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The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) has announced Jeremy Wilton as the new Chief Executive of the London and Cowes based Club from 6th April 2021. He will take over the leadership and development role of one of the world’s most influential yacht clubs from Eddie Warden Owen, who has helped shape the success of the Club through its international offshore racing programme for the past 12 years.

“We look forward to welcoming Jeremy who has an excellent understanding of leading membership-based clubs and a proven record of delivering strong financial and commercial results,” says RORC Commodore, James Neville of the new CEO, soon to head the 4,000-strong worldwide membership.

“Having held senior leadership positions in the world of rugby, where he spent over seven years working at Bath Rugby and Wasps, as well as over a decade at Whitbread PLC and founded and developed a marketing communications agency, we are certain that Jeremy’s experience and vision will be a huge asset, ensuring that the RORC is in a strong position as it nears the Club’s centenary in 2025,” continues Commodore Neville.

“I understand what it means to be part of a successful culture and together with the RORC Committee, management and staff, I am determined to continue the Club’s evolution and make it the best it possibly can,” says incoming CEO Wilton of his new role.

Talking of the Club and the sport of sailing coming out of the current epidemic, Wilton comments: “It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive effect on business practices and social life in London and the sailing programme and clubhouse in Cowes and as we emerge from the pandemic we are going to have our challenges, but with these will bring exciting opportunities and new avenues for innovation.”

Wilton is no stranger to the world of sailing. During his time at Whitbread PLC, he oversaw and developed a sponsorship portfolio that covered two Whitbread Round the World Races, and having been introduced to sailing at a young age, it has featured heavily throughout his life, both in Australia and the UK.

Starting in dinghies of various shapes and sizes and graduating to offshore racing. He has competed in the Fastnet, Sydney to Coffs Harbour and nearly all of the RORC’s long-distance races; numerous Cowes Week regattas, and narrowly missed out on representing Great Britain in the Admiral’s Cup.

Warden Owen will step down from the overall running of the RORC in April, but will continue to work on delivering the Club’s flagship event – the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race starting from Cowes, UK on Sunday 8th August and finishing for the first time in Cherbourg, France.

Joining this prestigious Club at a significant time, both in terms of shaping the way forward and ensuring it remains in high revere is something Wilton relishes: “It is a privilege and honour to be appointed as the new CEO of RORC. I am looking forward to guiding the Club into a new era and to be part of the team that will chart the next chapter of this esteemed Club’s history.”

Published in RORC

On the fifth day of the RORC Transatlantic Race, all of the competing yachts are fully offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. Life on board will have found a rhythm to the corkscrew motion of surfing downwind for days on end. Oren Nataf’s Multi50 Trimaran Rayon Vert, skippered by Alex Pella is leading the fleet and they will be celebrating having crossed the halfway mark in the 2,735-mile race from Lanzarote to the Caribbean. Rayon Vert’s skipper Pella is very much at home in the Atlantic. The Spaniard has won both the Route du Rhum and the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Olivier Magre’s Class40 Palanad 3 is the leading monohull, 18 miles ahead of Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon. The leading boats in the RORC Transatlantic Race are hundreds of miles south of the rhumb line. High pressure has pushed the ENE trade winds further south and the front runners have raced the additional miles to hook into the bigger breeze to maximise their velocity made good (VMG).

Third in the monohulls is Antoine Carpentier’s Class40 Redman; currently, 114 miles behind Palanad 3 when they contacted the RORC Race Team: “Everything is going well. We have solved a problem with our starboard rudder and everything is working normally. We spent most of the nights gybing and changing sails. Now the weather is better- it’s a good time to get back in the kitchen.”

Palanad 3’s Olivier Magre commented via satellite link: “All is well onboard and much calmer than the first 48 hours. We did have an issue with the spinnaker when it fell completely into the water, but there is not too much damage and Luke (Berry) has been up the rig to untangle the halyards. The atmosphere on board is very good. We have to be careful of the squalls because the trade winds are quite active.”

The performance cruisers racing in IRC are positioned further north. For these boats the strategy for maximizing VMG has produced a different tactic. Racing further south does not improve their speed enough to warrant the extra miles. Benedikt Clauberg’s First 47.7 Kali and Sebastien Saulnier’s Sun Fast 3300 Moshimoshi maybe over 100 miles apart on the water, but they are both approximately 2,000 miles from the finish.

Sebastian from Moshimoshi reports that life is good on board and that racing across the Atlantic has magical moments, such as visits from tropical birds who are also making their migration!

As previously reported, the IRC56 Black Pearl retired on January 10th. Black Pearl’s bowsprit had broken just west of the Canary Islands. The crew sailed back to Lanzarote unassisted, arriving on January 12th. The team are disappointed, but safely ashore and received a warm welcome from Marina Puerto Calero.

Published in RORC

After 12 years at the helm of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), Eddie Warden Owen has informed the club of his desire to step down as Chief Executive Officer in 2021. The identification of a replacement has already begun, and the intention is for Eddie to leave his role in October, at the earliest, to allow the club time to recruit and to ensure a smooth transition.

The RORC has undergone significant development under Eddie's leadership and continues to be recognised as one of the world's most influential yacht clubs, especially in the discipline of offshore sailing. "The time is right not only for the club, but for me personally. The period since joining the RORC in 2008 has seen great changes in both its structure and racing activities. There is always more to be done and this is the moment for a fresh pair of hands on the wheel. I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life once the transition is complete. I might even get to do more sailing!"

"Eddie's shoes will be hard to fill," said Commodore James Neville. "During his tenure as CEO the club has expanded its membership, as well as its physical footprint and racing programme. Most importantly, as we approach our centenary in 2025, the RORC is in a strong position to look forward and to continue its role within the sport."

Born in Wales, Eddie was introduced to sailing in the 1960s by his father, a shipwright and founding member of the Holyhead Sailing Club. Such was his passion and skill, that in the early 1970s he swapped a career in teaching PE for sailmaking and a stab at the Olympics. Thwarted in this latter ambition by the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, Eddie turned to racing bigger boats where his ability and achievements were quickly spotted and led to a series of Admiral's Cup campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s and, significantly, an introduction to match-racing, the world of the America's Cup and fully professional sailing.

After being part of six Cup campaigns, one in Fremantle, two in San Diego, two in Auckland and one in Valencia, between 1987 and 2007, Eddie was looking for a change in direction just as the RORC was looking for someone new to run the club. Eddie's profile, his knowledge of the sport, natural rapport with owners, crew and professionals, as well as an ability to open doors, made him the perfect fit.

Since joining the club, Eddie has overseen the merger with the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes giving the RORC a base on the south coast; the launch of RORC Caribbean 600 and RORC Transatlantic Race; the refurbishment of the London clubhouse in St James' and put the club's finances on a firm footing.

Eddie has also been responsible for the growth in entries and overall appeal of the club's signature event, the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Lifting the limits on entries to allow more Corinthian crews, while at the same time embracing the participation of professional classes, such as IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and grand prix multihulls, has enabled the race to flourish.

A desire to expand the fleet further led to the decision to move the finish of the 2021 and 2023 Rolex Fastnet Races to Cherbourg, which has the facilities and wherewithal to accommodate and host a fleet of over 350 yachts. It was a decision, however, that divided opinion at the London club and led to a vote of its members as Afloat reported here.

As one of the architects of this move, Eddie will continue to work with the event's partners in the lead-up and during the 2021 race to ensure its success.

Published in RORC

The 13th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 is scheduled to start off Fort Charlotte, Antigua on Monday 22nd February 2021.

“The RORC Flag Officers meet regularly and since July the overall commitment from the Club has been to provide safe racing when there is sufficient demand and when restrictions allow us to do so,” commented RORC Racing Manager, Chris Stone. “The early entries for the RORC Caribbean 600 and the enquiries we are receiving show that there is a real desire for the race to take place.”

The RORC Caribbean 600 course is unique; starting and finishing in Antigua, the competitors round 11 Caribbean islands. Warm trade winds and Caribbean swell provide superb sailing conditions and the local effects of the islands produce spectacular and strategic racing. For 600 miles the race is full of twists and turns with breath-taking scenery.

International travel is subject to change in the current climate. However, the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority has published a useful page for entry protocols which is regularly updated: https://visitantiguabarbuda.com/travel-advisory/

Below is a summary of the latest advisory for travel to Antigua by air and sea.

To fly to Antigua, all passengers must have taken a negative PCR test prior to departure. Arriving by boat, all crew and passengers are to have a Negative PCR Covid-19 test result prior to travel. There is an established travel bubble comprising the six OECS countries, along with Montserrat and Barbados. Given the fluidity of the Covid-19 situation, countries may be removed from or added to the list. Travellers should keep up-to-date for any changes.

Statistically, Antigua is one of the safest places to travel and the Antigua & Barbuda Government have taken a serious approach to tackling the health crisis. The marinas in Antigua are all implementing protocols to control access to the docks. Wearing of face masks and sanitisation and social distancing is compulsory in public areas, except for beaches. The rules are very similar to those adopted throughout Europe. In addition, a curfew is in place from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. each night.

Speaking with residents and business owners in English Harbour and Falmouth, the vast majority are very much open for visitors. The Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association (ABMA) reports that the docks are well-booked and marine service companies, restaurants, and stores are gearing up to receive an influx of boats for the Caribbean season.

The Antigua & Barbuda Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health issue Covid-19 compliance training certificates to ensure yacht workers understand the necessary precautions needed to be taken to ensure the safety of all. Taxi drivers, yacht workers, restaurant, bar staff and vendors have all participated in health protocols workshops.

Entries for the 2021 RORC Caribbean 600 include a diverse fleet of boats including some of the world’s fastest monohull and multihull yachts. Entry list here.

The overall winner, decided on IRC rating will feature world-famous sailors competing with, and against, passionate Corinthian sailors. Early entries boast teams from over a dozen different nations from the Caribbean, Europe, North America and from Australia.

Franklyn Braithwaite, Commodore of the Antigua Yacht Club has been a part of the yachting community in Antigua for his whole life. “The Antigua Yacht Club looks forward to working with RORC for the 2021 edition of the RORC Caribbean 600. The Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda welcome the arrival of the boats and crew to enjoy our hospitality and sailing conditions while observing all necessary Covid-19 protocols. I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable regatta.”

Published in RORC

The Royal Ocean Racing Club's Summer Series came to a conclusion with the fourth and final race of the RORC Summer Series. A light airs 36-mile race was held in The Solent. Ed Fishwick’s GP42 Redshift took line honours and the overall race win after IRC correction. James Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX was second overall, and with the result, won the four-race series. Richard Palmer’s JPK 1010 Jangada, skippered by Jeremy Waitt, was third overall for the race and for the series. 136 boats entered the RORC Summer Series, which was designed to replace part of the 2020 RORC Season’s Points Championship.

Redshift’s Nick Cherry, a six-time figarista commented: “We really enjoyed this race and the series. Racing with six people, instead of ten, you really have to focus all the time and whilst we adapted our manoeuvres, we made no changes to the systems on board. When we get back to fully-crewed offshore racing, this has served as great practice, as you are in a watch system, often without the full complement of crew on deck.”

Congratulations to the class winners of RORC Summer Series Race 4 including Ed Bell’s JPK 1180 Dawn Treader and Sun Fast 3300 Fastrak XII, sailed two-handed by Henry Bomby & Shirley Robertson.

Full Results

IRC One

Overall series winner, RORC Vice Commodore James Neville’s Ino XXX scored a first and two second places in class to win IRC One. Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood was second in class and Rob Bottomley’s MAT12 Sailplane 3 was third.

"Well done to the RORC Race Team for coming up with the idea and making it happen,” commented James Neville. “The day races have been quite special, as it’s a good day out for the crew and a real challenge, especially racing Ino XXX with a reduced number. The series has been held in an amazing range of conditions and has been a lot of fun.”

IRC Two

Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster was the run-away winner of IRC Two, scoring two bullets and a third. Gavin Howe’s Sun Fast 3600 Tigris was second in IRC Two and third in IRC two-handed. Ed Bell’s Dawn Treader was just two points behind in third.

IRC Three

Olympic two-handed hopefuls, Henry Bomby & Shirley Robertson, racing Nigel Colley’s Fastrak XII took the win in IRC Three and second in IRC two-handed. Richard Oswald’s Elan 450 Emily of Cowes was runner-up. Jim Driver’s Sun Fast 3300 Chilli Pepper was third.

After the second race, double Olympic Gold Medallist, Shirley Robertson commented: “Henry is an amazing young talent who has cut his teeth in the Figaro. Henry is a good teammate and a great teacher. It’s been good to hang out with Henry for the summer.”

IRC Four

Richard Palmer’s Jangada, skippered by Jeremy Waitt, was the clear winner of IRC Four and the winner of IRC two-handed. Chris Frost’s Swan 36 Finola was second in class in the last race to finish runner-up for the series. Tony White’s Sun Fast 3300 Mzungu was third.

MOCRA Class

Nine multihulls raced during the series and the smallest of the fleet came out on top for the series. Ross Hobson’s Seacart 30 Buzz was the victor. MOD 70 Powerplay, skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield, with Peter Cunningham on the helm, was second. James Holder’s Dazcat 1295 Slinky Malinki was third.

RORC 2H Autumn Series

Whilst the RORC Summer Series has come to an end, Friday 4th of September marked the start of the 2H Autumn Series. Race One was a race of approximately 100 miles, the first over-night race organised by the RORC since February. Jangada skippered by Jeremy Waitt, was the winner. Rob Craigie & Deb Fish racing Sun Fast 3600 Bellino were second. Sun Fast 3300 Wild Pilgrim, skippered by Daniel Jones, was third. The 2H Autumn Series, consisting of three races, continues on Saturday 26th September with another overnight race for two-handed teams.

Published in RORC

The Royal Ocean Racing Club's Summer Series Race 3 was a full-on foam up in 25 knots of breeze gusting over 30. The long day race was a course of about 42 miles for the monohulls with a beat west from the Squadron Line to East Lepe, followed by a scorching downwind leg east through the Solent. After bisecting No Man’s Land and Horse Sand Forts, the downwind sleigh ride took the fleet to Pullar, northeast of the Nab Tower. The final leg was a beat to finish at the Squadron Line.

The stand-out performance in the race was Sun Fast 3300 Fastrak XII, raced Two-Handed by Henry Bomby & Shirley Robertson. Fastrak XII was the overall winner after IRC time correction and the victor in both IRC Three and IRC Two-Handed.

Bomby and Robertson have set their sights on representing Great Britain in the 2024 Olympics. Bomby is one of Britain's most promising young sailors having raced in four Solitaire du Figaro campaigns, the Volvo Ocean Race and two years with the MOD70 Phaedo3. Shirley Robertson has won two consecutive Olympic Gold medals, and whilst Robertson has offshore experience, the Two-Handed offshore discipline is a new experience.

“Henry is a legend!” commented Shirley Robertson. “We just felt really solid, never on the edge. We made decisions in anticipation and thought it through, making very few errors and sailed a really clean race. The rust is coming away gradually and although offshore racing is a bit unfamiliar for me, a small boat is my bread and butter. We are getting faster and faster, and I have got to say, Henry is an amazing young talent who has cut his teeth in the Figaro. Henry is a good teammate and a great teacher. It’s been good to hang out with Henry for the summer.”

Congratulations to all of the IRC Class Winners in the RORC Summer Series Race 3. Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster was the winner of IRC 2 and second overall, Scarlet Oyster scorched around the racetrack in an elapsed time just three seconds shy of Fastrak XII. Rob Bottomley’s MAT12 Sailplane 3, skippered by Nick Jones, took Line Honours for the race, was third overall, and winner of IRC One. Richard Palmer’s JPK 10.10 Jangada, sailed by Jeremy Waitt and Paul Wood, won IRC Four. Ross Hobson’s Seacart 30 Buzz won the Multihull Class.

During the race, Tom Kneen’s JPK 1180 Sunrise was dismasted. However, none of the crew were injured and all returned safely to shore. Tom Kneen expressed his gratitude to the assistance offered by fellow competitors; James Neville’s Ino XXX, Darkwood skippered by Steve Lawrence, and Rob Bottomley’s Sailplane 3.

Full details of the revised RORC racing programme can be found on the RORC website, but in summary: permitted crew offshore can be up to a maximum of six people from any household or two-thirds of a boat's IRC crew number whichever is the least. Competitors are also reminded of the government guidance on social distancing and other Covid-19 measures.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club's Summer Series comes to a conclusion with the fourth and final race scheduled for Sunday 6th September. Further racing with the club is set to continue in September with a new Two-Handed Autumn Series (4th, 26th Sept. & 10th Oct.) as well as the IRC National Championship (11/13 Sept.) and the IRC Two-Handed National Championship (12/13 Sept.)

Published in RORC

For the first time in the history of the London club, the RORC Season’s Points Championship has had to be cancelled. Current restrictions continue to make it impossible to run overnight races for all IRC classes with the result that the last offshore race of the season, the Cherbourg Race has had to be cancelled. With only two races, the RORC Transatlantic Race and the RORC Caribbean 600 having been completed, and three required to constitute a series, the club has had no option but to cancel the 2020 Season’s Points Championship.

“This has been a difficult and unprecedented decision for the club,” said RORC Commodore Steven Anderson. “We were very keen to have one proper offshore race for all classes to allow us to complete the series. We all hoped that by September the restrictions to control the spread of the virus would have been eased sufficiently to allow a sprint to Cherbourg and a good way to end a very frustrating season for all.”


RORC Two-Handed Race to Cherbourg

Instead of the usual season ending Cherbourg Race, the RORC has confirmed the intention to run a two-handed race to Cherbourg. This race which will start on Friday 4th September is in line with current government regulation and has added significance in that the City of Cherbourg will host the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race for the 2021 and 2023 editions.

RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone has been delighted with the number of teams who are participating in the summer series.

“We were pleased to have 133 boats in ‘Race the Wight’, the first race of our Summer Series and interest in the rest of the series is very strong. We decided to start the two-handed race to Cherbourg on the Friday to give the opportunity for those two-handed teams who are involved in the summer series to participate in the last race of the series which is scheduled for Sunday 6th September.”

The RORC Summer Series consists of three additional races on Saturday 15th August, Saturday 22nd August and Sunday 6th September.

Published in RORC

The Royal Ocean Racing Club is expecting in excess of 100 entries for Race the Wight, scheduled to start on Saturday 1st August. All entry fees will be donated to the NHS Trust and the Scaramouche Sailing Trust. Race the Wight will be the first of a four-race RORC mini-series during August and September.

“As a charity, we rely on donations and grants. Every pound we receive goes towards getting more students from different backgrounds sailing,” commented Jon Holt, Scaramouche Sailing Trust. “Our next big goal is to be on the start line of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021. We are grateful for the ongoing support from RORC and proud to be named as one of the charities for the race.” The Greig City Academy will have upwards of a dozen students on different boats for the race.

IRC Classes for the 50nm race around the Isle of Wight are still to be confirmed. However, early entries indicate a fleet full of champions with any number of potential victors.

RORC Vice Commodore James Neville racing his HH42 Ino XXX and Ian Atkins’ Melges IC37 Icy are favourites for monohull line honours. The overall winner of the Race the Wight will be decided by time correction using the IRC Rating System. In big upwind conditions Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy’s Swan 56 Noonmark IV, skippered by Mike Gilburt, will be a force to be reckoned with. Given the crew limitations and favoured wind conditions, Greg Leonard‘s Class40 Kite (Prev. Maxime Sorel’s V and B, winner 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race) should blast round the island.

Ian Atkins’ Melges IC37 IcyIan Atkins’ Melges IC37 Icy

Greg Leonard's Class40 KiteGreg Leonard's Class40 Kite Photo: John Green Cowes

“We are looking forward to it,” commented James Neville. “It’s been completely frustrating to have missed racing. We have been modifying the boat over the winter and part of this race will be to test and learn what can be done. The race will give us the experience to move on to the next steps in terms of how we can race the boat given the current restrictions. We have had one training session and it is certainly all on when we gybe. However personally, I wouldn’t go out if we were unable to use spinnakers because it is important to get the boat lit up. We will be racing with six and be taking all the necessary precautions.”

“I am beyond excited!” Exclaimed Ian Atkins. “The challenge now is whittling a crew of nine down to six, but we will probably rotate the crew during the mini-series. Everybody on board is very capable, so they should all get a chance to race during the series. You need all nine crew in a blow on a short windward leeward race, but round the Wight is perfect to stretch our legs without too many corners to negotiate.”

Tom Hayhoe and Natalie Jobling will be racing J/105 Mostly HarmlessTom Hayhoe and Natalie Jobling will be racing J/105 Mostly Harmless Two-Handed and both work for the NHS Trust. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

18 J/Boats have already entered the race, Tom Hayhoe and Natalie Jobling will be racing J/105 Mostly Harmless Two-Handed and both work for the NHS Trust. Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood won last year’s RORC Channel Race and will be competing with a crew of five.

“With water ballast and a sail configuration designed for short-handed sailing, we are actually sailing with our optimum crew, even with the restrictions,” commented Michael O’Donnell. “The race around the Isle of Wight, starting at the Royal Yacht Squadron, is possibly the most iconic in the world - we just can’t wait to get out there.”

"The permitted crew can be up to a maximum of 6 people from any household or two-thirds of a boat’s IRC crew number whichever is the least"

Eight examples of Beneteau’s Sun Fast yachts have entered including the overall winner of the 2019 RORC Season’s Points Championship, Trevor Middleton’s Black Sheep and last year’s season runner up Bellino, raced two-handed by Rob Craigie and Deb Fish. Two Sun Fast 3300 will be racing, Peter Bacon’s Sea Bear and Jim Driver’s Chilli Pepper.

Five JPKs have already entered, including Richard Palmer’s JPK 10.10 Jangada, overall winner of the 2019 RORC Transatlantic Race. Jangada will be facing new teams in similar designs. Peter Butters JPK 10.10 Joy, and JPK 11.80s; Ed Bell’s Dawn Treader and Astrid de Vin’s Il Corvo.

 1939 Giles one-off design Whooper 1939 Giles one-off design Whooper Photo: Paul Wyeth

2019 Quarter Ton Cup Champion Protis2019 Quarter Ton Cup Champion Protis. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Vintage yachts abound through the fleet including some of the smallest entries, 2019 Quarter Ton Cup Champion Protis, with Ian Southworth on the tiler, will be able to gauge their performance against Tony Hayward’s Blackfun. Past RORC Commodore Peter Rutter will be racing his restored Half Tonner Quokka 9. Giovanni Belgrano is part of the structural design team for INEOS Team UK for the America’s Cup and his 1939 Giles one-off design Whooper has solid form for the race. Whooper is a past winner of the Gold Roman Bowl in the ISC Round the Island Race, beating over a thousand competitors. Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster will also be in action and was in fine form recently winning class once again in the RORC Caribbean 600 and overall winner of 2019 RORC Cowes St Malo.

Simon Baker’s Dazcat 1495 Hissy FitSimon Baker’s Dazcat 1495 Hissy Fit. Photo: James Tomlinson

In the MOCRA Class, last year’s ISC race winner will also be competing, Simon Baker’s Dazcat 1495 Hissy Fit. Strong challengers in the multihull class include 2019 RORC Season winner, Ross Hobson’s Sea Cart 30 Buzz, and third in the 2019 RORC Season’s Points Championship, James Holder’s Dazcat 1295 Slinky Malinki.

Full details in the Notice of Race can be found in the Notice of Race but in summary: permitted crew can be up to a maximum of 6 people from any household or two-thirds of a boat’s IRC crew number whichever is the least.

Competitors are also reminded of the government guidance on social distancing and other Covid19 measures.

Published in RORC

The Royal Ocean Racing Club announces further cancellations and changes to some of its key events as the season progresses and the COVID-19 pandemic continues throughout April. 

The decision comes after continued close monitoring of Government and medical advice, and in line with guidance from World Sailing and the RYA. The RORC's intention is to adapt its race programme and courses as necessary in order to get members and competitors on the water as soon as it is possible and appropriate.

Myth of Malham - Cancelled

One of the most popular and tactically challenging races, the 230nm Myth of Malham race, scheduled to start on Saturday 23rd May (Bank Holiday), has regretfully been cancelled. The course from Cowes, around Eddystone Lighthouse and back to a finish in the western Solent, mirrors the first 130nm of the Rolex Fastnet Race and takes in some of the most complex tidal gates around notable headlands that include Portland Bill and Start Point.

De Guingand Bowl - Cancelled

The next cancellation in the 2020 RORC Season's Points Championship is the De Guingand Bowl on Saturday 6th June. The race traditionally sails a course relatively close to the Isle of Wight with a Club finish back in the Solent.

RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone comments: "In previous editions, it has provided a great opportunity for the Race Committee to try different aspects of course setting to challenge the fleet and its navigators. Last year we tried out some really exciting and new ideas around the course and the weather, and we were extremely keen to keep that going again. Sadly it's not to be this year, but we will continue to explore these ideas in 2021!"

East Coast Race - Under review

The Club is also working closely with EAORA (East Anglian Offshore Racing Association) and the East Coast Race which is still currently scheduled for the 19th June. The Associations' PRO, Paul Jackson said: "The East Coast Race is still under review. There have been some positive comments from the Netherlands, but it is still early days at the moment and we will wait until we are a little closer to the event to make a final decision."

IRC National Championship - Potential Date Change

The RORC is also considering moving the IRC National Championships from its scheduled June timeslot to Friday 11th, Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th September. The potential move would see the IRC Nationals being run together with the IRC Double-Handed National Championship scheduled for the same weekend.

This is the same weekend as the Irish IRC Nationals that will be raced as part of WAVE Regatta in Howth, County Dublin.

IRC Rating Director Dr Jason Smithwick commented: "This later schedule for the IRC Nationals could be a good result for the IRC fleet. A later schedule in September should allow the best chance of giving the national IRC fleet a top-level event with sailing in good conditions."

RORC Commodore Steven Anderson commented: "Today's announcement cancelling our next two offshore races were inevitable, however, we are keeping all our options open to get the fleet back on the water as soon as it is appropriate. We may have to shift our focus to more Solvent-based racing, or at least racing a little closer to home, but it's our intention to get as much racing into our programme as we can and adapt events and the programme as necessary."

Published in RORC

If we needed a reminder of the central role which the biennial Round Ireland Yacht Race from Wicklow has grown into within Irish sailing and in the global offshore racing context during its 40 years and 20 editions, then the ramifications of its postponement from the 20th June 2020 to the 22nd August is really all that is required to signal the importance of this 704-mile challenge.

In the very complete Coronavirus COVID-19 meltdown of normal life, the numbers of sailors and others advocating such a move – or something similar - had been steadily increasing, as it became increasingly evident that the date was still available and possible, yet needed to be booked well in advance. As the time needed for the countrywide eradication of the disease is still very much an unknown - despite increasingly sophisticated analyses of its progress – the latest possible date for the race while still placing it within the summer season was the one which had to be chosen.

The sympathies of any reasonable person and all experienced sailors – particularly the large numbers who have raced in this very special event – will have been very much with Wicklow SC Commodore Kyran O’Grady and his organising team, together with their new, supportive and understanding sponsors in SSE Renewables, as they grappled with a challenging decision.

2 corum teasing machine2The modern Round Ireland Race has international credentials – France’s Corum and Teasing Machine battle it out at 2018’s start. Photo: W M Nixon

An event of this stature has a dominant position in the entire complex season-long structure of the Irish sailing programme. Thus, even when it had to be postponed by only one week to June 30th in 2018, the rest of the national cruiser-racer schedule in that period of the summer adjusted itself accordingly.

But that was a minor change by comparison with this new two months hiatus during which – if the lock-down is so successful that it can start to be significantly eased – we can expect pop-up regattas and immediate sailing events to be rapidly organised in the best flash mob-style the instant sailing becomes possible again.

In the crazy times we live in, and with everyone probably slightly off their rockers by the time we do get sailing again, it’s perfectly possible that folk will get a taste for this sort of ad hoc arrangement, and a long countdown event like the Round Ireland will seem almost quaint.

3 1980 round ireland start3Small beginnings – the start of the first Round Ireland Race off Wicklow in 1980. The winner was Brian Coad’s Rival 34 Raasay of Melfort (centre) from Dunmore East. Photo: W M Nixon

But by its very nature, the Round Ireland has to be a long countdown event, for it requires participating crews to have logged a certain amount of minimal experience in serious offshore competition, such that one of the strongest pressure groups in urging a specific postponement was the sailing schools, who reckoned they’d find it very difficult to fulfil their quota of qualifiers in such a truncated early season.

Yet with other potential events starting to wave flags about easily re-shaped happenings which can be put together almost overnight, serious Round Ireland owner-skippers are going to find themselves in a quandary, for although a successful offshore racing crew is not a democracy, nor is it an autocracy. Decisions are reached through a sort of osmosis.

Denis Doyle & Moonduster

In these circumstances, the best approach is to ask: “What would The Doyler have done?” Or rather, “What would The Doyler do?” For although the great Denis Doyle of Cork has been gone from among us now for 19 years - having sailed his last Fastnet Race on the Crosshaven-built Frers 51 Moonduster at the age of 81 in 2001 - his sailing inspiration and moral example is so strong that, for an entire generation of Irish offshore campaigners, it’s The Doyler who continues to be our reference point, our ever-present guide, our moral compass.

4 denis doyle4Denis Doyle – he was racing offshore for sixty years

Yet by seeing him as such, we aren’t contravening the great Dwight D Eisenhower’s hallmark of a successful commander, which was revealed here in a fascinating piece about strategy and tactics by that renowned soldier-sailor Commandant Barry Byrne, originally of Wicklow, and no stranger to success in the Round Ireland Race himself.

The word from Commandant Byrne was that Eisenhower was totally supportive of high-level commanders and staff officers who were always planning, but didn’t have some sacred fixed Plan, other than an ultimate objective.

5 jokerII round ireland start5The J/109 Joker II (John Maybury, skippered by Barry Byrne) at the start of the 2018 race, in which she finished second overall. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Thus Denis Doyle, who was racing offshore from the late 1930s until just after the turn of the century, was keen to go offshore racing, and even keener if he felt it was good for Cork, good for Ireland, and good for life generally – his ultimate objective was broad in scope.

So although the first Round Ireland Race of 1980 from Wicklow (see the first set of sailing instructions here) was seen by many in the Irish sailing community as a rather cheeky shot in the dark from a small club, Denis Doyle in Cork saw that it was good, and with his new Moonduster built in 1981, he arrived into Wicklow with this marvellous boat for the next race in 1982, and his commitment to the Round Ireland Races thereafter was complete, contributing enormously to its long-standing success.

6 new moonduster spinnaker6“This marvellous boat” – the new Crosshaven-built Frers 51 Moonduster in 1981. Photo: W M Nixon

Now admittedly all the Round Ireland Races in which he competed – winning two of them and establishing course records in both 1982 and 1984 – were placed firmly in the final week of June, which thus left the later part of the season clear for other events for Moonduster, events which could be very distant.

For instance, one year he and three others including his ever-supportive wife Mary set out to sail Moonduster post-haste to Sardinia in order to race in the Sardinia Cup. And as well, the elegant varnished sloop was no stranger to the regattas in Galicia in northwest Spain, so much so that when I first ambled into the Monte Real Yacht Club in Bayona after an unusually agreeable Biscay crossing back in 1995, it was to note with interest that the newly-installed board listing Honorary Members was so new it had just two names on it – Denis Doyle and some guy called Juan Carlos. 

7 moonduster spinnaker7Throughout his 20 years with the Frers-designed Moonduster, Denis Doyle kept her topsides varnished. This is how she looked in 1995, at the start of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race. Photo: David O’Brien/Afloat.ie

So his reach in sailing was truly pan-European, yet once he’d given his commitment to some event and its locality, his commitment was maintained through thick and thin, a commitment which remained through major changes when those changes were caused by circumstances beyond the control of the event organisers. So although the Round Ireland Race is now going to be two months late, I think we know what The Doyler would do.

For sure, the nights will be significantly longer and the weather of late August can be verging into the Autumnal. But those longer nights don’t seem quite so brutal as some of the short nights of June, for the sea has become significantly warmer and if the weather is benign, there’s a velvet quality to those longer nights which can make them a pleasantly memorable experience.

But either way – good weather or mixed – we can be sure that if Denis Doyle were still around, any ideas he might have had about other sailing plans for late August would have been scrapped in the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and first priority would be given to the original commitment of being on the starting line for the Round Ireland Race, even if Force Majeure has caused it to be held two months late.

8 original moonduster fastnet8The original “white Moonduster”, a 47ft Robert Clark design built in Crosshaven in 1965, making to windward towards the Rock in the Fastnet Race of 1969
He would be there because it’s the right thing to do. This attitude was clearly revealed back in 1972, when Denis Doyle was a flag officer both of the Royal Cork YC and the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and still racing the handsome Robert Clark-designed Crosshaven-built 47ft white Moonduster of 1965 vintage. The core event of the season was one with which he was particularly involved, an RORC Cowes to Cork Race after Cowes Week, something which promised great sport for a large entry.

9 original moonduster cork9The original Moonduster manoeuvring before the start of the 1970 RORC Cork-Brest Race, after the RORC fleet had raced Cowes-Cork as part of the Royal Cork YC Quarter Millennial celebrations. Photo: W M Nixon

But as 1972 progressed, the Troubles in Northern Ireland deepened rapidly with much bloodshed, and the top management in the RORC became jittery about their fleet racing to “war-torn Ireland”. Denis assured them that nowhere was further and safer from the northern troubles than the race’s destination at the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven, but he was over-ruled, and the decision was made to race instead from Cowes to Santander in Spain.

Denis took this rebuff in his usual calm way, and entered Moonduster for the 1972 RORC Cowes-Santander Race. As was her wont, Mary Doyle went out to Spain to be ready to welcome her husband and his crew at the finish. And as Moonduster glided up the river, there indeed was Mary, coolly stylish as ever, elegantly waiting beside the smoking ruins of the Real Club Maritimo de Santander. It had been blown up by Basque Separatists the night before.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 1 of 11

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