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The 32nd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is just under three months away. Entries for the 606-nautical mile classic are beginning to stack up, and the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) is contemplating another bumper crop of international yachts and crews. Preparations for the event are well underway, and competitors can look forward to the usual level welcome that is rarely matched in the yacht-racing world. The start is scheduled for Saturday, 22 October, and once again will be in the unparalleled setting of Grand Harbour.

With 31 yachts entered, the event is well on the way to matching last year’s fleet of 76 and the record fleet of 78 set in 2008. The first boat to register its interest was the German Rogers 46 Varuna, owned by Jens Kellinghusen. Varuna finished 13th overall in IRC and won her ORC class in 2010, and is an enthusiastic returnee. Varuna’s interests extend beyond just this race, since she is actively participating in the 2011 Atlantic Ocean Racing Series (AORS) has having just completed the Transatlantic Race, and being about to embark on the Rolex Fastnet Race. With the prospect of a considerable number of season’s sea miles under her belt before October it would be fair to suppose that her crew will be supremely well-drilled come the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Next up were Jason and Judy Payne-James with their Dufour 45, Heartbeat IV (GBR), closely followed by the current headline act: Niklas Zennstrom’s 72-foot Judel/Vrolijk designed Rán 2, the 2009 winner of the Rolex Fastnet. This will be the third visit of the Rán crew, the second on the world champion mini-maxi. Their best result to date was fourth overall in 2009, something they will be looking to improve upon.

The spread of international entries currently includes boats from most seafaring nations in Europe, plus Russia and South Africa. Chris Frost’s 54-foot Prodigy (RSA) is another yacht competing on the AORS. She finished the Transatlantic Race half an hour behind Varuna, and will be looking to turn that table in the Rolex Fastnet ahead of the deciding match in Malta in October.

This year, foreign crews will be offered a substantial upgrade on the already excellent facilities available at this race. The RMYC is in the process of installing some 60 pontoon berths on Marsamxett Harbour, right off the clubhouse at Ta’Xbiex. This will be the first time in the 43 year history of the event that the RMYC has been able to accommodate the main bulk of the competing fleet so close to the centre of operations.

“It is a great achievement for the club, and great news for the event and for the competitors,” says Commodore Georges Bonello DuPuis. “It was a substantial investment, but is part of our vision for the general expansion of the yacht club’s activities, plus we have long wanted to moor participating yachts adjacent to our facility so we can host them in the best possible way. We have a well-earned reputation for really looking after the visiting international crews, but this year will raise the bar still further.”

And, whilst the local Maltese participants might not benefit directly from the improved moorings, they will certainly enjoy the increased party atmosphere anticipated at the club ahead and after the race. Jonas Diamantino’s ILC 40 Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo was one of the first hometown boats to enter, with Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia’s J/122 Otra Vez and Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44 Ton Ton Surfside hot on his heels. More are sure to follow.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race commences on Saturday, 22 October 2011.

Entries close on 14 October.

The final prize giving is on Saturday, 29 October 2011.

George David's Rambler established the current Course Record of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds in 2007.
Published in Offshore
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In just over two weeks' time, on Sunday 14th August, the biggest fleet ever (350 boats) will set sail from Cowes to take on one of the ultimate challenges in offshore racing – the Rolex Fastnet Race – a milestone for all sailors. Among this record fleet will be ten Irish yachts - a few are highlighted here:

ARABELLA, J111, Niall Dowling

Niall Dowling and Nick Smyth will be co-skippering the J111 'Arabella' under the burgee of the Royal Irish Yacht Club. 'Arabella', the first J111 in Europe, has had an extensive offshore campaign since winning the Hamble Spring Series in April. The Fastnet Race is the focus of their 2011 campaign.

Arabella currently lies 2nd out of over 300 boats in the RORC Overall Championship Series behind Piet Vroon's Kerr 46 Tonnerre de Breskens. Crew for the Rolex Fastnet will include Class 40 sailor, John Cunningham, GBR Olympic Finn coach Matt Howard and Volvo sailor Craig Bowie. Also on board is Dowling's long term friend, skipper and double handed campaigner Michael Boyd. Boyd is a veteran of many Fastnet campaigns, the first of which was on the Irish Admirals Cup team in 1983, will further bolster the offshore experience. The dynamic duo of Peter Knight and Aaron Cooper both amongst the elite graduates of the Solent Keelboat Academy will cover roles of bowman and navigator respectively.

When asked about the campaign Dowling commented: "This campaign is all about getting a group of friends that used to sail a lot together, back out there. Nick and I used to race dinghies, instructed sailing together in Dun Laoghaire and campaigned offshore. Nick has been doing lot of competitive team racing but until this campaign, the last offshore race we did together with Michael was the Round Ireland Race in 2006."

"The RORC Eddystone Race in May definitely showed there were no cobwebs as Nick drove most of the way back from the lighthouse topping out at 22.6 knots and averaging mid teens! John, although normally based in the US, has been doing a fellowship at Cambridge University and has been on board since the boat arrived".

Irish Olympic Finn sailor Tim Goodbody and the National Yacht Club's now Brighton based boat designer Jonny Coate are also regulars on board. For the Rolex Fastnet there will be a competitive fleet of 77 boats in IRC2 where Arabella currently lies 2nd in the series behind RORC commodore Andrew Mc Irvine's First 40 La Reponse.

DINAH, JOD35, Barry Hurley

Owner and skipper Barry Hurley will also be flying the flag for the Royal Irish Yacht Club onboard Dinah, a JOD35.

Barry will be sailing with Andy Boyle and between them they have clocked up an impressive amount of racing, including three transatlantic, three Round Ireland Races, two full RORC series campaigns and many more fully crewed regattas,including Cork Week, Sovereigns Cup, etc.

Barry won his class and was fourth overall on Dinah in the 2009 OSTAR (solo transatlantic). The Fastnet Race is one of the few major middle distance

offshore races in the world that neither Barry nor Andy have completed and 2011 is the year to tick that box.

SPIRIT OF JACANA, J133, Bruce, James and Alan Douglas, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

This boat is owned by the three Douglas brothers. The brothers and most of the crew are ex Scorpion dinghy sailors from Northern Ireland. The brothers previously owned a J35 Jacana and in this were class winners at Cork Week and at the Scottish series.

This really is a family affair as two of the brothers sons are also competing, Keith and Cameron Douglas. Cameron has a busy summer as he is representing RYA Team GBR at the ISAF Youth Worlds in the Laser Radial class in July and also at the Team Race Worlds in Ireland in September.

This is the first Fastnet Race for the crew who have sailed in a number of offshore races in Ireland and Scotland. "Having competed at various racing events such as Cork Week and Scottish Series, we wanted to take on other challenges. [Our goal for the Fastnet will be] to finish the race and enjoy the experience!"

Published in Fastnet
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Shifting winds for the ISORA Lee Overlay night race with a course from Dun Laoghaire to North India Buoy on the Irish Sea at the weekend provided the fleet with a beat out and a beat back to Dun Laoghaire. The First 36.7 Lula Belle won her class 2 and overall according to provisional results issued by ISORA.
Published in ISORA
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With a week to go to the first gun of the West Coast Championships in Clifden Co. Galway, the 35th Anniversary event of the West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association (WIORA), is shaping up to be one to remember at Clifden Boat Club in County Galway.

At this year's West Coast Championships the race courses are being set by International Race Officer Alan Crosbie, taking full charge of the thirty boat plus fleet. There will be four days and seven races of various courses including a coastal race to decide the class winners and overall West Coast Champion.

Over the last thirty five years the association has gone from strength to strength which provides and promotes a programme of Inshore, Offshore and Coastal racing for cruisers, the association works very closely with the various clubs along the western seaboard.

Slightly down in numbers from previous West Coast Championships, but certainly not lacking in the quality of sailors and boats taking part.

Last year's Class One winner Glen Cahill's J109 'Joie De Vie' from Galway Bay Sailing Club is travelling to defend his title from such boats as fellow club sailor Liam Burke's Harley C33 'AWOL', Rob Allen's Corby 36 'Mustang Sally' and Dan Counihan's Beneteau 36.7 'Galileo' from Tralee Bay Sailing Club.

In Class Two Ray McGibney's Dehler 34 Optima 101 'Disaray' from Foynes Yacht Club, last year's class winner, West Coast Champion 2010 and who finished second overall at this year's recent ICRA National Cruiser Championships in Royal Cork Yacht Club will be up against strong competition from previous winner Cormac Mc Donncha's Beneteau 31.7 'Quelle Surprise' travelling from Galway Bay Sailing Club, Stephen Mullaney's Beneteau 375 'Walter Mitty' travelling all the way from Howth Yacht Club and Brian Raftery's Corby 26 '2602' from Sligo Yacht Club.

Class Three promises top class competition with host club sailor Jackie Ward's Parker 27 'Hallmark' will be up against fellow club sailor Paul Ryan's Toledo 30 'Saber', John Paul Buckley's Golden Shamrock 'Battle' from Foynes Yacht Club, Stephen Fitzgerald's First 30E 'Orient' from Mayo Sailing Club and Gary Fort's J24 'Jaguar' from Tralee Bay Sailing Club.

Prizes will be presented to the winning teams over the four days of the event for individual classes each day in both handicap systems IRC & ECHO.

On the final day of racing, Saturday, there will be prizes for the overalls in each class in both Handicap systems IRC and ECHO. For the production boat's, there is an added incentive with X-Yachts, Sigma and Beneteau putting up cup's for the best performing boat's overall in these categories.

And last, but definitely not least, the overall winners of the event. There will be a third and second overall out of all of the classes and finally the 2011 'The West Coast Champion' will be crowned.

Published in WIORA
After a day dominated by the weather which threw everything it had to offer at the record-breaking fleet that competed in Saturday's 80th Anniversary J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, the last of the 1900+ yachts home, Pendragon of Dartmouth, a Jeanneau Sun Fizz 40, made it across the finish line a mere three seconds before the line closed officially at 2200hrs, bagging themselves the 'Tenacity Trophy' at today's Prizegiving at the Island Sailing Club.

Some 16,000 sailors faced wind speeds of up to 28 knots and there were huge swells to contend with off the Needles and at St. Catherine's as the record-breaking fleet of 1,900 yachts undertook this most famous 50 nautical mile westabout Island circumnavigation on Saturday. A number of incidents were reported to the Coastguard, including 'Man Overboard' reports and capsizes as well as dismastings. There was a lot of sail damage across the fleet that ranged from high tech racers through to many smaller boats competing. However, a spokesman for the Race Management team at the Island Sailing Club, stressed that some of these incident reports were not attributable to the Race and were involving spectator boats rather than competitors.

Dave Atkinson, Assistant Principal Race Officer of the day said, "It was a successful race for the Island Sailing Club and we have received many compliments on running a great but challenging event. We're looking forward to welcoming competitors in 2012 for another record-breaking year."

Thousands of weary but generally happy sailors returned to Cowes and the marinas along the South Coast of England from mid afternoon yesterday, all feeling justifiably proud of their immense achievement in getting round the Island safely in tough conditions for even the most experienced and hardened sailor.

Nick Rogers, who usually sails a 470 with partner Chris Grube, helmed the Contessa 26 Sundowner to victory at the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race.

Line Honours went to French skipper Lionel Lemonchois and his 50ft multihull Prince de Bretagne who were first to cross the finish line in 3hrs 49m and 58s.

The final number of boats to cross the finish line in Cowes was 1,302 and there were 438 retirements and 16 DSQ (disqualified) and/or OCS (on course side).

The Race has become progressively more high profile as enhanced technology and communications has helped spread the scale and excitement of the Race farther and more widely around the globe. On Race Day, the total number of page impressions on the Race website amounted to 393,000 which is 100,000 up on 2010's site visitors. The Race Viewer, allowing online spectators to track boats of their choice, was downloaded by over 32,000 people. The interactive Race Progress Blog produced by the Media Centre and Race Control attracted 17,762 visitors over the course of twelve hours with appreciative comments coming in from as far away as Australia, the Philippines, Mexico and the US.

The Island Sailing Club look forward to welcoming everyone to next year's Race taking place on Saturday 30th June.

Published in Offshore
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Offshore boss Peter Ryan is urging as many boats as possible to get invovled in the next ISORA race on May 28th from Pwllheli to Wicklow but also to make it a great offshore weekend by participating too in the Turbine Race from Arklow on the Sunday. It is the last ISORA race before the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on June 11.

It is hoped that boats will remain in Wicklow after the ISORA race for the evening and head down to Arklow (14 miles) the following morning for the start of the Turbine Race.

Published in ISORA

A 'tough opener' is how Commodore Peter Ryan has described the first ISORA offshore sailing race of the season from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire yesterday. Inspite of the difficult conditions though there was little change at the top of the leader board. Skerries domination of Irish Sea racing continues with the Sigma 400 Raging Bull maintaining his winning form.  It was a very hard race with usual flukey conditions trying to leave Dublin Bay at 8am on Saturday morning ( followed the fleet out of the bay on twitter). Strong winds followed for the beat to the M2 buoy before another long leg and a short beat to Holyhead. The sea conditions on the 60-mile course were trying for many crew who were out for the first time this season.

ISORA has formed three classes this season, the aim is to give better competitive sailing between similar boats. First race results below.

Boat NameSail No.TypeIRC RatingFinish TimeTime elapsedCorrected PlacePlace
   (provisional)  TimeClassO/A
English MickGBR4771RBeneteau 47.71.13019:18:26407064599728
GFT AdventurerGBR23161Beneteau 451.10119:54:46428864721739
Quite CorrectIRL 5405DS541.095RET----
African ChallengeIRL 2649Fast 421.077RET----
TsunamiIRL 4007First 40.71.06118:48:01388814125214
LancastrianGBR 7682TStarlight 14.5m1.05920:27:004482047464410
RebellionIRL 6001Nicholson 581.054RET----
OrnaIRL 532 1.047DNS----
Madam WenGBR1417LSweden 421.04RET----
Aztec 3IRL29832A351.03418:59:30395704091533
Raging BullIRL 9666Sigma 4001.02718:42:30385503959011
JediIRL 8088J1091.029RET----
Miss ScarlettIRL 4763Sunfast 40.31.025RET----
Lula BelleIRL 3607First 36.71.01919:35:55417554254856
First of SeptemberIRL 8581First 43.51.017DNS----
DinahIRL 3508JOD 351.01619:36:22417824245045
AdelieFRA 9631First 34.70.98821:26:004836047779211
MojitoGBR 4184Bravaria 390.98820:36:22453824483717
Mistral of St HelierK 8337Sigma 380.984RET----
YahtzeeIRL 1068Oceanis 4110.98302:23:006618065054312
ObsessionIRL 4513Sigma 330.905RET----
SarniaIRL 2260 0.891RET----
Published in ISORA

Sailing offshore? The National Yacht Club is staging an 'Introduction to Offshore Racing' evening next Saturday 7th April 2011 at 19.30 and a line up of speakers inlcudes Maurice 'Prof' O’Connell on winning the 2009 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race. Mick Liddy on how to prepare for offshore sailing. Former National Yacht Club commodore Peter Ryan will give tips on ISORA racing in the Irish Sea.

Whether you are a Round Ireland expert or an offshore newbie the Dun Laoghaire club stresses it is an informal night but a 'unique one' both for offshore sailing fans and those who might be considering going offshore for the first time this season.


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Published in ISORA
THE third ocean sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS came to the most incredibly thrilling climax today with Polish ocean racer Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski beating British rival Chris Stanmore-Major to second place by just 40 seconds. It is the closest ever finish in solo ocean racing history.

After nearly four weeks at sea and more than 6,700 miles of racing through the Southern Ocean and the South Atlantic from New Zealand to Uruguay, the fight for second place came down to a nail-biting drag race to the finish line.

As a flotilla of boats took to the waters off Punta del Este to witness the finale and welcome in the skippers they were greeted by two unmistakable shapes on the horizon – Operon Racing and Spartan neck and neck, separated by less than a mile. With around a mile to the finish line it was CSM who had the slight advantage but after taking a course too close to the shore he was forced to gybe twice to lay the line, allowing Gutek to capitalise.

In an amazing photo finish it was Gutek who emerged the victor, sneaking in front of CSM right at the last moment to clinch second place by less than a minute. Gutek crossed the finish line at 4.40pm local time (1840 UTC) after 25 days, 17 hours and ten minutes. Forty seconds later, CSM crossed.

And in an exhilarating conclusion to the leg, Canadian Derek Hatfield blasted across the line just over an hour later after 25 days, 18 hours and 22 minutes. Following Brad Van Liew's win on Tuesday afternoon, all four boats arrived in just over 48 hours of each other.

"It was a fight to the end and I won," Gutek said after stepping on to the dockside to rapturous applause from the waiting crowds. "This second place is the best of all of them, much better than in Wellington and Cape Town. I am really proud."

Moments later it was CSM's turn to join his fellow skippers on dry land. "This sprint has proven I have a fast boat and I have taken the handbrake off now and I think we have a good chance for the next leg," he said. "We have lost out on second place and that's a great pity, I wish we were parked one boat closer to Brad, but I think we have made our point – we know what we're doing now and we can go fast."

"Never in a 6,000-mile leg have I seen a finish this close," Derek added. "It was incredible. All I can say is wow, what a race. It was so close, I loved it."

Ocean sprint three has by no means been easy going for any of the VELUX 5 OCEANS skippers. In the middle of the Southern Ocean, thousands of miles from anywhere, CSM's mainsail ripped and he was forced to spend 30 hours stitching it in horrendous weather conditions. He also had to contend with rips in one of his foresails as well as a major water leak onboard Spartan.

Gutek faced a nervous rounding of the mighty Cape Horn when keel problems developed onboard Operon Racing. After a composite part on the yacht's keel pins broke, the keel started to move several millimetres, making a dull knocking sound. Gutek was forced to fully cant the keel for the remainder of the race, affecting his performance.

Onboard Active House Derek was dealing with an engine oil leak which meant he could only charge his batteries when on port tack. After holding on to second place until just two days from Punta del Este, it was low power to his wind instruments that was Derek's eventual downfall.

"The results of this leg really bode well for the future of the Eco 60 class," Derek concluded. "Here we have recycled older boats that are so competitive and level – it makes for great racing."

Ocean sprint four will see the fleet sprint 5,800 nautical miles to Charleston, starting on March 27.


1st  Brad Van Liew - 23 days, 17 hours and 46 minutes
2nd Zbigniew Gutkowski - 25 days, 17 hours and 10 minutes
3rd Chris Stanmore-Major - 25 days, 17 hours and 10 minutes 40 seconds
4th Derek Hatfield - 25 days, 18 hours and 22 minutes.


Gutek: "The end to my sprint three story is amazing. This second is the best of all of them, much better than in Wellington and Cape Town. I am really proud. For the last 48 hours I worked so hard to get every last bit of speed out of my boat. Six miles from the finish I was leading Chris, and then more wind came and he went past me. I hoisted my gennaker and we were neck and neck. It was a fight to the end and I won."

CSM: "It's been a very interesting day. This morning I got a position update saying Gutek was only one mile behind me. I was hoping that the tack I was about to do would put me ahead of him but I saw him about 11am pass in front of me about a mile ahead. He is sailing that boat out of his skin. I just couldn't catch him going upwind. Then the wind clocked round so we were on a reach and that's what Spartan does best. Suddenly we were doing 13 or 14 knots and we chased Gutek down pretty quickly. Coming into Punta I had about a fix-boat lead on him and everything was looking really good. Then, coming towards the line I got too close to a patch of rocks which was an error on my part. I had been on deck concentrating on the sailing. I had to put two gybes in to get to the finish line and that allowed Gutek to pass me in the dying moments.  I ended up finishing 40 seconds behind him rather than 40 seconds ahead, but that's racing, that's what it's all about. This sprint has proven I have a fast boat and I have taken the handbrake off now and I think we have a good chance for the next leg. We have lost out on second place and that's a great pity, I wish we were parked one boat closer to Brad, but I think we have made our point – we know what we're doing now and we can go fast."

Derek: "All I can say is 'wow, what a race'. It was so close, I loved it. It was a lot of work but not as much effort as sprint two. It was a good leg, a fun leg. We had a really fast passage to Cape Horn and then an amazing rounding of the Horn within a mile of the coast. The second part from Cape Horn, the last 1,000 miles, was the most difficult part. Not that long ago I was in second place but all I can say is in the last few days the wheels really fell off. Because of the oil leak in my engine my power got so low that my wind instruments wouldn't work. In the dark I was going back and forth trying to get upwind, and that's when Gutek got away. It was mine to lose. The results of this leg really bode well for the future of the Eco 60 class – here we have recycled older boats that are so competitive and so level. It makes for great racing. Never in a 6,000-mile leg have I seen a finish this close, it was incredible."

Published in Offshore

Irish solo sailing fans may be interested in the annual Solo Racing Festival at the Royal Southern Yacht Club, Hamble on Saturday 12th March.

Given the Figaro race is coming to Dun Laoghaire in August a talk on the Artemis Academy with John Thorn (Figaro 2) will be of particular interest.

Owen Clarke's designer Merfyn Owen, who lives in Hamble will be attending as well as colleagues from their brokerage partners Boatshed Performance.

So whether your interest be solo sailing or short-handed sailing in general they will be there to answer questions on design, construction, as well as sale/purchase and charter of offshore performance yachts.

The Race Fair is  an open house from 10.00 for race organisers to meet and greet potential skippers from; Global Ocean/Class 40, Mocra, UK mini group, RORC, SORC, Biscay Challenge, AZAB. Floating boat show, 8 boats including the OC class 40, 2 minis, A35, J105, Figaro 2, Sunfast 3200.

There is a Book Signing, Alex Bennett signing copies of High Seas High Stakes and showing Fuji DVD Mike Golding is opening the talks at 11,00.

Followed by:

Winning Mind Set with Ian Brown, sports psychologist
Global Ocean race with Oliver Dewar
Two Star/Ostar with John Lewis, RWYC
30m trimaran design with Nigel Irens (Idec, Sodebo)
Artemis Academy first term report with John Thorn (Figaro 2)
Route du Rhum with Marco Nannini, (class 40)
all in the spendid riverside setting of the Royal Southern Yacht Club, Hamble.

More HERE.

Published in Solo Sailing
Page 32 of 35

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