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Ten IRC Championships are held all around the British coast from Scotland to the Channel Islands as well as a specific event for two-handed crews, is providing a large variety of venues, racing conditions and social events to be enjoyed both on and off the water. While most events are held over a weekend, some are spread over several weeks or incorporate separate events. The Solent Championship consists of four events organised by separate clubs, while RORC’s Two-Handed National Championship comprises both inshore and offshore racing and the Inshore Championship on Lake Windermere runs through the winter. 2019 also sees the return of the GBR IRC National Championship organised by RORC from Cowes, after a break last year when RORC organised the IRC European Championship.

The Scottish Series is also a major event for the RC35 class which was developed for close racing within a tight IRC rating band, and along with the Welsh National IRC Championship is part of the Celtic Cup incorporating events in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Two of the first clubs to use the RORC Rating Office’s Advocate Scheme to successfully start using IRC for their club racing in are hosting IRC Championships this year – the Southern Championship at Weymouth Sailing Club, and the South West Championship which includes the Royal Dart YC as organisers. Reflecting increasing participation in two-handed racing, the Two-Handed Championship returns in September, organised by RORC Cowes.

The 2019 GBR IRC Championships programme is as follows:

  • Solent – 4 events (May-Sept)
  • Scottish – Scottish Series (May)
  • Southern – Weymouth & Portland (May)
  • National – RORC Cowes (July)
  • East Coast – Ramsgate Week (July)
  • Welsh National – Cardigan Bay (August)
  • South West – Dartmouth (August)
  • Two-Handed - Cowes (September)
  • Channel Islands - Jersey (September)
  • Inland – Windermere (November-March)
Published in ICRA
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Save the dates 9 to 11 August 2019 in your calendar for the Spinlock IRC Welsh National Championships, which promises a long weekend packed full of great racing and fun ashore

Once again the Welsh Nationals have been selected as the Welsh leg of the RC35 class Celtic Cup, won in 2018 by Irish boat Storm.

The Welsh National Sailing Academy and Events Centre in Pwllheli looks forward to welcoming sailors from across the UK and Ireland for racing in the world-renowned waters of Cardigan Bay, with the majestic backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia and the rugged coastline of the Llyn Peninsula.

The championships will feature two separate race courses, one for the IRC fleets and Sportsboat class and a separate course for the Cruiser class, so there will be something for everyone.

The Notice of Race and entry form are now available online. IRC certificates are not required at this time, only basic details and general information about your boat.

All entries made before Thursday 31 January will be included in a super early-bird prize draw with Spinlock goodies to be won.

Events pontoons will once again be available for use before and during the championship without any additional charges. Book your space now in the entry form.

Berthing will also be available for boats competing in the ISORA race from Dun Laoghaire to Pwllheli on Saturday 27 July for those who wish to leave their boat in Pwllheli ready off the IRC Championships.

This year the camping facilities at the academy will be available for participants. Bring your campervan or caravan to set up your base camp right on the venue site. More details and online booking can be found on the Plas Heli website.

There will also be a limited number of bunk beds available on on a first come, first served basis. Details about this added facility will be circulated to entered boats first.

Organisers will arrange shore storage so that your delivery sails, life-rafts and associated gear can be stored for the duration of the event. Please indicate on the entry form if you would like shore storage.

And of course, there will be a full social programme ashore. Details will be circulated by e-newsletter and published on the official championship website in due course.

Published in ICRA

The Offshore Racing Congress (ORC) working in cooperation with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and Union National Course au Large (UNCL), founding partners of the IRC rating system, are pleased to announce the approval of the New York Yacht Club to host the 2020 IRC/ORC World Championship in Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

This will be the first World Championship for offshore boats held in the United States since the IMS World Championship in 2000, also hosted by the New York Yacht Club.

“We are very pleased to work once again with RORC to plan this important event on the offshore sailing calendar,” said Bruno Finzi, Chairman of ORC. “It has been too long since we have been away from the U.S., where US Sailing was one of our founding members when ORC was formed in 1969.”

The proposed dates are 25 September – 3 October 2020, subject to slight modifications pending review by a Working Party formed by members representing all three partners to start on the detailed planning.

“Our experience in The Hague for the first edition of the IRC/ORC World Championship this year was positive on many levels,” said Steven Anderson, Commodore of RORC, “There is a strong desire to continue this cooperative momentum towards the future. We have agreed that IRC and ORC will work with each other to approve and plan these Worlds events every two years so that our sailors may also plan to put this on their calendars as well.”

“Offshore sailing is part of the DNA of the New York Yacht Club," said Commodore Philip A. Lotz. "Our waterfront clubhouse at Harbour Court combined with Newport's tremendous sailing conditions and extensive marine infrastructure, provide what we feel is one of the greatest venues for offshore racing. The Club is very excited to welcome the world to our hometown for the 2020 IRC/ORC World Championship."

The typical format of the combined Worlds has been 2 to 3 offshore or coastal races, followed by 6 to 7 inshore races. Racing will be in three classes defined by the size and rated speeds of the boats, and all-amateur Corinthian prizes will be offered in each class. ORC and IRC ratings will be used to score the racing, however the Working Party will make the final determination on how when a Notice of Race is issued for the event in 2019.

Published in RORC
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Representatives of the International Rating Certificate (IRC) met in Dun Laoghaire for two days of debate and discussion at the beginning of October. The IRC Technical Committee agreed on a number of developments for 2019 as a result of research throughout the year, while the IRC Policy Steering Group reinforced the good relations between the owners of the Rule, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and l’Union Nationale pour la Course au Large (UNCL).

As Afloat.ie reported earlier, the annual Congress meeting always proves a good opportunity for delegates to share experiences and ideas between different countries and sailing cultures, and this year was no exception with representatives of IRC from around the world. The 34 Congress delegates came from Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, South East Asia, Turkey and the USA; and from organisations including RORC, UNCL, the Royal Yachting Association, Irish Sailing, the Maxi Yacht Association and the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) whose Chairman Peter Ryan gave a presentation on ISORA activity.

Reports were received from the international IRC Owners’ Associations and Rule Authorities, and from the organisers, competitors and technical committee of the 2018 Hague Offshore Sailing World Championship. In addition, delegates enjoyed an excellent presentation by the Irish Sea Offshore Sailing Association describing their history, activities and promotion. The IRC European Championship was confirmed as San Remo, Italy, 23-29 June 2019.

IRC rule changes were approved for improved rig dimension definitions, clarifying the number of spinnakers allowed and several housekeeping items. Software developments agreed by the Technical Committee for IRC 2019 include the treatment of draft, boats over 30.50m in length, cruisers and classics with relatively low sail area, and the rating of the number of spinnakers. Many of these changes will benefit cruiser designs and classic boats which form an important part of the IRC club fleet.

The 2018 Congress was the final meeting with Peter Wykeham-Martin in the Chair and he was thanked for his dedicated support and excellent leadership. The incoming Chairman of IRC Congress is Irishman Michael Boyd, past Commodore of RORC and an active IRC racer. In addition, Vice Commodore Alp Doguoglu, who has represented IRC at World Sailing, stood down as Vice Chairman and is replaced by Carl Sabbe from Belgium.

Published in Royal Irish Yacht Club
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Howth Yacht Club's J109 Storm skippered by Pat Kelly has won the inaugural Celtic Cup in Wales after her overall win at the Welsh Championships. In a season-long achievement, the Kelly family lifted the inaugural Celtic Cup with wins at Pwllheli Wales, the Scottish Series at Tarbert back in May, a second at the Bangor Town regatta, and first at Kip Regatta

The weather forecast for the Spinlock IRC Welsh Championships indicated it was going to be heavy weather on at least one of the three days.

Friday started with a lumpy 18-24 kts from the south-west and race officer Mike Butterfield was keen to get all three races in as quickly as possible in the tricky conditions.

The building wind saw some challenging sailing and some spectacular broaches by Liverpool based Prima38 “Max Too” who opted for white sails during the first race.

As the fleet settled more kites went up and there were plenty more broaches as a result, with few boats hoisting spinnakers in the last race with gusts of 29kts seen on “Sgrech”

Rush/Howth based J109 “Storm” battling against “Triple Elf” for the Celtic cup, struggled during the first race to come in 6th and top spots were taken by local boat and RC35 class member “Imposter”, Scottish RC35 class boat “Triple elf” and Pwllheli based J125 “Jackknife”

"The crew Storm settled into the racing and regained their form & they took the next two races with convincing firsts"

However as “Storm” settled into the racing and regained their form, they took the next two races with convincing firsts but with a consistent performance by First 35 “Triple Elf” who lead the series after day one.

In IRC2 just two races were completed in the difficult conditions, with Impala National champion “Checkmate” taking two fine wins, from Paraiba in race 1 and West Lancashire based “HRT” in race 2, a very impressive performance by them. Cork 1720 Luvly Jubbly took two wins in IRC3, after “Mayhem” blew its jib out. Today’s Cruiser race was won by the single-handed “Theia” racing an offshore race to Eurwyn Buoy and back, with all 5 Cruisers completing this race in very demanding conditions, with big seas and wind over tide out at Eurwyn.

Daily Prizegiving with free Jugs of beer and a prize draw sponsored by Partington Marine followed racing, with a BBQ at Plas Heli

IRC Welsh startAn IRC 1 start at the Welsh Championships

Saturday's forecasts was for 15-20 kts and with much heavier winds forecast for Sunday there was talk of trying to fit in extra racing, but the fleet were quickly met with 21 kts as soon as they left the channel and it soon build to 25-28 kts.

The sustained wind and building chop proved challenging for the fleet with “Valkyrie” losing their pulpit, Dun Laoghaire based ISORA boat “Yoyo” with an injury onboard and “Storm” breaking their spinnaker pole - but despite their difficulties, “Storm” took all three races in IRC 1 to lead the series, with “Checkmate” again taking two wins in IRC 2. 1720 “Mayhem” took both wins in IRC 3 and Darling XX IRC 4 Cruiser Class 

Competitors were greeted by the Jac Dobson a’r band playing in Plas Heli after racing, with impressive dancing by the “Max Too” team! with today’s prizing draw and jugs of beers sponsored by Firmhelm. This was followed by a crew dinner, in Plas Heli’s Gorwel restaurant. 

Sunday soon found the overnight gale “Ernesto” subside and winds soon dropped off to 17kts for the start of racing, further dropping to 6-8kts by the end of the last race. With the chop left from the previous night's winds, the fleet experienced equally challenging conditions.

In IRC 1 “Storm” one of three highly competitive RC35 class racing in the event managed another convincing day with two firsts and a third to win the overall class 1, and take the inaugural Celtic Cup with wins here at Pwllheli Wales, the Scottish Series at Tarbert back in May, a second at the Bangor town regatta, and first at the Kip Regatta. IRC2 was won by Impala 28 “Checkmate”, IRC3 class was by Cork 1720 “Mayhem” and IRC 4 Cruisers by DarlingXX

A great three-day championship, with race management by Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club and Royal Dee Yacht Club, and social events by Plas Heli, who thank all helpers and competitors, with a special mention to the RC35 class, and all Irish and Liverpool boats for making the journey to Pwllheli. 

Results here 

Published in ICRA
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Entries are still invited for the IRC Welsh National Championships in Pwllheli from 17th-19th August 2018, just a few days after the ICRA Nationals in Galway.

This flagship event is being hosted by Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy and Events Centre, and managed by Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club and Royal Dee Yacht club.

Racing is planned for two IRC classes and a cruiser class on two racetracks, in a commercial traffic free environment. Cardigan Bay has weak tides and provides a safe and fair racing area, for windward/leeward, coastal or round the cans racing, with stunning views of Snowdonia and the Llyn peninsula as a backdrop.

Free berthing is available on the Welsh National Sailing Academy's event pontoons, and included in the entry fee, which for those entering before August 7th includes an entry into a prize draw with some useful prizes!

Organisers say they are delighted to host the RC35 class who have included the event as part of the Celtic Cup, with notable boats “Storm” “Triple Elf” and “Imposter” already entered. Pat Kelly's Storm has already sailed to early season success at the Scottish Series in May and was also victorious at Bangor Town Regatta too.

With an ISORA race from Dun Laoghaire to Pwllheli the weekend before, its a great opportunity for ISORA boats, particularly those based in Ireland to enter the regatta, and join “Mojito" “Sgrech" “Jackknife" and “YoYo" that have already done so.

Locally, “Legless Again” “Bada Bing” and “Honey Bee” look set to battle in IRC 2 once again. Sportsboats are embedded in the two IRC classes this year but also compete for the Sportsboat cup, with the well travelled and 2017 Dun Laoghaire Regatta winning 1720 “Luvvly Jubbly” head to head with “Mayhem".

In the Cruiser class, 2017 IRC 4 champ “Ella Trout 3” joins a growing list of local boats in this popular class, racing one short coastal race per day, around local islands and marks.

Enter here

Published in Racing
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Waterford Harbour's Rob McConnell sailing the Archambault A35 'Fools Gold' has moved up from 18th to 14th from a fleet of 49 after the first four races in Class C of The Hague Offshore Sailing World Championships 2018. The Sovereign's Cup champion has five races left to sail in an extremely competitive inaugural IRC/Offshore championships.

Full results are here.

In contrast to the past few days of light shifty winds, today's superb 12-17 knot southerly breeze made for fast and furious racing on all courses of The Hague Offshore Sailing World Championship 2018. And so even with a later 1300 start today, Principal Race Officer Peter Anink informed everyone two inshore races would be held to take advantage of the favorable conditions.

The southerly breeze combined with a south-flowing flood current to bring even more pressure on the water as well as some big waves, so all teams had to be at their best to avoid being over early at the starts and running into turning marks. With an impressive crowd of 49 boats on the start line of the south course area, Class C was particularly difficult to control, but had only one general recall in the day's second race while the A and B classes in the north course area had no start problems at all.

In the AB course area the High wind Triple Number rating option was selected by race managers for scoring both races with winds over 14 knots, while on the Class C course area the High option was used for the first race, and the Medium option for the second as the tide diminished in strength.

 

Continuing to perform like a well-honed machine, the Pac 52 Team Beau Geste (HKG) sailed well again today and put two more bullets on the scoreboard. Skipper Gavin Brady had compliments all around about the event, the venue and the racing.

Bengal MagicJames Chalmers Bengal Magic, the British J35 that races with Irish sail numbers Photo: Sander Van Der Borch
"In seven years of international campaigning, this has been the most friendly venue for support for our team. And we really enjoyed that long race...12 knots, flat water, clear skies: Karl said it was champagne sailing. If we had more races like this we would have more people in the sport for sure."

On the inshore races today, Brady said the competition with Tilmar Hansen's rival TP 52 Outsider (GER) has been helping to push them. "We were trading leads today, and as they keep getting better and better as they learn their new boat, we have to keep our game high."

Another Class A team that proved a threat to the two 52's was Bas de Voogd's Carkeek 40 Hitchhiker (NED), earning a second in the first inshore race of the day by defeating Outsider by only a few seconds in corrected time. This team has roots in the local Dutch offshore sailing scene having campaigned here for years, but recently with this boat has been active in the UK on the Fast 40+ class circuit.

"This has helped us learn a lot and improve our teamwork," says de Voogd. "But we made some changes to the boat last winter and are still getting used to them." Specifically, the team moved the rig aft 40 cm in the boat and moved the rudder forward 30 cm to improve their speed in class racing. Yet in the breezy conditions of today in high-speed offwind sailing with waves, a condition they haven't seen much in the Solent, they had some control issues in the second race.

"We're having a lot of fun in these waves, we just need to do more work on understanding the controls with the new set-up," he said.

In Class B the winner of the first inshore race was Harold Vermeulen's MAT 11.80 Leeloo (NED), whose wild orange and black graphics make her hard to hide on the race course. This good result temporarily pushed them up into second place in the standings behind class leader Santa, Claus Landmark's Landmark 43 from Norway. But a weak 17th place finish in the second race pushed them back into fifth...down, but certainly not out of contention, and the thrill of racing in fresh breeze and waves kept the team in buoyant spirits.

"For us this wind is so cool, we're a planing boat, so we sail very fast," said Vermeulen. "The first race went great, but we had a bad start in the second race, even though we managed to win something back. But one result doesn't do a lot in this fleet, the racing is so close. For us it's going to be tricky to score well in all the conditions we're up against this week because our boat isn't optimized like many others in our fleet. We're just enjoying a great week of sailing, and for the scoring it's so far, so good."

The team currently lying second in the Class B standings was not happy after yesterday's long race results and felt the event was sliding away from them.

"We were not happy that the long distance race had so much points value and had so much reaching and seemed to favour the boats with asymmetric spinnakers," said members of Martin Estlander X-41 Xini Freedom (FIN) last night. And yet this team has been a proven performer from years of one-design racing in the competitive X-41 class and they have used these skills to do well in many European and World Championships. They showed that today in earning their share of tied 4th and 2nd places respectively, in the first and second inshore races. It's no wonder that two other Baltic-based X-41's are also in the top ten - Tiit Vihul's Olympic (EST) in fourth and Soren Junker's Nexus (DEN) in 9th.

Top-ten excellence in windward/leeward course racing has also helped the team lying now in third place in Class B, Alex Sastre's Farr 40 Mr Brightside (NED), on the strength of two 5th places in the offshore races and scores of 2-9 today.

In Class C yesterday's leader, Patrik Forsgren's modified First 36.7 Pro4U (SWE), did well enough to continue to stay atop the leaderboard, but they said it has not been without effort.

"This is an incredibly tight fleet," said Anders Bjork, spinnaker trimmer on Pro4U. "You make the smallest mistakes and you're going to be out of the top ten easily."

The mistake they made today to push them back into 13th in the first race was once again hitting a mark, this time the leeward gate, and then having to do a penalty turn before continuing on the second upwind leg. But the team is upbeat and confident.

"We are actually happy with the scoring in both IRC and ORC, and find it to be pretty fair. The teams that are sailing well are enjoying close racing, and this is the way it should be at this level."

And based on their strong offshore race scores yesterday and reasonable inshore results today, Heiko Pasler's X-362 Sport Static Electric (GER) has kept their second place position in the Class C standings.

Sometimes this close inshore racing gets too close, and the International Jury chaired by Jan Stage had tonight to sort out five protests, all involving Class B and C competitors. Unfortunately Willem Ellemeet's Dufour 40 Flying Dolphin (NED) was caught in the net and penalized DSQ for a port-starboard incident with Alain Bornet's J/109 Jai Alai (NED) in Race 2, driving them from being 3rd place in the standings to much deeper and allowing Kai Mares's Italia 9.98 Immac Fram (GER) to take their place.

Xini Freedom is also in the protest queue tonight, so the morning may reveal new top three standings in Class B too...or not.

Tomorrow inshore racing continues, with an earlier start time of 11:00, and a wind forecast in the light to moderate 7-11 knot range. The first race tomorrow will be the fifth in the series, and thus the worst scores among all but the long offshore race will be discarded to further shuffle the standings. The remaining five inshore races scheduled will need to be completed by the final day Friday.

Published in Offshore
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Waterford Harbour's Rob McConnell sailing the Archambault A35 'Fools Gold' is lying 18th from a fleet of 49 after the first two offshore races in Class C of The Hague Offshore Sailing World Championships 2018.

Full results are here.

After over 24 hours of sailing in light air off the Dutch North Sea coast, the opening act of The Hague Offshore Sailing World Championship has now concluded and the leaders are now known in each of three classes before the second stage of inshore racing begins tomorrow.

Scoring has been for a long race of 155 miles for Class A with a scoring gate at 70 miles, and a long race of 135 miles for Classes A and B with a scoring gate at 60 miles. Thus each class has two offshore races in their results: a short race worth 1.0 points weighting and a long race worth 2.0 points weighting.

After a start postponed until 12:30, each fleet started off in light 6-9 knot conditions that varied in strength and direction for the rest of the day and evening, reaching a high of about 12 knots at sunset before dropping again into single digits towards morning. With shifting breeze and currents at near springs in strength, it was a challenging night for all.

"It was a good course and a good test," said Eddie Warden-Owen, guest strategist aboard Tilmar Hansen's TP 52 Outsider. "We did not have the sail inventory options that Beau Geste had, and had to make some compromises - like going west of the windfarm on the final long leg to the finish - but it was a good race with lots of elements to make it interesting."

Outsider spent most of their race in lock-step behind Karl Kwok's Pac 52 Beau Geste, who won both races by a comfortable margin, with Outsider second and the Ker 46 Van Uden youth team in third, led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Gerdjan Poortman and Dutch 470 Olympian Lobke Berkhout as coaches.

The racing in the top of Class B closely resembled that of Class A, with two boats leading the pack and pushing each other throughout their 135-mile track.
Claus Landmark's Landmark 43 Santa took an early lead and was clever to hold on to it throughout the race, due in no small part to the strong navigation skills of another Volvo veteran, Roger Nilsson, who has logged 7 Volvo and Whitbread races around the world.

"It was quite challenging, wind was shifty and we're not very used to the currents you have here, so it's good we had Roger's help," said Landmark "But we kept the boat moving, and since the Worlds in Copenhagen two years ago we have upgraded our rudder with a new design so the boat is going well."

It was another Norwegian Landmark 43, Torkjel Valland's White Shadow, that was never far from Santa and kept the pressure on throughout the race.

"We had some ups and some downs," said Valland. "After the start we got stuck on one of the buoys, and when we got loose, most of the fleet had passed us. But we managed to sail up to the front of the fleet again, until we reached Santa. After that it was back and forward with them. We tried to stick with them, but they continually found a gear and pulled away every time we got to them again. But overall we had a super race, and it gives great promise for the rest of the week. I think the top of this fleet will have some very close racing."

Rounding out the top three in Class B was Michael Berghorn's X-41 Halbtrocken 4.0 from Germany. All top three teams scored 1-2-3 in each of the two races.

Class C was more interesting, with no clear dominance in the results like in the other two classes. Instead there were different leaders in the results of each race, sometime with dramatic differences in scores.

In scoring at the gate for Race 1, a local designed and built 35-footer, Jan Boort's New Frontier, was ahead of the pack on elapsed time by over seven minutes yet corrected to third place, while Gideon Messink's J/112E J Lance 12 corrected to first and Michael Mollman's X 37 Hansen was second. But in the last long leg of the race this was all to change.

Just northwest of the harbor at Ijmuiden in the mid-morning breeze, about 25 miles from the finish, J Lance 12 and Hansen on rhumb line managed to get ahead of New Frontier, who was hedging a little closer to the beach to the east. Like a car wreck on the highway, J Lance stops, followed by Hansen and the pack of 3 other boats around them: the Farr 30 Cheyenne (SWE), the Melges 32 Old Jug (GER) and the Cussutti 36 Katariina II (EST). New Frontier shoots into the lead, but then strays west away from the middle track just west of Ijmuiden and starts to slow too.

Meanwhile, like a passing train, the Waarschip 36 Hubo (NED) came on fast from nowhere to grab the lead and never let it go for the remaining 20 miles to the finish. Others seeing Hubo do this end-around jumped on the train too, leaving those to the west helpless, with only Katariina and Hansen able to get out of the trap.

"We did not do very well in the first part of the race," said skipper Eric van Vuuren, "but we did have a game plan to hit the beach hard on the final leg and pick up the offshore breeze."

"Besides the weather forecast and knowing the tides, we also used the AIS system quite a bit to see what the others were doing," said Hubo navigator John van der Starre.

The results were spectacular, slinging Hubo and others in their wake into the lead to finish well ahead of many other rivals who were ahead of them at the scoring gate. And while Hubo still had to settle for a 4th in corrected time in this race, this was much better than the 34th earned in the first race

So, after all this drama in Class C it should be no surprise that a team who is a consistent performer from years of championship sailing currently has a six-point lead based on their scores of 6-1: Patrik Forsgren's modified First 36.7 Pro4U (SWE). In second is Heiko Pasler's X-362 Sport Static Electric (GER) on scores of 8-3, and currently in third is Alain Bornet's J/109 Jai Alai (NED) on scores of 5-6.

Phase two of the competition at the Offshore Worlds resumes tomorrow with the start of the first of seven planned inshore races. The teams will be given a respite tonight after the long race with a planned start time tomorrow in the afternoon at 1300 local time.

Published in Offshore
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Sovereign's Cup winner Fools Gold skippered by Rob McConnell from Waterford Harbour Sailing Club will contest the first IRC European Championship ever to be held on the Solent in mid-June. The Irish boat will be hoping for a repeat of the success of Royal Cork's Paul Gibbons, when the Cork Harbour sailor had an IRC Euros class win at the inaugural event, staged as part of Cork Week in 2016. 

McConnell launches the race-winning A35 on Monday in Dunmore East after an extensive refit that includes a refaired keel. As Afloat.ie previously reported, Fools Gold, will sail to Howth Yacht Club for June's inaugural Wave Regatta and straight after that the crew head for the Euro contest on the Solent.

But it's only part of an ambitious campaign this season as the Waterford Harbour crew will also contest the first ever IRC/ORC Offshore World Championships in the Hague, a month later. 

McConnell's crew, limited to eight, will be similar to the team that won the 2017 Sovereign's Cup and also the IRC Welsh Championships. 2004 Olympian Tom Fitzpatrick is tactician, Roy Darrer is helmsman, Skipper McConnell is mainsail trimmer, Graham Curran is trimmer number one, Dougie Power is trimmer number two, Brian O'Donnell is mastman, Lisa Tait is in the Pit and the bowman is to be announced.  Chris Frost will come onboard as a guest navigator for the Solent event.

The Solent represents the spiritual home of IRC, the rating rule which the Royal Ocean Racing Club runs jointly with its French counterpart, the Union Nationale pour la Course au Large. It is also historically significant - Cowes Week was first held here in 1826 and the first America's Cup (as it would become) in 1851. The Round the Island Race, today one of the largest participation events in sailing, starts from here as does the RORC's own Rolex Fastnet Race, first held in 1925, and now the world's largest offshore race. Running over 10-16th June, the IRC Europeans, the most prestigious title to win under the RORC/UNCL's rating rule, will mark a new chapter in Solent yacht racing history.

British and French boats are traditionally strongest competitors under IRC: A British boat has won the RORC Seasons Point Championship for the last two years, but in 2015 France owned the entire podium. French boats have won the last three Rolex Fastnet Races and are the present holders of the Commodores' Cup, which a British team last won in 2012.

There will be no let-up in Anglo-French competition this season with both sides campaigning examples of IRC's hottest new boat: The 1180 comes from JPK Composites, who's 1080 won the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race, while their 1010 claimed it in 2013 - both campaigned by top French crews. Another Jacques Valer design, the 1180 has more volume forward and a more pronounced chine.

Campaigning JPK 1180 #1 is French legend Géry Trentesaux, the 2015 Fastnet winner who led the French Commodores' Cup team to victory in 2006. His Courrier Recommande finished second to a runaway TP52 in her first outing at Spi Ouest-France over Easter. The IRC Europeans will be one of her first major events: "I like to sail in Cowes and I am a member of the RORC, so it is a good idea to come and race against all my English friends," says Trentesaux.

The IRC Europeans schedule follows the same well-refined format as the Commodores' Cup with eight inshore races (windward-leewards, round the cans, some reaching starts), an Around the Isle of Wight (1.5x coefficient) and a 150 mile/30-36 hour offshore (2x coefficient). "The offshore races are not so big," says Trentesaux. "And Cowes in June is wonderful - I am very happy to come back. But we have a new boat. At present she is okay in strong and light weather, but not in medium downwind - we don't have enough spinnaker area. Otherwise she is very nice."

Also campaigning a JPK 1180 at the IRC Europeans is Britain's Tom Kneen. "It will be a really interesting week between Sunrise and Courier, but they will have some more weeks training than us," he says. Compared to the wily veteran Trentesaux, Kneen is much newer to sailing having only acquired his first boat four years ago. Since then he has been enthusiastically campaigning his boats, which, like Trentesaux, culminated in a JPK 1080.

Kneen acknowledges that winning the IRC Europeans is a big ask. "Four years ago I had no idea that one day winning the IRC Europeans would be an ambition. If we came out on top I would be bouncing off the walls with excitement. If we podium I will be dancing!" Kneen is also gathering a three boat team to compete in the Commodores' Cup, which for the first time is being scored concurrently with the IRC Europeans.

The 2018 IRC Europeans is open to yachts with IRC Endorsed certificates and TCCs of 0.995 up to 1.270. At the grand prix end the line-up includes FAST 40+s like Mike Bartholomew's former GP42 Tokoloshe II and James Neville's HH42 INO XXX and the de Graaf family from the Netherlands on their newly acquired Ker 43 Baraka GP. But the event provides ample opportunity for smaller boats to come out on top - if they are sailed well.

Paul Gibbons' Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge won in Cork in 2016

In fact the first two IRC Europeans winners were among the shortest: Paul Gibbons' Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge won in Cork in 2016 while in Marseille last year Guy Claeys' JPK 10.10 Expresso 2 was crowned IRC European Champion, racing in IRC Four.

Among the lowest rated boats competing this year is Mike Bridges' Elan 37 Elaine. Since Bridges acquired her 13 years ago Elaine has been a regular at the IRC Nationals. The IRC Europeans, he says, is just the next step up. "We were looking for something different to do. This came up and we thought we'd give it a crack. We are not doing any other big regattas this year."

Elaine is kept in top condition for racing, she's dry-sailed and with the help of North Sails, Bridges has had her converted to a non-overlapping headsail set-up to lower her IRC rating. These days he admits they don't do much racing offshore, but they have all the experience and it isn't daunting for them. However "if there is some breeze, we'll be alright. If it is light and horrible, we'll be at the back of the fleet," he warns.

The RORC IRC Europeans takes place over 10-16 June 2018 with a race around the Isle of Wight on Monday 11th June and the overnight race over the Wednesday-Thursday, 13-14th June.

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Following its debut as part of Cork Week in 2016 and a stand-alone event held in Marseille in 2017, the IRC European Championship this year will take place out of one of its spiritual homes. Coming to Cowes for the third edition and for the first time in the UK, a record-sized fleet will compete in the 2018 IRC European Championship. It will be one of the most prestigious regattas ever run for IRC, the rating rule created and managed jointly by the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Union Course au Large in France.

The event is open to yachts with IRC TCCs of 0.995-1.270. This equates to Sun Fast 3200, X34s, HOD35 at the smaller end up to FAST 40+s at the top. The fleet will be split into classes, but at the end of the week a single IRC European Champion will be crowned. Last year's winner was the St Tropez-based JPK 10.10 Expresso 2 skippered by Guy Claeys, but perhaps it could be third time lucky for the big boats?

Already FAST40+ yachts including James Neville's Ino XXX and Mike Bartholomew's Tokoloshe have signed up for the event. RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine and his heavily campaigned First 40, La Réponse will also be on the start line: "The IRC Europeans are completely different to the IRC Nationals because the Nationals have no offshore element, so the Europeans will be a much more intense competition than we normally get. It should make it more attractive to overseas entries especially from France, Belgium, Holland and as far away as the Baltic and will support IRC racing in those areas."
The race format for the IRC Europeans will be a challenging mix of inshores and offshores - similar to that used previously for Commodores' Cups. It will comprise up to 10 inshore races (including windward-leewards, round the cans, some reaching starts, etc), a race around the Isle of Wight (carrying a 1.5x points coefficient) and a 150 nautical mile/30-36 hour offshore race (set in the central Channel to suit the wind direction and strength and coming with a 2x coefficient).

Strong entries are already being fielded by the Netherlands, Denmark and the USA. A strong turn-out is also anticipated from French, given that boats from the south side of the Channel have dominated so many of the RORC's major offshores recently, not only winning the last three Rolex Fastnet Races outright but having the majority of finishers in the top 10 in each too.
Incorporating the Commodores' Cup

France also has a title to defend as the IRC European Championship will this year incorporate the Commodores' Cup, the RORC's biennial event for three boat teams with amateur crews.

To simplify putting teams together, for 2018 the Commodores' Cup has been fully opened up. Boats must comply with the overall IRC TCC limits for the IRC Europeans, but there are no longer any class restrictions for Commodores' Cup boats, nor a requirement for one to be a 'big boat'. Similarly, teams are no longer have to enter the event as nations via their Member National Authority. Instead teams can decide themselves whether they wish to represent a nation or a region or their yacht club or simply three likeminded friends with boats can get together, regardless of their nationalities.

Any boats entering the IRC Europeans can be part of Commodores' Cup teams, however as the Commodores' Cup is a competition for Corinthian crew, boats entering in this will be limited to having one World Sailing categories Group 3 'professional' aboard. The number of pros on board is unrestricted on boats only entering the IRC Europeans.

Andrew McIrvine's La Réponse will be entering the Commodores' Cup once again with a British team: "The Commodores' Cup style of competition has always been very challenging with continuous pressure through the week. To allow a much bigger fleet in the Europeans as well as the team entries in the Commodores' Cup will make the event much more competitive."

Chris Stone, Racing Manager of the RORC added: "With the IRC European Championship coming to Cowes for the first time, we are expecting it to be the most significant events ever held for IRC. That will be very exciting. Plus the format provides a great mix of courses with the inshores in the Solent, the race around the Isle of Wight and the longer offshore. With those mixed courses we will certainly see different boats up front.

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