crew weight can be applied depending on the race organiser’s needs and wishes.

IRC is doing a great job for our sport – you only have to look at the style of boats that have developed since the demise of IMS (the basis of ORC) to understand that IRC is a progressive rule – with the latest generation of boats being fast, safe and fun to sail. Our goal is to ensure that we provide a first class service and develop a product that is constantly evolving to make sure that racing under IRC is as fair as is possible.

- Michael Boyd, Commodore, ROYAL OCEAN RACING CLUB

Published in RORC

The RORC Easter Challenge is the opening event for a long season of offshore racing. Designed as a 'training whilst racing' regatta, the RORC Easter Challenge is a great way to blow away the winter cobwebs and get world class on-the-water coaching from a team of experienced sailors under the guidance of Jim Saltonstall, and includes the North U Regatta Services coaching team from the USA.

Offshore Championship
April sees the start of the domestic RORC Season's Points Championship with the opening offshore race, the Cervantes Trophy from Cowes to Le Havre on the 30th April. The Cervantes is followed by the North Sea Race from Harwich to Scheveningen on the 6th May and the very popular De Guingand Bowl which is a coastal race around marks in the Channel on 14th May. The Cervantes Trophy and De Guingand Bowl races will form part of the British team selection trails for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup in July.

RORC continue to experiment with Virtual Marks
As with ISORA, this season the RORC will continue to develop its experience with virtual marks. In an effort to even out the tidal effect on a yacht the RORC will vary the length of the course to suit different size and speed of yachts. Faster boats will sail a greater distance than smaller boats and the results will be based on average speed.

"This is a new initiative the club is trying in a couple of races this year," said RORC Racing Manager Nick Elliott. "The legs of the courses can be set in the same direction but with increased mileage for the faster boats; the hope being that boats sail in the same tidal conditions for a similar amount of time making the result fairer."

Busy season continues
The busy month of May continues with the Myth of Malham race on the 28th; a race from Cowes, around the Eddystone lighthouse off Plymouth and back to Cowes. This replicates the first part of a typical Fastnet race and is very popular.

June has the Morgan Cup Race to Dieppe or for those seeking more adventure or the challenge of a classic offshore course; the Volvo Round Ireland Race on 18 June. The 704nm circumnavigation of Ireland is rewarded in the Points Championship with a 1.4 points factor, fitting for the tough course taking in the exposed Atlantic coast before pitching you into the Irish Sea. Starting and finishing in Wicklow the welcome will be warm and hospitable.

Cowes Week at the beginning of August is the highlight of the season for our club in Cowes. There are a host of social events being run for members and guests, including cocktail parties on Saturday 6th and Wednesday 10th and the annual 'Corinthian Ball' on Tuesday night, and firework party on Friday night.

New Race in RORC Programme
Following Cowes Week is the new Île d'Ouessant Race from Cowes to St Malo via the Wolf Rock and around Ushant on the north west corner of France. This 400nm race has already attracted much interest and looks likely to become a regular fixture in the RORC Calendar in a non-Fastnet year.

The beginning of September sees the culmination of a very busy season with the final offshore, the Cherbourg Race on 2nd September; an overnight sprint from Cowes to Cherbourg.

Published in RORC
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