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The final day of the RORC Easter Challenge produced yet another variation in conditions with a medium-strong easterly breeze piping up to nearly 20 knots. The sturdy easterly going tide, built during the day, to create classic Solent chop. 

After two intensive coaching days from Mason King’s team ably assisted by North Sails, the focus moved to putting the lessons learnt into practice and literally win the Easter Chocolates. Every class winner was decided in the very last race, producing a thrilling climax to the regatta.

Class winners receiving RORC recycled Keepers were Mills 39 Team Hero on Zero II skippered by James Gair, Ed Mockridge’s JPK 1010 Elaine Again, and Lance Adams’ Cape 31 Katabatic.

Team Hero on Zero II Photo: Paul WyethTeam Hero on Zero II Photo: Paul Wyeth

Cape 31 Katabatic Photo: Paul WyethCape 31 Katabatic Photo: Paul Wyeth

JPK 1010 Elaine Again Photo: Paul WyethJPK 1010 Elaine Again Photo: Paul Wyeth

RORC Vice Commodore Richard Palmer welcomed all the teams to the RORC Easter Challenge Prizegiving. Richard thanked the RORC race team for their excellent organisation and also the Royal Yacht Squadron for hosting all the teams at The Pavilion, while the RORC Clubhouse was under construction. Richard Palmer started the customary Easter Egg Toss with every team getting in the chocolates on Easter Sunday.

For the final day of racing, PRO Stuart Childerley and the RORC team set up a windward leeward course between The Brambles Bank and the North Channel for two tactical races. This was followed by a round the cans race, at every point of sail, with a finish towards Cowes for the RORC Easter Challenge Prize Giving.

Congratulations to Easter Sunday race winners: Giovanni Belgrano’s Giles 39 Classic Whooper, Ben Pritchard’s Cape 31 Akheilos, The Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier skippered by Henry Foster, Ian Watkins’ Fareast 28 Mako, Derek Shakespeare’s J/122 Bulldog, and Lance Adams’ Cape 31 Katabatic.

Mills 39 Team Hero on Zero II Photo: Paul WyethMills 39 Team Hero on Zero II Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC TWO

Mills 39 Team Hero on Zero II won the regatta by a single point. J/122 Bulldog won the last race but after the discard came in that was not enough. Sun Fast 3600 British Soldier was third by just two points.

“We cleaned up all the mistakes we had on the first two days and by the last day we were on it,” commented Zero II tactician Guy Sherbourne. “We knew we had to stay in touch with Bulldog and it came down to just the one point. We had some really great information from Ian Walker, we took that on board and we got our trim to where it was supposed to be. Those little incremental pieces of advice make the difference, it is where we got our speed from.”

JPK 1010 Elaine Again Photo: Paul Wyeth JPK 1010 Elaine Again Photo: Paul Wyeth 

IRC THREE

JPK 1010 Elaine Again was the most consistent team at the regatta, scoring all podium race finishes to win the class by two points. John Smart’s J/109 Jukebox was just two points behind in second. Giovanni Belgrano’s Giles 39 Classic Whooper won the last three races to finish third by just two points.

“Before the regatta the main aim was to get the boat and the crew dialled in,” commented Elaine Again’s Ed Mockeridge. “ We have a new J1 and we got that out on Saturday, which was very useful. The crew have been together for a long time but we wanted to check that we are as quick as we were, as this is the first inshore regatta for us since last summer. We had excellent competition from Jukebox and Whooper and this has been a really good regatta to kick start our season, we have the Warsash Spring Champs in three weeks’ time and we will be at the IRC Nationals in Poole later this year.”

Cape 31 Katabatic Photo: Paul Wyeth Cape 31 Katabatic Photo: Paul Wyeth 

CAPE 31

The Cape 31 Class went right to the wire, Katabatic eventually taking the regatta win by winning the final race by just eight seconds after IRC time correction. Simon Perry’s Jiraffe won the first three races but was pipped to first in class by a single point. Ben Prichard’s Akheilos scored two race wins to finish the regatta in third.

“More than half our crew are new this year, there are a lot of things we have been working on so this training regatta is a great event to try them out,” commented Katabatic’s Lance Adams. “We have found a number of areas that can be improved, which is important and the whole point of coming to the regatta. When we go training, we can really sort out manoeuvres but you don’t have the intensity of a start line and boat-on-boat, moding, all that kind of stuff. Those are the key areas that you can get by coming to the RORC Easter Regatta – all boats should do it really, it is so beneficial for the rest of the year, this has been a tough battle”
This year’s RORC Easter Challenge featured many new teams using the training regatta to kick start their programmes including Jonny Hewat & Lucian Stone’s Cape 31 Narwhal, the Royal Navy Sailing Association’s Corby 29 Cutlass, Alain Waha’s J/99 Further West, Julian James’ A31 Thunderbault, and Max Walker’s Sun Fast 3600 Elysium IV.

Grieg City Academy's Cote skippered by Kai Hockley Photo: Paul WyethGrieg City Academy's Cote skippered by Kai Hockley Photo: Paul Wyeth 

The Royal Ocean Racing Club was delighted to see more young sailors than in previous years including the Greig City Academy racing Quarter Tonner Cote. RORC Treasurer Derek Shakespeare's J/122 Bulldog had seven crew in their twenties and on windy Easter Friday, when it was too much for the Quarter Tonner Cote to race, Bulldog invited two of the Cote team on board to race.

J/122 Bulldog with Richard Palmer Photo: Paul Wyeth J/122 Bulldog with Richard Palmer Photo: Paul Wyeth 

“It keeps me young!” commented Derek Shakespeare about his youth crew. “I have been very lucky to put together a crew of fantastically talented youngsters that race around the cans and go offshore and we all love it. They bring huge enthusiasm and energy and hopefully they are learning a lot as well. The RORC have been running the Griffin Youth Project since the 1940s.In recent years we have seen a real drive. The Club has put more money into the programme and Griffin Chair Jim Driver has produced a really well-organised campaign. The Club has had huge interest with 300 sailors under 30 applying for the Griffin Project. Other Club Members are also encouraging you such as Gavin Howe and James Harayda. Youth is the future of our sport. We have to get them on board and give them a chance to learn and have a good time with friends of their own age.”

RORC Easter Challenge Results below

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The 2024 RORC Easter Challenge got underway in ‘sporty’ conditions on Good Friday with strong gusty conditions in the Eastern Solent.

The first European fixture of the Royal Ocean Racing Club 2024 programme is billed as a training regatta with Mason King’s coaching team strengthened by support from Ian Walker from North Sails and veteran charter boat skipper Andy Middleton. Rules on outside assistance are relaxed, allowing top coaches to aid competitors in kick starting their season.

Cape 31 Katabatic on day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth Cape 31 Katabatic on day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth 

PRO Stuart Childerley set one race for the opening day for all classes with a Spring Tide going west for the duration.

Congratulations to today’s race winners in the IRC Classes: Derek Shakespeare’s J/122 Bulldog, John Smart’s J/109 Jukebox, and Simon Perry’s Cape 31 Jiraffe.

Giles 39 Classic Whooper on day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth Giles 39 Classic Whooper on day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth 

Race One was held in brilliant sunshine with a stiff wind from SSW gusting well over 20 knots. A course of six legs from every point of sail, tested boat handling plus the ability to judge lay lines in a building cross-tide. After racing, a video debrief was held at the Royal Yacht Squadron Pavilion. The coaching team presented to a full turn-out of competitors eager to learn.

“For the majority of the crews racing at the RORC Easter Challenge, this was an opportunity to sail together as a team for the first time since the winter lay-off," commented Mason King. “In 25 knots of wind and at the start of the season, the important areas to focus on are boat handling and that is positively affected by good crew organisation and communication. Teamwork is all important for getting the manoeuvres right but we did see a number of boats spinning out today, especially when gybing.”

North Sails' Ian Walker on day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth North Sails' Ian Walker on day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth 

Ian Walker, UK General Manager for North Sails was out on the water in a coaching role. Ian is a double Olympic medallist and winning skipper of the Volvo Ocean Race, but also coached Shirley Robertson, Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton for the Yngling gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.

RORC Easter Challenge Debrief after day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth RORC Easter Challenge Debrief after day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth 

Ian Walker commented at the debrief. “For teams that are just getting the boats and themselves back on the water, that was a pretty tough day. However, teams that got out there have made progress, not just for this regatta but for the season ahead.”

Just some of Ian’s ‘golden nuggets’ at the video debrief:

“When it’s windy it is hard to accelerate at the start because if you bear away, you haven’t got the righting moment to gain speed, you have to stay high so you don’t fall over. In terms of sail set up, It was gusty and shifty, so a forgiving trim set up is what you want. You need to get rid of the heeling moment with twist in the sail, especially at the top but not the whole sail as you need to be able to point.”

“The wind was shifty today, so you probably don’t want to get too near lay lines upwind, because the chances are that it is not going to stay lifted on one tack or the other all the way to the mark. It is probably better to stay in the middle of the course and play the shifts.”

Ker 36 Skermisher on day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth Ker 36 Skermisher on day one of the 2024 RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent Photo: Paul Wyeth 

“Downwind, calling the gusts was very important, and the team needs to react. Just coming down five degrees is a simple solution, but you have to have a crew member calling the gusts and emphasising the big bullets of pressure.”

Racing continues at the RORC Easter Challenge tomorrow, Saturday 30 March.

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The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) has announced the return of its Easter Challenge, a much anticipated event that kick-starts the racing season for many teams. The training regatta, which has been running for over 20 years, offers an excellent opportunity for world-class coaching that is complimentary for all entrants. 

RORC Racing Manager, Steve Cole, said, “The overall aim of the RORC Easter Challenge is to improve the performance of any team, regardless of their skill level. We want the sailors to gain from it, and the coaches have been chosen especially with that in mind. The RORC Race Team will split the fleets into IRC classes, but for this regatta, we also try to put boats together that have similar training requirements. This makes the best use of the coaches at the regatta. The coaching system is very interactive.”

Leading the coaching team is Mason King, supported by Ian Walker and North Sails experts, who provide on-water coaching, as well as video debriefs after racing on Friday and Saturday. World Sailing Rules on outside assistance are relaxed, so for no additional cost to all the teams, hand-picked coaches provide pin-point assistance to get crews of any level up to speed. 

The regatta will take place over three days from Easter Friday to Easter Sunday in The Solent, with courses designed to practice boat handling and performance over a range of sailing angles. This creates various options in sail choice, racing mode, plus deck and rig set up, all under the watchful eye of experts who will offer help to improve performance.

In addition to the racing, a competitor WhatsApp group will be active throughout the RORC Easter Challenge, providing information about the intentions of the Race Committee, while also serving as a two-way channel for competitors to request coaching advice during racing.

This year's regatta is supported by the Royal Yacht Squadron, with competitors welcome to The Pavilion on the Squadron lawn throughout the event and for video debriefs. The RORC Easter Challenge awards traditional prizes of Easter Eggs, but the real winners are all the sailors, improving every aspect of yacht racing ability at a safe and friendly regatta.

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The Easter treats continued for close to 300 hundred sailors taking part in the RORC Easter Challenge. Fabulous sailing conditions continued in the Solent for Day Two of the regatta. The RORC Race Committee, led by Steve Cole, with Paul Jackson as PRO, organised two race courses giving the fleet a mixture of windward-leeward races and round the cans courses. Three races were completed for all three IRC Classes; a south-easterly breeze of 10 to 16 knots, with beautiful spring sunshine, provided superb racing.

A race debrief was held at the RORC Cowes Clubhouse with more expert advice from Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey and the coaching team, and included drone footage from North Sails of starts, mark roundings and boat handling. Those unable to attend watched the presentation via Zoom with documents, videos and pictures also uploaded to the Cloud. “What a fantastic job by the RORC Race Committee; a great mixture of courses, which is what you want for a training regatta,” commented Dog Palfrey. “We have seen some solid improvements since the first day. There is still a way to go to be consistently well-sailed, but every team has made ground towards that goal.”

Another day of coaching on and off the water Photo: Paul WyethAndrew 'Dog' Palfrey and the North Sails coaches continued their valued post-race debrief sessions at the RORC Clubhouse

Andrew 'Dog' Palfrey and the North Sails coaches continued their valued post-race debrief sessions at the RORC ClubhouseAndrew 'Dog' Palfrey and the North Sails coaches continued their valued post-race debrief sessions at the RORC Clubhouse

IRC One

Intense racing in the big boat class saw Ian Atkins’ GP42 Dark N Stormy score two more bullets to take a firm grip on the class, but it was far from easy. In Race 5, a well-executed gybe by Dark N Stormy could well have made the difference, with them taking the win by just one second after IRC time correction from Dutch Ker 46 Van Uden. Harmen Jan de Graaf’s Dutch Ker 43 Baraka Gp turned the tables on Dark N Stormy, winning the last race of the day by two seconds after time IRC time correction.

“Really great organisation today by the RORC, mixing up the windward leeward races with some well thought-out round the cans courses,” commented Dark N Stormy’s Ian Atkins. “All of the boats in IRC One are almost the same, but we all have our own areas of advantage. Usually, we are not the first to the top mark, so we have definitely put the gybe set into our armoury to get that separation. Brilliant coaching on the water makes this event outstanding at the start of any campaign.”

Ian Atkin’s GP42 Dark ‘n Stormy Photo: Paul WyethIan Atkin’s GP42 Dark ‘n Stormy Photo: Paul Wyeth

Harmen Jan de Graaf's Dutch Ker 43 One-off Baraka Gp Photo: Paul WyethHarmen Jan de Graaf's Dutch Ker 43 One-off Baraka Gp

IRC One saw intense racing in the big boat fleet Photo: Paul WyethIRC One saw intense racing in the big boat fleet Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC Two

After posting a 1-2-4 today, J/112 Happy Daize raced by Team Knight Build, retained the class lead by a single point from The Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier. Cape 31 Tokoloshe 4, skippered by Dave Bartholomew, has kept third in class, but only on countback from Andrew McIrvine’s Ker 39 La Réponse.

“We love this regatta,” commented Henry Foster, skipper of Fujitsu British Soldier. “The debriefs are really useful because we have a lot of crew turbulence due to Army commitments, so the learnings from this regatta are invaluable for the new crew who have joined us this weekend. I have been doing this regatta for 15 years and what RORC and North Sails provide is really good for setting up the boat for the season. This is a great regatta and we really enjoy it. We have been working on our upwind settings and we got a lot of good feedback from Andrew Palfrey. Tactically, we have improved our starts and getting into the phase of the shifts up the first beat. We have bigger boats in our class and it is very important to perform well on the first beat. We have been improving race-on-race, so we are really pleased.”

Andrew McIrvine’s Ker 39 La Réponse is crewed by friends that have known each other for many years. Team Larry, as they are known, will be competing at two bucket-list events this year. They are chartering a boat for Antigua Sailing Week at the end of this month, then in July, the Ker 39 La Réponse will be racing at Volvo Cork Week, which is also the Royal Cork Yacht Club’s 300th birthday. “Larry’s back having fun. We are a bunch of friends with no professionals. The racing’s great, the craic’s great, and I am loving it!” commented Andrew McIrvine.

Team Knight Build on J/112 Happy Daize, skippered by James Chalmers Photo: Paul WyethTeam Knight Build on J/112 Happy Daize, skippered by James Chalmers Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC Two start on Day 2 of the RORC Easter Challenge Photo: Paul WyethIRC Two start on Day 2 of the RORC Easter Challenge Photo: Paul Wyeth

The Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier, skippered by Henry Foster Photo: Paul WyethThe Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier, skippered by Henry Foster Photo: Paul Wyeth

Andrew McIrvine's Ker 39 La RéponseAndrew McIrvine's Ker 39 La Réponse Photo: Paul Wyeth

Michael Bartholomew's Cape 31 Tokoloshe 4 Photo: Paul WyethMichael Bartholomew's Cape 31 Tokoloshe 4 Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC Three

Quarter Tonner Bullit, skippered by Julian Metherell retains the class lead, but failed to keep up their perfect scoreline from the first day. Lena Having’s Corby 33 Mrs Freckles had a great day at the races, including winning Race 5 to retain second place. J/109 Mojo Risin’ skippered by Rob Cotterill also had a great day, scoring two podium race finishes to move up to third in class.

Elan 450 Emily of Cowes is skippered by the highly experienced Richard Oswald, but for the RORC Easter Regatta, a new crew has been put together to start a campaign by RORC member Geoff Johns. “Most of the crew are new to keelboat racing having sailed dinghies on reservoirs in the past. Richard Oswald suggested we should come to the RORC Easter Challenge and we are very glad that we have. The racing is extremely well-organised and the debriefs are an invaluable way for us to learn. Also, having on-the-water coaching gives us expert advice to improve our performance.”

The smallest boat at the regatta, Julian Metherell’s Quarter Tonner Bullit retains the class lead in IRC Three Photo: Paul WyethThe smallest boat at the regatta, Julian Metherell’s Quarter Tonner Bullit retains the class lead in IRC Three Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC Three start Photo: Paul WyethIRC Three start Photo: Paul Wyeth

Results here

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The RORC Easter Challenge is back with three days of racing in the Solent over the Easter Bank Holiday, 15-17 April.

Organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club for over 30 years, the RORC Easter Challenge offers crews the chance for some vital pre-season training and fine-tuning. With on the water coaching, teams will be guided by world-class coaches from North U and also Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey. The RORC Cowes Clubhouse will be regatta-central for video debriefs after racing, plus daily prize givings.

“The fleet will be divided into three IRC Classes, with windward-leeward and round the cans courses; there will also be practice starts,” confirmed RORC Race Officer Steve Cole. “Glassware will be presented to the class winners, and there will be plenty of Easter Eggs as daily prizes. However, the main aim of the RORC Easter Regatta is to get tuned up for the season ahead. The coaches will be giving their help right through the fleet, with top advice on rig set-up, trimming, driving and manoeuvres.”

Leading the coaching team will be Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey who lives in Cowes and is respected as one of the top coaches in the world. “The RORC Easter Challenge has been an excellent way to start the season for many years,” commented Palfrey. “From the coaches’ point of view, it is really about getting everyone back out on the water and looking at areas where teams may be a little weaker. We will be chatting with teams on the water and highlighting areas in the nicest possible way in the debriefs. We hope to see a general improvement throughout the event, especially in teamwork, boat handling and starts, which are all critical parts of any race. The absolute goal for the coaches is to help people and, in that respect, we welcome interaction from all the sailors.”

Dutch Ker 46 Van Uden will be raced by a youth team, skippered by Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Gerd-Jan PoortmanDutch Ker 46 Van Uden will be raced by a youth team, skippered by Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Gerd-Jan Poortman Photo: Paul Wyeth

Dutch Ker 46 Van Uden will be raced by a youth team, skippered by Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Gerd-Jan Poortman: “Van Uden will be racing with the RORC for much of the season, leading up to the season highlight, which will be in the IRC European Championships in Breskens this August,” confirmed Poortman. “I was very pleased to see that we are allowed two additional crew for this regatta. Van Uden has a big squad of both men and women sailors who are all keen to race. After the disappointment of retiring from the Rolex Fastnet last year, it will be great for all of us to return to Cowes for this regatta.”

Van Uden will have good competition within their class, including fellow Dutch competitor, Ker 43 Baraka GP, skippered by Harmen Jan de Graaf. Also in the big boat class will be Ian Atkins at the helm of a new team, racing GP42 Dark N Stormy. RORC Commodore James Neville will be racing at the helm of his HH42 INO XXX.

Cape31 Class Manager Dave Bartholomew reports that at least five Cape31s are planning to race at the RORC Easter Challenge. Mike Bartholomew’s Tokoloshe 4, Russell Peters’ Squirt and Roger Bowden’s Nifty are among the early entries. “Easter is a natural starting point for the season,” commented Dave Bartholomew, who has competed at the regatta for over a decade. “An early-season three-day regatta is where we can start honing skills with training and coaching. It is a great way to get up-to-speed at the beginning of the year. Also, as the regatta is held over the bank holiday, the crew do not need to take time off work. The RORC Easter Challenge has a nice, relaxed atmosphere; it is really fun to do.”

Chris Jones and Louise Makin’s J/111 Journeymaker II Photo: Rick TomlinsonChris Jones and Louise Makin’s J/111 Journeymaker II Photo: Rick Tomlinson

The Cape31s are bound for a battle within their class. A close battle is expected between bigger performance cruisers including, Andrew McIrvine’s Ker 39 La Réponse, Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood, James Gair’s Mills 39 Zero II, and Chris Jones & Louise Makin’s J/111 Journeymaker II.

IRC Three could well be the largest class at the regatta with a heady mix of displacement keelboats including Elan 450 Emily of Cowes, skippered by Richard Oswald, Harry Heijst's evergreen S&S 41 Winsome, and the Royal Naval Sailing Association J/109 Yacht Jolly Jack Tar. The smallest yacht of the early entries is Gavin Doyle's highly successful Irish Corby 25 Duff Lite.

Competing in IRC Three - Harry Heijst's S&S 41 Winsome Photo: Rick TomlinsonCompeting in IRC Three - Harry Heijst's S&S 41 Winsome Photo: Rick Tomlinson

The RORC Cowes Clubhouse will be serving complimentary pasta and beer before each debrief session, with the Clubhouse Restaurant available for bookings every night. The RORC Easter Challenge prize giving will take place on Sunday 17th April, with the bar open throughout the regatta.

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April has come upon us with so many podium positions suddenly taken by Irish sailors in major events that you could have been forgiven for thinking that our usual April 1st specials had been allowed to run on for a day or two extra writes W M Nixon. But before fully savouring the new successes, we must bid a final farewell to March, which had its moments of extreme excitement - and some taking of silverware too.

Nothing was more extreme than the RORC Easter Challenge in the Solent from March 25th to 27th, with the tail-end of the winter providing one final ferocious flick for a fleet which included several bats with Irish connections And within the series, nothing was more extreme than Black Sunday, March 27th, when hyper- black striker squalls of the kind that would make you wonder if the roof on the house was safe, let alone if you could carry extra downwind sails on the boat, were top of the agenda as they swept in at record speeds.

Yet Black Sunday was the best day for the Irish, with two wins being recorded in the final race. Until then, Anthony O’Leary’s Kery 40 Antix in the Fast40+ division had been had been out of the frame – albeit by a small margin – by what the owner had cheerfully admitted to be “silly mistakes”. But on that final day as mayhem was the experience of most of the fleet, Antix was beautifully in control at top performance, tearing up the Solent in a blaze of spray to take the final race win, though she wasn’t to finish first overall.

But in Class 2, Conor Phelan’s 2008-vintage Ker 36 Jump Juice had been lying second throughout the series, despite being up against some superbly-sailed boats which included America’s Cup sailors among their crews. Yet even the AC aces found themselves wiping out in spectacular style on Black Sunday, while Jump Juice streaked along in cool control to take the race win and the Class win overall to make Conor Phelan of Royal Cork YC the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for March 2016.

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Royal Cork Yacht Club's Jump Juice (Conor Phelan) has won the 17–boat class two fleet of RORC's Easter Challenge on the Solent today in dramatic fashion. Clubmate Antix (Anthony O'Leary) at the helm of Antix was the winner of today's breezy FAST 40+ race but the Royal Cork yacht did not retain the overall trophy won in 2015 and finished fourth overall.

If traditionally the RORC Easter Challenge is the Royal Ocean Racing Club's coaching regatta, today's lesson centred upon heavy weather sailing technique.

As the fleet returned to yesterday's start area around Peel Bank, conditions were sunny and relatively benign, but with giant grey clouds looming. During today's one race, a squall stuck down the fleet with gale force gusts of up to 40 knots. In addition to numerous broaches, there were two man overboard incidents; one on James Neville's INO XXX racing in the FAST 40+ class, the other on RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine's First 40, La Réponse.

On La Réponse the vang trimmer got washed overboard during a Chinese gybe. As McIrvine described it: "We were absolutely dead downwind and a little bit by the lee and a big gust took us the other way. We let the vang off too much and the boat rolled and we Chinesed in."

Fortunately the MOB's lifejacket inflated and they were recovered after a few minutes and hauled onto a RIB by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd and lead coach, Jim Saltonstall. The incident cost La Réponse victory in IRC Two, where today's race was claimed by former RORC Commodore Mike Greville on his Ker 39 Erivale III and the class prize went to Ireland's Conor Phelan and his Ker 37, Jump Juice.

Phelan described today: "We were happy to pull it off because the conditions were quite challenging." During the race they saw 35 knots. "I thought we were going to go down the mine on the run," said tactician Mike Budd. "We had to drop the kite and do two gybes at the bottom which was a bit wild but our main competitor [La Réponse] span out at that point which was bad luck to them because they sailed well."

With the big forecast, eight of the 10 FAST40+ class pitched up today but only four finished. While James Neville's INO XXX got away well at the pin, Mike Bartholomew's Tokoloshe II did well being first to hoist her kite. However the South Africans subsequently struggled to retrieve their kite causing it to fly like a flag from the masthead. Eventually the crew relinquished, performing a 'chase boat drop' with the assistance of RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen.

unnamed 37

Anthony O'Leary's Antix at full speed on the Solent this afternoon. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Today's FAST 40+ race was won by Anthony O'Leary's Ker 40, Antix. For the Irish two time Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup winner, this event was their first sailing this season. However O'Leary acknowledged that Antix prefers the big conditions. "Pound for pound, we sail better in a gale than in a calm." However, in similar conditions, they had finished fourth in yesterday's race. "We made some silly mistakes and you deserve to get punished for that. Our mark rounding was getting better as the weekend went on."

Ultimately Texan William Coates' Ker 43 Otra Vez was the overall winner of the FAST40+ class' first ever regatta. Peter Morton's Carkeek 40 Mk3 Girls on Film didn't compete today leaving Sir Keith Mills' Ker 40+ Invictus to take second overall.

Mills stated: "We saw 37 knots of wind and then various things started blowing away and we had a wonderful broach, when we nearly lost one of our guys over the side. We hit something like 23-24 knots downwind, but I had so much water in my face that I couldn't see the instruments. You need a snorkel and goggles! They are wet boats but such great fun to sail. My boat is like racing a dinghy."

Despite a strong challenge from David Franks' JPK 10.10 Strait Dealer, which claimed three bullets in five races, it was the newer, larger JPK 10.80 Sunrise that prevailed in IRC Three, winning today's race.

"This is the first time I have won a yacht race - which is why we're drinking at 1100!" enthused Sunrise's skipper, Tom Kneen. "We've only had the boat for four weeks and she's just astonishing - very very fast and in quite difficult conditions."

Kneen experienced his first Chinese gybe yesterday, but today calmed down, which he attributed to the coaching they received yesterday. "That was very useful - about moving our weight around the boat which makes such a difference. The whole process of this weekend has enabled us to build, so I am looking forward to the season."

In IRC Four Harry Heijst and his Winsome claimed today's race and the overall class win. The conditions over the Easter weekend perfectly suited the classic Dutch S&S 41. One of the most impressive performances in IRC Four was that of the Sam Laidlaw-helmed Quarter Tonner, Aguila. "It is a real handful and very hard to get uphill because you are almost overpowered," said Laidlaw of sailing the mini boat in the big wind. "It was gusting 35-38 knots, but we were planning at 16!"

Quarter Tonners aren't supposed to plane? "Someone forgot to tell the boat that! We got to the bottom of the run and all we could see was white water everywhere. We had a great time - great fun."

Racing Manager, Nick Elliott concluded: "While conditions were challenging over the regatta, this provided the perfect opportunity to gain valuable experience from our world class coaches and will certainly have jump started each participant's season."

Published in RORC

High speed, adrenalin pumping, ultra-competitive racing came to the Solent on the first day of RORC's Easter Challenge 2016 in what many agree is the most exciting development to have taken place in big boat keel boat racing in the UK for decades writes James Boyd.

The long-awaited advent of competition for the new FAST40+s, the big boat class at the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Easter Challenge, coincided today with chilly, but summery conditions. Three races were sailed with the wind peaking at 15-20 knots during race two. Royal Cork's Antix scored a 9,8,4 to be eighth overall in a fleet of ten.

Among the ten FAST40s, there was a different winner in each race, but ultimately there were two stand-out performers in American William Coates' Ker 43, Otra Vez, and Peter Morton's brand new Carkeek 40 Mk3, Girls on Film. They won the third and first races, respectively, while Sir Keith Mills' Ker 40+, Invictus, claimed race two when the FAST40+s were sailing at wind speed.

"It has gone really well," said FAST40+ Class President, Robert Greenhalgh. "It has been a lot of hard work by everybody, but all the owners have pulled in the same direction to make it happen, and have spent the money and got the boats. The RORC and IRC [the RORC Racing Office] have been very supportive and we've had a lot of sponsors that have come in to help bring it all together."

Greenhalgh was pleased that most teams posted good results today.

Himself a former Volvo Ocean Race winner and 18ft skiff and International 14 World Championship, Greenhalgh calls tactics on Invictus which today posted a 6-1-8 scoreline. This leaves them third overall, six points adrift of Girls on Film and tied with two modified GP42s, Tony Dickins' Jubilee and South African Mike Bartholomew's Tokoloshe II.

Invictus got buried at the start of the first race, got away cleanly in race two and then suffered a mishap coming into the top mark in the final race that cost them. "This is about close racing and not making mistakes," advises Greenhalgh.

Overall leader by two points today is Otra Vez. FAST40+ crewscan include up to five ISAF Cat3 'professionals' of their 11. Sailing with Coates are heavyweight Volvo Ocean Race veterans Steve Hayles, Luke Molloy and Phil Harmer.

"The fleet is very high quality, it is living up to expectations. It was fantastic racing and it is only going to get better, which is what is nice about it," said Coates of today's inaugural racing for the FAST40+s. Previously Coates raced his Ker 43 in the US and the Caribbean before moving her to the Mediterranean last year and now onto the UK. "I think we improved a little bit every race. Most of the crew had never stepped on board before yesterday - they are excellent, but it was about getting familiar with some of the basics today. Plus we do have a little bit of waterline [advantage]. If we get better starts, it helps get us into clear air."

While the FAST40+s stole the show today, in the other three classes there were also standout performers, including RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine on his First 40, La Réponse, whose two bullets in today's final races, give him a three point lead in IRC Two. Second overall is O'Leary's clubmate Conor Phelan sailing Jump Juice, who counts 2,5,4 in the 17–boat fleet.

In IRC Four, it is the closest at the topwith Sam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner, Aguila, a mere half point ahead of Harry J. Heijst's perennial S&S 41, Winsome.

In IRC Three the latest hardware is prevailing in Tom Kneen's Sunrise. This is a JPK 1080 sistership to last year's Rolex Fastnet Race winner, Courrier Du Leon. Today Kneen and his Plymouth-based crew were top scorers posting a 1-2-2, despite having only had the boat for three weeks and today being just the third day of racing her.

"We had an Elan E4, in which we had a brilliant season last year and learned a lot. I was looking for a boat of this size which would be competitive and so far it has been. I am absolutely delighted," saidKneen, who intends to enter the selection for the British team in this year's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.

While Kneen has had to adjust from wheel to tiller steering over the last few days, today came good he felt because of the first class effort of the crew, which includes five who sailed with him last season.

For this time of year, it would have been hard to beat today's conditions. Sadly tomorrow the wind is looking tougher with gale force gusts predicted for the afternoon. Principal Race Officer Stuart Childerley is keeping fingers crossed that conditions will be sailable in the morning before the front arrives.

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 - pwpictures.com

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

#rorc – While it is always tempting to spend money on new sails or other go-faster widgets, coaching is often overlooked by amateur crews as a means of gaining boat speed through improved trim and set-up or just generally getting around the race course in a more efficient, slick manner.

One option is to hire your own coach. Another is to take part in the RORC's UK season opener, the RORC Easter Challenge, taking place over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend (3rd to the 5th April), where some of the country's leading experts will be on the water to offer crews advice. This might be general observations, but crews are also encouraged to ask the coaches to focus on any specific aspects they feel in need of attention. And all of this is FREE to competitors.

As always, the RORC Easter Challenge coaching team will be led by uber-coach Jim Saltonstall, ably assisted by RORC CEO and former America's Cup coach Eddie Warden Owen, plus Mason King. After making their successful debut at the event last year, the Easter Challenge will also see the return of North U Regatta Services, represented by sailmaker/coaches Chuck Allen and Andreas Josenhans, who are flying across from the USA especially for the event.

Based out of North's Rhode Island loft, Allen is a former two time college all-American champion and now a one design specialist while Josenhans, from Canada, is a two time Soling and Star World Champion, was a trimmer on Bill Koch's America's Cup winner, America3, and holds a lengthy, distinguished CV in elite level international yacht racing.

North U Regatta Services regularly attends regattas in the USA such as the NOOD series and Quantum Key West Race Week.

Like last year, Allen and Josenhans will also be joining Jim Saltonstall in the invaluable post-race debriefs, where they will be analysing each day's action on the water aided by photos and video. Following the RORC's merger with the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes, these debriefs will this year take place in the new clubhouse and not in the Events Centre at Cowes Yacht Haven.

Making his debut at the RORC Easter Challenge is four time UK Match Racing Champion turned Figaro sailor Nick Cherry, with his 32ft Figaro Beneteau II, Redshift. This year Cherry is gunning to improve British results in the ultra-competitive Solitaire du Figaro, singlehanded offshore racing's unofficial world championship and is making use of the coaching available at the Easter Challenge in his work-up.

"We get a lot of coaching in France, but it is always good to get some eyes off the boat and Jim Saltonstall's feedback is always invaluable," says Cherry, who admits that his first coaching from the eminent Saltonstall occurred at an Eric Twiname youth regatta when he was nine years old. "It is always entertaining to hear him talking, but he's always got something useful to say. And people said the North U seminar was good last year. A lot of the sailing I do with the Redshift program involves sailing fully crewed and there are some different techniques to doing that. So to get some feedback on the techniques for that will definitely be helpful."

Cherry adds that he is hoping that the coaching team will be able to give him some feedback on the new sails he'll have on Redshift.

An Easter Challenge regular is also returning in the form of Mike Moxley and his crew on the HOD35 Malice, recently returned from having competed in the RORC Caribbean 600 on board a chartered boat.

For Moxley the free coaching at the Easter Challenge is one of the event's prime attractions.

"It is incredibly useful. Unless you pay someone else to do it, you don't get a professional coach coming up to you and looking, for example, at the sail set, the twist in the main, how the jib is set and the rig, etc. Also being able to take trimmers off the boat and on to a RIB, you get to see things from 30-40 metres away that often you can't fully see from on the boat.

"It is very useful to have an expert actually taking you through different aspects of what you're doing and telling you whether it is right, wrong or indifferent. In fact it is a bit disappointing when they come alongside and they say everything is okay and they head off to see someone else!"

The Easter Challenge is unique in the RORC calendar in that RRS 41 - Outside Help is waived to permit coaches to come on board during racing or, equally, crew to jump on to a coaching RIB to see their set-up from off the boat.

Crews looking for coaching are advised to let the RORC know in advance if there are any specific aspects of their sailing, sails or trim that they wish to have examined.

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Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2023 Coastal Class

Two Irish hopes in the 2023 Fastnet Race from Cowes will compete first in a 20-boat Coastal Class at July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta (VDLR).

Pre-event favourites must be the First 50 Checkmate XX, fresh from Sovereign's Cup victory (three wins from four races sailed) and the Grand Soleil 44 Samatom.

Four races and one discard for the coastal division will be under International Race Officer Con Murphy.

The course will be decided on the race day and communicated to each skipper via a dedicated Offshore WhatsApp group at least one hour before the start. 

The finish will be between the Pier Ends at the Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance. The finishing time will be taken from the Yellowbrick tracker system.

The class will be the first to start on Thursday, with a warning signal at 1425 and 0955 on Friday. Coastal starts at 1055 on Saturday and 0955 on Sunday. 

The course will use DBSC Marks, Volvo Yellow inflatable Top Hat and Shipping Navigation Marks.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2023 Coastal Class Entries

GBR 8859R Jackknife J125 Andrew Hall Pwllheli
GBR 8911R Jezebel J111 1.093 Cris Miles Pwllheli Sailing Club
IRL 3435 Albireo 0.928 David Simpson RIYC
IRL 9898 Indecision J109 1.007 Declan Hayes RIYC
IRL 811 RAPTOR 1.007 Fintan Cairns RIYC
GER 6577 Opal 1.432 Frank Whelan GSC
GBR 9740R SLOOP JOHN T SWAN 40 Iain Thomson
IRL 1507 1.057 James Tyrrell ASC
IRL 1129 Jump The Gun J109 1.005 John M Kelly RIYC
GBR 7536R Hot Cookie Sunfast 3600 John O'Gorman NYC
IRL 3471 Black Velvet 0.979 Leslie Parnell RIYC
IRL 4007 Tsunami First 40.7 Michelle Farreall National Yacht Club
IRL 66 Checkmate XX 1.115 Nigel BIGGS HYC
GBR 6695R Wild Haggis Farr 30 1.060 Nigel Ingram Holyhead
GBR 9496T Bojangles J109 0.999 Paul HAMPSON Liverpool Yacht Club
IRL 1367 Boomerang Beneteau 36.7 0.997 Paul Kirwan
GBR 8992R Lightning Farr 30 1.074 Paul Sutton Holyhead Sailing Club
GBR 9047R Mojito J109 Peter Dunlop Pwllheli SC - RDYC
GBR 9244R Samatom Grand Soleil 44R 1.134 Robert Rendell HYC
IRL 44444 Magic Touch 0.979 Steve Hayes GSC
IRL 3317 Scotia First 31.7 0.930 Terence Fair Ballyholme yacht club
GBR 5373 Honey Bee Hunter HB31 0.900 William Partington Pwllheli Sailing Club / SCYC