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#rorc –Fresh from success at last month's ICRA Nationals at Howth YC both the Irish Class zero and class two champions head for Cowes this weekend for the Royal Ocean Racing Club's (RORC) British IRC Championships writes Louay Habib.

Anthony O'Leary's Zero champion, the Ker 39 Antix and the Class two champion Nigel Bigg's Checkmate IV will be looking for a British title too when well over 400 sailors from all over Europe gather in Cowes this weekend for the annual three day event on tight Solent courses. Close encounters are expected for four classes under tight rating bands.

Since the first edition in 2000, the annual RORC inshore championship has always attracted a highly competitive fleet and this year is no exception.

Also competing in Cowes is Round Ireland champion Piet Vroon from Holland who is heading back to defend his offshore crown in Wicklow in two weeks time.

The sizeable fleet boasts close to 20 yachts that are past or present competitors for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. Winning class at the RORC IRC National Championship is extremely tough and class victors will savour that moment for years to come.

IRC One has produced one of the most impressive fleets for many years. Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, should be the fastest boat around the track but there will be four Ker 40s nipping at the Dutch flyer's heels. Nigel Passmore's Apollo will be highly motivated to take a national title back to Plymouth. Whilst Andrew Pearce's Magnum III and Harmen de Graaf's Baraka GP will be racing each other for the first time, prior to representing Benelux and Great Britain in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. However, the depth of talent in this class is quite remarkable, including some notable proven winners: O'Leary's Ker 39, Antix, Michael Bartholomew's King 40, Tokoloshe, Andrew Williams' Mills 39, Dignity, and RORC Commodore, Mike Greville's Ker 39, Erivale III.

"We expect some very challenging racing, which is exactly what is required if we are to continue to improve our performance," commentedMagnum III skipper, Andrew Pearce. "The championship will have some of the best competition from the South Coast and beyond, it will be a thorough test for all of us."

In IRC Two the UNCL President, Marc de Saint Denis, will be racing MC34 Courrier Vintage in good company. No doubt, former RORC Commodore, Andrew McIrvine, will give the Frenchman a warm welcome to Cowes but no quarter once they are out on the racecourse. McIrvine has been in fine form offshore this season but the class has many well-honed adversaries. Kirsty and David Apthorp's J/111 J-Dream came within a whisker of winning Spi Ouest this Easter and Nicolas Gaumont-Prat's First 40.7, Philosophie IV, and Jim Macgregor's Elan 410, Premier Flair, will both be representing Great Britain in next month's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. Philosophie IV was runner up in IRC Two last year and will be looking to go one better in 2012.

In IRC Three, Mike Bridges' Elan 37, Elaine, is back to defend their title but the class also boasts two teams representing Britain in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup: Peter Morton's Corby 33, Salvo, and the British Keelboat Academy's J/109, Yeoman of Wight, will both be looking to impress. From overseas, Philippe Bourgeois' A35, Dunkerque Plaisance is in fine form, having won their class earlier this month at Normandy Sailing Week and Dutch J/109, Captain Jack, skippered by Round the World racer Bert Visser, is relishing the event. "We cannot get this standard of competition in Holland," admits Visser. "It is well worth the effort to come over for the championship. It is an important event for us and we expect some very good racing."

In IRC Four, Nigel Biggs is a veteran of the championship and will be looking to come out on top with the beautifully prepared vintage Half Tonner, Checkmate XV. The small boat class also has a number of well-sailed modern bowsprit boats. Father and son team, Mike and Jamie Holmes racing J/97 Jika Jika, entered months ago, having identified the championship as a key event of their season.

'It will be a testing event for us," predicted Jamie Holmes. "We are expecting some extremely close racing, I think that key reasons for the popularity of the event are that there is usually a good range of conditions and the races are always well run, which attracts impressive opposition. The IRC National Championship is an excellent event to hone our skills for the J/97 UK Nationals in Guernsey this summer."

Published in RORC

#OFFSHORE – Solent winds finally came good for the last day of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's (RORC's) Easter Sailing Challenge on Easter Sunday with Irish boats from Royal Cork YC , Howth YC and Royal Irish YC, Dun Laoghaire finishing second third and fourth in class respectively.

Anthony O'Leary was second in IRC one sailing Antix with 15 entries, Dave Cullen's Half Tonner King One was third sailing in IRC IV class B with seven entries and Niall Dowling's brand new J111 Jazzband was fourth sailing in Class II with 10 entries.

With the wind backing into the south and building to double figures. To make up for yesterday's lack of wind, three races were held for all classes.

Runaway winner in IRC One was South African Michael Bartholomew and his well honed crew on the Hamble-based King 40 Tokoloshe. A 5-1-5 scoreline today saw them conclude the regatta with a nine point lead over Irishman Anthony O'Leary's 2010 Commodores' Cup-winning Ker 39, Antix. Tokoloshe is touted as a Cork Week front runner this July so there will be at least one rematch for the Antix crew on home waters this season.

Simon Henning's Farr 45 Alice was doing well, but was let down by a 13th place in today's second race  causing them to drop to third overall, just two points ahead of the British Keelboat Academy on their Niklas Zennstrom-owned sistership Kolga. The Ker 40 dust-up was close with Jonathan Goring's Keronimo finishing two and half points ahead of Andrew Pearce's newer Magnum III.

Despite a strong final push by Jackie Dobson and the crew of the J/133 Jeronimo winning today's two final races, Jim Macgregor and his Poole-based Elan 410 Premier Flair maintained their lead in IRC Two to win by three points. Andrew McIrvine, ex-Commodore of the RORC, came into his own today with his First 40 La Réponse finishing third in each race today.

"It was nice to have the breeze, although we didn't change gears that well," admitted Macgregor. "In the light wind this morning - we had that sussed and we got a win. We had not a bad second race, but we weren't properly set up for the third. There were lots of boats going around corners at the same time, but everyone was well behaved. It was a very enjoyable event and we are very grateful to the RORC and Eddie Warden Owen."

Of Jeronimo's late charge, Macgregor said: "She is going really well. It was tough when she ran aground on Friday. The plateau there did seem to be getting shallower. Perhaps it's the high pressure."

In IRC Three competition was tight. The outstanding performance today was that of David Franks and his new JPK 1010 Strait Dealer, which posted three bullets in as many races. Unfortunately after a slow start to the regatta this was not enough for them to catch David Aisher's British Keelboat Academy crewed J/109 Yeoman of Wight, which was top of the seven J/109s but one point shy of Peter Morton's MAT 1010 in the overall points.

"We loved it, we had a really good time. It was really nice to be back on the water," said MAT 1010's Louise Morton, making her return to competitive yachting for the first time since breaking her leg last June. On MAT 1010, today's races were steered by ex-British Keelboat Academy members Colette Blair and Mark Lees, the competitive juices flowing to ensure they finished ahead of their former colleagues on Yeoman of Wight.

After today's three races there was a leader change in IRC4A with father and son, Mike and Jamie Holmes and their J/97 Jika Jika overhauling sistership, Grant Gordon's Fever, to win by just two points.

"It was our first time out this season, so it took a while for us to blow away the cobwebs," admitted Jamie Holmes. "We led Fever during the race the day before a couple of times, but we threw it away through kedging badly!" Of today's race management on their course despite the powerful spring tide, Holmes added: "They did really well to get three fair races off, particularly after yesterday being so challenging. The tide was more of an issue yesterday, going backwards, than it was today."

According to Mike Holmes, their win came as a surprise as they hadn't expected three races to be held today - one more than scheduled.

IRC 4B was dominated by the Half Tonners, but by one in particular - the 1985 vintage MG30 Checkmate XV, skippered by Nigel Biggs - which completed the RORC Easter Challengewith a perfect scoreline.

"It was beginner's luck," said Biggs. "We only bought the boat a couple of months ago and it has had a massive refit at Corby's. We were working all hours over the last month to get it built. In fact on Friday morning it was a good job there was a postponement, because we were still drilling through the deck to put the deck gear on..."

"We have had some people with us," said Biggs of how they had done so well. "David Howlett [Ben Ainslie's coach] has been helping us a lot and John Corby and Mark Mills has done some design work on the boat. So a lot of thought has gone into it and as a group our Checkmate sailing team has been together for 15 years."

Biggs added that today was the first time they have sailed with the boat fully loaded up. "We were looking around to see what was going to blow up, but nothing did."

A worthy third was David Cullen's Irish team on King One, Paul Elvstrom's Half Ton Cup winner from 1980. "We got two 4s and a 3. That's two 4 o'clock in the mornings and a 3 o'clock...and our results reflected that," quipped Cullen, whose boat has remained in Cowes since the Half Ton Classics Cup last year when she broke her rig.

With a near perfect scoreline was Robert Larke in the J/80 one design class, dropping yesterday's one race to the Rachel Woods-steered Jumblesail. While Larke posted three bullets in today's races in the Northern Solent, so consistently second was William Goldsmith's Slam-sponsored team on Exess.

"Yesterday was frustrating to say the least," said Goldsmith. "Today it was a day of no mistakes or fewer mistakes. We struggled with starting earlier on in the week, but finished with a very good start and rather than J2X being off on their own, today we were keeping up with them and it was us and them and the rest of the fleet behind."

Goldsmith is with the British Keelboat Academy and is gunning with his team - average age 20 - for a good position in the J/80 Worlds to be held in Dartmouth later this year. "They will be huge and we want to try and stay up with the top of the fleet there. With the Worlds coming up its in our best interest to have all the British boats work together and that is part of the RORC Easter Challenge to get everyone coached."

At the prizegiving held in the Cowes Yacht Haven Events Centre, Commodore of the RORC Mike Greville thanked the race officials before Easter eggs were handed out as prizes to all of the winners.

Published in RORC

Saturday proved a difficult one for both competitors and race officials alike at the RORC Easter Challenge Under a grey overcast sky, race three of the series got underway on time in light breeze, but on the second beat the wind turned inside out, causing the race to be shortened, finishing at the end of that leg. After this the wind resolutely failed to return, causing today's final two races to be cancelled.

In IRC One, 2010 Commodores' Cup winner Anthony O'Leary and his silver Ker 39 Antix won today's race. "We had a good start at the pin," the Irishman described it. "We got a little jump on our group of boats, we just rounded the top mark ahead of them. It just came and went all the way down the run and as we came around the bottom mark, the breeze had swung more to the west which hurt the guys ahead of us, while we were well ahead of our group anyway."

Dutchman Piet Vroon and his 2010 RORC Yacht of the Year, Tonnerre, were looking good at the end of the run, having overhauled the Farr 52 Toe in the Water. Unfortunately she and Toe In the Water lost out on the right side of the next beat as the breeze backed left. "At one stage, we were looking good, but we were nowhere at the finish," admitted Vroon. "It is not really representative of the sport to operate in such varying wind."

First to come in on the new breeze and hoist their kites upwind was the Farr 45 Espresso Martini (making up for her grounding yesterday) and she ended up being first home, followed in by Jonathan Goring's Ker 40 Keronimo, these two beating the two biggest boats in the RORC Easter Challenge fleet to the finish line on the water.

"When they [Espresso Martini] went around the leeward mark, the wind went left and they could reach to the finish," explained Brian Thompson, helmsman on Toe in The Water. "Anyone ahead of her was way off to leeward and hadn't made that much distance. The wind went maybe 90deg to the left. But it was good to get one race in and everyone was happy to come in early."

Overall leader in IRC One is now Michael Bartholomew's King 40 Tokoloshe, six points ahead of Keronimo.

In IRC Two Jim Macgregor and his Elan 410 Premier Flair have hung on to their overall lead after today's race, now just a point ahead of Niall Dowling's new J/111 Jazzband, although today's race was won by Joopster, Neil Kipling's J/122.

"The bias was swinging at the start and we were going for the pin end and then the bias went 10deg the other way, so we went back to the committee boat," Jim Macgregor described his start. "We weren't going fast at the gun, but we were going in the right direction and we spotted the pressure up on the left and those that went right lost on the first beat." Premier Flair led around the top mark and held on during the run.

On the second beat, matters were made all the more challenging for Premier Flair as there was a tide line just short of the weather mark. "There was east-going tide approaching and then for the last 50 yards, definite west-going tide," Macgregor continued. "What became a good layline suddenly became a bad layline...so another two tacks, but it was the same for everyone."

Finishing fourth today, Macgregor adds that he is finding the RORC Easter Challenge a good gauge of the competition lining up soon for the British team's trials for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.

Elsewhere Peter Morton on his Mat1010 won today's race in IRC Three to take the lead from the British Keelboat Academy squad sailing David Aisher's J/109, Yeoman of Wight. In IRC Four A Grant Gordon and his J/97 Fever continued her unbroken run of bullets as did Nigel Biggs' MG30 Checkmate XV in IRC Four B. However in the J/80 one design class, Rachel Woods' Jumblesail won today's race breaking Rob Larke's previously perfect scoreline on J2X.

Round the world navigator Steve Hayles, racing with the British Keelboat Academy on the Farr 45 Kolga, felt that the race committee had made the right call to send the fleet home mid-afternoon.

"It was a bit confusing," he said of today's situation. "It wasn't really a sea breeze, there just wasn't much gradient about, so a bit of breeze funnels up the western Solent at 270deg, it funnels down Southampton Water and it comes off the north shore, so all it takes is a slight change in balance..."

But it was really the tide turning that finally killed the wind altogether today. "In theory that should have built the breeze a little, but I think it just held it back. To can it was the right thing to do."

As to tomorrow, Hayles (who also runs the weather forecasting company GRIB.US) says: "We hope it will go southwesterly...I was hopeful yesterday, but I'm not today. There is a bit of southwesterly out there, it is just whether it pushes up here. It could be the same again. I am a little more hopeful tomorrow. If it starts more left it will pull left."

Two races are scheduled for tomorrow with the first start due at 1000.

Published in RORC

#CARIBBEAN 600 – A plan to secure line honours at the Caribbean 600 race on the world's largest carbon composite sailing yacht includes four Irish sailors on the 29–man crew. The Royal Ocean Racing Club race route circumnavigates 11 Carribbean islands and begins on February 20th.

The crew on the 200 foot long yacht is composed of many Volvo ocean race and Americas cup veterans and also includes Irish sailors James Caroll, Johnny Mordant, Aaron O'Grady and Mark O'Reilly.

The 67–metre yacht Hetairos was launched on June 2011 in Finland and last year the massive entry won line honours and finished second overall in the IMA Superyacht transatlantic race between Tenerife and the BVIs.

Hetairos is 200 feet long and carries up to 4400 Square metres of sail area.

With less than one month to go, to the fourth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's 2012 programme kicks off with a sensational cast in Antigua.

The RORC Caribbean 600 is a truly international affair, with well over 500 hundred competitors from at least 24 different nations taking part. More than 30 impressive yachts are expected to take part in a high-speed, action-packed yacht race around 11 Caribbean islands. There can be few sporting events that can boast such a worldwide appeal with sailors taking part from all over the world including: Antigua, Australia, Austria, Canada, Cayman Islands, Croatia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey and the United States of America.

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The largest yacht in the Caribbean 600 fleet will have four Irish sailors onboard: The magnificent 67m Hetairos. Credit:Hetairos/Baltic Yachts

This astounding diversity of nationalities is matched only by the astonishing array of yachts and personalities. The largest yacht competing this year is the magnificent Hetairos with a waterline length of 200'. Hetairos is the world's largest carbon composite sailing yacht. The 29 crew on board is composed of many Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup and Jules Verne around the world veterans. Hetairos is among the favourites to take line honours, but there are several other yachts more than capable of finishing in front.

In 2011 American George David skippered Rambler 100 to smash the monohull course record, taking line honours and overall victory. David's team is back, this time with the Reichel Pugh 90, Rambler and they are unlikely to give up the title without a fight. The Spanish Volvo 70, Gran Jotti will be dwarfed by Hetairos, but the former Telefonica Black has a venomous turn of speed and is quite capable of out pacing the entire fleet. On board there is a huge wealth of talent in the form of Spanish America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors. These three are likely to be contenders for line honours, but overall victory under IRC is far more difficult to predict. A hot contender is Niklas Zennstrom's Judel/Vrolijk 72 Rán, which will be making its debut in the RORC Caribbean 600.

"For me it's very refreshing to tackle a new race and the Caribbean 600 is a real fascination," explained Hayles. "It's unlike any other offshore race in that the average leg is only about 40 miles and for a navigator there is a lot to consider. Normally, a race is all about the weather and strategy but in addition to all that, this race takes you back to the basic problem of navigating around so many rocks and islands. Looking through all the legs, there is a broad mixture of sailing angles; there is a fair bit of reaching, but it is wrong to think that is not a challenge, especially with the speed sensitivity of modern high-performance boats. The course is more like a whole stream of complex coastal races. I have to say that it is a pretty unique race."

A dazzling variety of yachts crewed by some of the world's finest will be racing this year. However, not all of the competitors are seasoned professionals. One of the smallest yachts competing this year is J/39 Sleeper, which will be raced two-handed by a father and son team. Jonty Layfield and son Jack are both RORC members and hale from Brighton, UK. Last year with a full crew, Jonty's won class at Antigua Sailing Week:

"Sailing Two-Handed with my son, I don't expect to be very competitive, we are not going to go flat out but treat the race more like a delivery trip," admitted Jonty. "I have raced double-handed with my son back in England and I have been sailing with Jack since he was about five years old, we are more like friends than father and son. The great thing about sailing is that you have to get on with it; you can't have any histrionics. Jack is working in Brazil at the moment and the RORC Caribbean 600 is a great way to spend a few days together."

Close duels are expected right through the fleet, none more so than in the Class 40s where a hard fought and close encounter is expected. Tradewind sailing provides perfect conditions for Class 40s, with long reaches and downwind legs, these pocket rockets are capable of surfing at speeds of up to 25 knots. Peter Harding's 40 Degrees has Hannah Jenner as skipper, the only female to skipper the Clipper Round the World Race. Hannah was in fine form last year, gaining a podium position in the Class 40 Transat Jacques Vabre:

"Antigua is a beautiful place to start the season with some winter sunshine and I have heard that Antigua Yacht Club provides a great party!" smiled Hannah. " The race course has plenty of activity with sail changes and the competition should be really close. Making the right tactical decisions will also be very important if we are to be the fastest Class 40 around the track. I am really looking forward to the race."

Hannah Jenner on Peter Harding's 40 Degrees in the 2011 Transat Jacque Vabre/ Credit: Alexis Courcoux

RORC Chief Executive Eddie Warden Owen believes that the RORC Caribbean 600 is especially attractive to larger yachts, however the ethos of the club maintains equal status to every participant.

"A wide spectrum of yachts and competitors has decided that this is an event that is not to be missed. The club is delighted that people from all over the world want to take part. There is a mixture of world class sailors and corinthian enthusiasts, but they all have one thing in common, a passion for offshore racing."

"This average length of yacht for this year's entry is over 70'. When the Royal Ocean Racing Club started this race in 2009, we felt it would appeal to larger yachts and that has proved to be the case. This year we have a significant number of Racing Maxis, Super Yachts and Spirit of Tradition yachts. However, every yacht competing in the RORC Caribbean 600 is governed by the same set of rules. All of the competitors receive a warm welcome from the Antigua Yacht Club, regardless of their finish time or place. Since 1925, The Royal Ocean Racing Club has promoted offshore racing for all and in many ways the RORC Caribbean 600 typifies that cause."

The 2012 edition of the RORC Caribbean 600, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club and hosted by the Antigua Yacht Club, will start on Monday 20th February 2012.

Past Results:

RORC CARIBBEAN 600 TROPHY - IRC OVERALL

2011 - George David, Rambler 100, JK 100 (USA)

2010 - Karl C L Kwok, Beau Geste, Farr 80 (HKG)

2009 - Adrian Lee, Lee Overlay Partners, Cookson 50 (IRL)

Records:

Multihull record holder - Region Guadeloupe in 40 hours 11 mins 5 secs (2009)

Monohull record held by Rambler 100 in 40 hours 20 mins 02 secs (2011)

Published in Offshore

#COMMODORES CUP – Although Ireland is officially slated by the Royal Ocean Racing Club to be defending its 2010 title won on the Solent there is still no details of the compostion of an Irish team for July's Commdore's Cup.

Ireland face an uphill struggle to mount a credible defence, though Antony O'Leary's Antix is most likely to be a key part of any team, which is a major asset, there is still the job of completing the three boat line-up. A call to interested parties was made late last year by the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA).

ICRA Commodore Barry Rose says that despite the current difficult environment ICRA remains hopeful of mounting a serious defence and have waited until last October to allow the maximum time to those who may consider supporting the challenge but since then there has been no further news of the team.

The Commodores Cup takes place from 21st to 28th July 2012 based in Cowes. Ireland first won this prestigious International Trophy in 2010 .

Captain of the winning team Anthony O Leary told Afloat.ie: 'We finally won this great event in 2010 with a well organised campaign. Let's hope we
can return to defend it in 2012 learning further from that experience'.

Interest from teams wishing to stake a claim on the prestigious Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup is running high with challenges from several nations including: England, Netherlands, France, Ireland and Hong Kong. Eddie Warden Owen, Chief Executive of organisers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), is very happy with the way things are shaping up for the 11th biennial event:

"It would appear that the new format of allowing teams to be made up of three boats of any size and the availability of good boats to charter, has prompted interest from outside of Europe too. The Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup is shaping up to be a very competitive regatta."

Volvo Ocean Race skipper, Bouwe Bekking has been announced as Captain of the Dutch team, with the possibility of two Dutch teams and talk of a combined Benelux team of Dutch and Belgian boats.

"The Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup (BDCC) is a great event. It is giving owners and their predominantly amateur crews, the ability to sail for their own country and in a real team event. The BDCC is nearly the only national team event left in offshore racing. It will provide tough competition and in addition, racing in the Solent will give the event that extra dimension that owners are looking for. For me, it will be the first time as Team Captain for the Netherlands. It sounds more prestigious than the role actually is. The fact is that the three boats have to perform well individually in order that the team can do well overall. But there are a lot of small aspects which can help make them a better team in my opinion. I will try to give them that extra support and insight from all the experiences I have learned from all the Admiral's, Commodores' and Sardinia Cups I have participated in," commented Bekking.

John van der Starre from The Dutch Class Organisation, Noordzeeclub based in The Hague: "We are very pleased that Bouwe will be Team Captain. He has great experience and will drive the team. We will have more news on boats and teams in February, but already have six yachts hoping to compete: Baraka GP, Display, Captain Jack, Redan, J Xcentric and TeamVanVuuren."

The Dutch selection procedure will take place during the two first big IRC events of the year, with trials at the Van Uden Reco Stellendam Regatta (21-22 April) and the Delta Lloyd North Sea Regatta (15/20 May), including the Vuurschepen Race (25/28 May) and RORC North Sea Race.

Teams from the Netherlands have competed in the biennial Commodores' Cup since its inception in 1992, only missing out in 2000 and 2010. They have not yet won the Commodores' Cup but finished on the podium in 1998 and 2002.

Strong Interest from GBR teams

In early January the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Selection Committee met with owners and representatives of 19 boats who were interested in participating in trials for the English teams to compete.

"We were delighted with the turnout for the initial meeting which was much better than I expected and great for the event, as well as for sailing in the UK," said Stacey Clark, the new Chairman of the RYA Council and Chairman of the Commodores' Cup Selection Committee.

John Derbyshire, RYA Racing Manager/Performance Director:"I am delighted to see so much interest, both from previous competitors and potential new team members in being selected for one of the GBR teams. This should provide an excellent trials series from which a team that can win the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup should emerge - as well as providing a competitive base for future events. There was a great atmosphere at the meeting and we look forward to taking on teams from around the world!"

The Selection Trial events have been confirmed for RYA Team GBR:

Offshore - the RORC Morgan Cup starting on 5th May.  A 24-36 hour race round buoys in the Channel, starting and finishing in Cowes. Inshore - a Commodores' Cup rating band class in the Vice Admirals Cup on 18th -20th May, organised by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes.

The rules allow for up to four teams per country and one place has already been offered to Scotland who have until the end of February to confirm a team entry. If the Scottish sailors decide not to take the opportunity, then an additional three boats could make up a four team challenge from England.

In 2008 RYA Team GBR won the Commodores' Cup and narrowly missed out to Ireland in 2010. This year, the aim will be to pick four teams who have the potential to win this Summer as well as in future years.

2012 marks the 3rd consecutive challenge from Hong Kong for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup and the sailors in this southern most part of China are working hard to put together a strong team which will emulate or better their runners-up placing in 2010.

Possibly making a return to the fray is long-time stalwart of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC), Keith Jacobs, who sailed in several Admiral's Cups with his Dubois-designed Bimblegumbie and has recently returned to the club from Australia. This time Keith is a co-owner of the Kerr 40, Signal 8 which has just launched in Hong Kong and is headed up by co-owners Jamie McWilliam and Patrick Pender, the latter of whom who will drive the boat.

Likely to skipper a boat as well is Nick Burns who campaigned the Mills 40 Mandrake in the Hong Kong 2010 team, and well known Cowes Etchell sailor, Ante Razmilovic - now living in Hong Kong - is also working to put together a crew with Chris Opielok who skippered the small boat Rockall in 2010. Also donning wet weather gear in the Solent this summer will be RHKYC Vice Commodore Joachim Isler, who will return for his third campaign on one of the boats along with his Hong Kong boat partner, Aussie Andrew 'Drew' Taylor.

"Hong Kong's sailors love the world's best big-boat team event and are determined to keep coming back until they win it," says Team Coordinator, Laurence Mead who was helmsman of Mandrake in the 2010 Hong Kong challenge.

Hong Kong has taken part in the Commodores' Cup three times in 1992 (7th), 2008 (5th) and 2nd in 2010.

Published in Commodores Cup

The Royal Ocean Racing Club in London has awarded Niall Dowling's Royal Irish yacht Arabella (a J111)  the Alan Paul Trophy for consistent high performance in IRC, the Serendip Trophy for best series-produced Yacht in IRC, and the second place medallion in IRC overall for the 2011 RORC season.

Published in RORC
Ireland's 2010 Commodore's Cup winning captain showed his relief at the news that Hong Kong have been tipped as favourites for next July's event, The Irish Times reports.
The announcement was made this week at the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in London, and should lift a burden off an Irish squad which has long suffered under the weight of being pre-event favourites.
Ireland's concerns instead have turned to whether a team can even be assembled for next summer's event in light of the difficult economic environment - and despite the RORC opening the rating bands to allow for more flexible combinations of boat sizes.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) is seeking expressions of interest to form an Irish team and remains hopeful of mounting a serious defence of the title won by last year's Anthony O’Leary-captained squad.
The next Commodore's Cup - which also has a new title sponsor in Brewin Dolphin - takes place from 21 to 28 July 2012 in Cowes.

Ireland's 2010 Commodore's Cup winning captain showed his relief at the news that Hong Kong have been tipped as favourites for next July's event, The Irish Times reports.

The announcement was made this week at the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in London, and should lift a burden off an Irish squad which has long suffered under the weight of being pre-event favourites.

Ireland's concerns instead have turned to whether a team can even be assembled for next summer's event in light of the difficult economic environment - and despite the RORC opening the rating bands to allow for more flexible combinations of boat sizes.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) is seeking expressions of interest to form an Irish team and remains hopeful of mounting a serious defence of the title won by last year's Anthony O’Leary-captained squad.

The next Commodore's Cup - which also has a new title sponsor in Brewin Dolphin - takes place from 21 to 28 July 2012 in Cowes.

Published in Commodores Cup

After a record breaking Rolex Fastnet Race, the final race of the RORC Season's Points Championship takes place this weekend writes Louay Habib. After a scintillating season of racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club, current weather models pAfter a record breaking Rolex Fastnet Race, the final race of the RORC Season's Points Championship takes place this weekend. After a scintillating season of racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club, current weather models predict a light airs race, in sharp contrast to a very windy season.

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In IRC Zero Derek Saunders' CM 60, Venomous, has already clinched the class title but no doubt the team will be celebrating in style in Cherbourg, as this is their first series win with the yacht after three years of trying.

Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, has already wrapped up the class win in IRC One and after competing in nine races this season, the sky blue flyer is sitting out the race to Cherbourg. However, in IRC Two Neil Kipling's J/122, Joopster, needs to get a result against Ross Appleby's Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster, to be sure of the season win. Neither of these yachts has won their class for the RORC Season's Points Championship before but the conditions and the points favour Joopster to take their first RORC Season's Points Championship win.

Noel Racine's JPK 10.10, Foggy Dew, has an unassailable lead in IRC Three after picking up maximum points in the Rolex Fastnet Race but the team from Le Havre are still competing in the final race of the season.

IRC Four has been incredibly competitive and after a long and exciting season, the class title looks like going to French JPK 9.60, Ultreia!, skippered by Matthias Kracht. However Harry Heijst's S&S 41, Winsome, and Nigel Goodhew's Sigma 38, Persephone of London, are also racing to Cherbourg and will have a close battle for the runner up spot in IRC Four.

Matthias Kracht, skipper of Ultreia!, is a surgeon but he is obviously proficient in mathematics as he explained:

"By my calculations Ultreia! has a good enough points score in the Two-Handed Class to win the title for the season but we can still be beaten in IRC Four by two yachts, Jean Yves Chateau's Iromiguy, and also Ian Braham's Enigma, so we have decided to race to Cherbourg with a full crew to try to get a good result in IRC Four. Only two yachts have won both the Two-Handed Class and their IRC Class in the same season and they were both British yachts, Slingshot and Psipsina. So it would be a great achievement if we can add a French yacht to that."

Late entries for the RORC Cherbourg Race are possible until Thursday, 1st September, for more information visit: www.rorc.org <http://www.rorc.org>

Published in RORC
The largest, most diverse fleet of racing boats ever in offshore yachting set sail this morning in the Rolex Fastnet Race.
The biennial flagship event of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, a tradition since 1925, will take the fleet some 608 miles from Cowes on the Isle of Wight along the UK's south coast and across the Celtc Sea to Fastnet Rock off the Cork coastline, before returning past the Scilly Isles to the finish line at Plymouth.
An incredible 318 yachts are competing this year and they come in all shapes and sizes, from the 40m trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire to the 9.1m Rogers 30, Brightwork.
The majority of the fleet will be racing under the IRC for the Fastnet Challenge Cup, won by the crew that sails best to their rating. The weather will play a big part in this, as a fast start and slow finish favours bigger boats - so far today looks to be the opposite.
The 45-55 foot boats will surely provide the most competitive action, with past Fastnet winner Piet Vroon piloting his championship-leading Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens towards another victory.
Fans of the Volvo Ocean Race will also be watching the race live tracker intently today, as this is one of the only times many of the competitors will line up together before the start of the round-the-world yachting challenge.
www.fastnet.rorc.org
Regatta News has more on the story HERE.

The largest, most diverse fleet of racing boats ever in offshore yachting set sail this morning in the Rolex Fastnet Race.

The biennial flagship event of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, a tradition since 1925, will take the fleet some 608 miles from Cowes on the Isle of Wight along the UK's south coast and across the Celtc Sea to Fastnet Rock off the Cork coastline, before returning past the Scilly Isles to the finish line at Plymouth.

An incredible 318 yachts are competing this year and they come in all shapes and sizes, from the 40m trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire to the 9.1m Rogers 30, Brightwork.

The majority of the fleet will be racing under the IRC for the Fastnet Challenge Cup, won by the crew that sails best to their rating. The weather will play a big part in this, as a fast start and slow finish favours bigger boats - so far today looks to be the opposite.

The 45-55 foot boats will surely provide the most competitive action, with past Fastnet winner Piet Vroon piloting his championship-leading Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens towards another victory.

Fans of the Volvo Ocean Race will also be watching the race live tracker intently today, as this is one of the only times many of the competitors will line up together before the start of the round-the-world yachting challenge.

Regatta News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fastnet

RORC's Round Eddystone Lighthouse race aka the MYTH OF MALHAM RACE is considered a good dress rehearsal as well as being a qualifying race for this year's Rolex Fastnet Race and 125 yachts braved a windy forecast to compete in the race.

With a west north west wind between 15 and 25 knots and yachts experiencing gusts of over 30 knots it was a tough test and an excellent warm up for the fleet who had to beat all the way to the Eddystone lighthouse off Plymouth and experience a fast run back to the Solent.

French boats dominated the results taking three out of the top four places with Noel Rascine's Foggy Dew the overall winner. Foggy Dew, a JPK 10.10 and one of the smallest boats in the race, found the conditions very tough but finished the 240 mile course in 33 hours - seven hours behind the line honours winner, the Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens with her owner Piet Vroon on board. Second overall was another French yacht, the JPK 9.6 Ultreia!, owned by Matthias Kracht.

Amazingly, Matthias was sailing in and won the Two-Handed Class. Considering the weather conditions, this is a pretty special feat. Both Noel and Matthias were unable to comment today, as they were delivering their yachts back to France!

Third overall was Ross Appleby's 24 year old Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster, and the winner of IRC Two. Ross was delighted with the result having pushed this old design very hard to achieve a podium place: "As we left the Solent we could tell by the boats around us that we were doing well. We got headed quite early and we changed our plan by heading into Lyme Bay.

We were a bit anxious about the move in case the breeze died on us however, the move really paid off," explained Ross "It was a ballistic run back from the Eddystone with gusts of over 35 knots off Portland. We managed to keep the rig on top of the boat but the kite had other ideas blowing up in one big gust and we ran right over it and then broke the pole! We used our jockey-pole on our No. 3 headsail, which was not as fast, but that did mean we could sail straight down the rhumb line in control and we still managed 20 knots on the surf."

IRC Zero saw an epic duel between two yachts: Derek Saunders' CM 60, Venomous, crossed the finish line a mere 11 seconds ahead of Jens Kuehne's Reichel Pugh 48, Sjambok. However after time correction, Sjambok was declared winner of the class.

Jonathon Goring's brand new Ker 40, Keronimo was the winner of IRC One and 5th in IRC overall. By all accounts, the new yacht from the drawing board of America's Cup designer Jason Ker is a real speed machine. Tonnerre de Breskens was second and previous Myth of Malham winner, Mike Greville's Ker 39, Erivale III put in a great performance to take third.

"Ten days out of the box and straight into a very breezy race was bit of a baptism of fire!" commented Goring: "A 120 mile beat to Eddystone and then a screaming run back in 30 knots of wind was a great test for this brand new design. We got a good start in the middle of the Squadron Line and we were chuffed to be the first of the big boats out of the Solent. The run home was brilliant and we had some amazing surfs on the tidal over falls at each headland with long periods where the speed was over 20 knots. At times there was white water past the mast but we didn't broach once for the whole trip."

Neil Kipling's J 122, Joopster was second in IRC Two behind Scarlet Oyster. RORC Commodore, Andrew McIrvine's First 40, La Réponsewas third, after a close battle with another First 40, Edward Broadway's Carpe Diem.
As well as winning overall,Foggy Dew had a convincing win in IRC Three. James Heald's J 105, Flawless J was second overall with Peter Olden's A 35, Solan Goose of Hamble in third.

24 yachts competed in the Two Handed Class and only one of them did not finish the course; a testament to the seamanship of all the crews. The top three boats Ultreia!, Night and Day and Flawless J finished 2nd, 4th and 7th overall, which is a huge achievement in this top class fleet.

Two Class 40s enjoyed the fresh conditions, especially Cathrine Pourre's Earwenwhich took the class win from Mark Denton's MAXVMG.

Ultreia! won IRC 4, Pascal Loison was second in another JPK 960 Night and Day. In third place was Peter Diamond's Rapscallion, which also won the Sigma 38 class by nearly an hour, from Nigel Goodhew's Persephone of London. Jon England's Vitesse was third.

The conditions were tough and a good test for any serious offshore racer who has his eyes set on competing in this years Rolex Fastnet race. A number of boats had incidents including a man overboard, a dismasting and severe seasickness. This necessitated the emergency services being called out on three occasions.

The Myth of Malham counts for points towards the RORC Season's Points Championship and the overall leader is still Piet Vroon's Tonnerre de Breskens. Niall Dowling's J 111, Arabella is in second place and by virtue of his win this weekend Noel Racine's Foggy Dewmoves up to third overall.

The next race in the series is scheduled to start, next Friday 3rd June. The 180-mile North Sea Race from Harwich to Scheveningen in Holland. The Royal Ocean Racing Club's Season's Points Championship consists of a testing series of races, which attracts an international and varied fleet. Trying to win the Season's Points Championship is a real challenge for the serious offshore sailor. This year the Championship includes the tactically and physically challenging Rolex Fastnet Race, the oldest and most prestigious offshore yacht race in the world.

For the full RORC racing programme, results and more information go to: http://www.rorc.org/

Published in RORC
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