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More than 5,000 sailors from around the world, racing in a dazzling variety of 570 yachts, took part in the 2019 RORC Season's Points Championship. The world's largest offshore racing series comprised 14 testing races and every race had its own coveted prize for the overall winner and for IRC class honours. The 2019 RORC Season's Points Championship destinations included the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Grenada, and the Spanish island of Lanzarote. There were six European destinations: France, Great Britain, Belgium, Ireland, Malta, and the Netherlands.

The 2019 Royal Ocean Racing Club Annual Dinner and Prize Giving was held in the Grand Connaught Rooms with 250 guests attending the spectacular black tie event. Prize winners, competitors, crews, RORC members and guests celebrated the year's achievements with the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

A champagne reception was followed by dinner and the prize giving in the Grand Connaught Rooms. Dating back to 1775, with its grand Georgian architecture and art-deco interiors, the historic building has hosted some of the world's leading politicians, royalty and celebrities. There was a huge ovation for the overall winner of the 2019 RORC Season's Points Championship, Black Sheep, and for the RORC Yacht of the Year, Wizard.

Winning the Jazz Trophy for first overall in IRC was Trevor Middleton's Sun Fast 3600 Black Sheep. Skippered by Jake Carter, the team collected five more awards: Jacob Carter was awarded the Keith Ludlow Trophy for the Navigator on the yacht that is First in IRC Overall, and the Duncan Munro Kerr Youth Challenge Trophy. Black Sheep also won the Grenade Goblet for first in IRC Three, the Serendip Trophy for Best Series Produced Yacht, and the Alan Paul Trophy for Consistent High Performance.

Sunfast3600 crewTrevor Middleton and team on Sun Fast 3600 Black Sheep collect the overall winners trophy, along with a hoard of silverware at the RORC Season's Points Championship © Sportography.tv
Black Sheep was crewed by friends who met during the Clipper Round the World Race and their debut race for the RORC season was the RORC Transatlantic Race. Black Sheep was the smallest yacht in the race, taking just under 17 days, and after IRC time correction, was second overall. During the season, Black Sheep's main rival for IRC Three, and for the overall season win, was another British Sun Fast 3600, Bellino. Bellino was raced Two-Handed by Rob Craigie and Deb Fish. Bellino beat Black Sheep by one place in the Rolex Fastnet Race, to set up a winner take-all final encounter in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Black Sheep won the duel, winning the 2019 RORC Season's Points Championship overall and IRC Three by a small margin; just 2.2 points.

"We set out to win the Championship, but it was not until halfway through the season that you realise how big a commitment it is," commented Trevor Middleton. "Black Sheep has done close to 10,000 miles of racing and deliveries. The team come from the Clipper Race and this has been a fantastic, yet different experience. Whilst the RORC races are shorter, the Clipper experience made us stronger for the longer races. A big thank you to the RORC, their organisation is excellent, their entry system and race procedures are second to none. Also, when you get to places like Lanzarote, Grenada and Antigua, the shoreside logistics and parties are so very well done."

The 2019 RORC Yacht of the Year, winning the Somerset Memorial Trophy was Peter and David Askew's Volvo Open 70 Wizard, which is the first American yacht to win the accolade for over 20 years. Wizard's overall win in the RORC Caribbean 600 and the Rolex Fastnet Race in the same season is unprecedented. This double victory has never been achieved before by any other yacht.

Wizard volvo 70Wizard, Peter & David Askew's Volvo Open 70 - RORC Yacht of the Year Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

"The Fastnet Challenge Cup is now at the New York Yacht Club - being able to display the Cup at the NYYC is really special. At the NYYC annual awards last weekend we got a chance to study the inscribed names of the previous winners. It was an "oh my" moment to see the name Wizard in close proximity to names like "Imp" and "Tenacious", boats of immense historical importance," commented David and Peter Askew. "When Peter and I were young boys we idolized these boats and the sailors that crewed them and dreamed of having our own success someday. We think a real measure of success is to earn the recognition of your peers. To be recognized by a group of peers on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is a true honour! To be awarded the Somerset Memorial Trophy is something we will always be very proud of.

"Peter and I have always operated on the principle to have the best tool possible for the job. That being said, everything else counts too, plus a little luck. We had the perfect storm of all of the above. We set out to win the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series and we felt the VO 70 would be the best platform. Charlie Enright, Mark Towill, Will Oxley and the rest of the guys did the real work. All said and done, we think our success is proof that our process works.
"We are disappointed to not be able to personally accept the Somerset Memorial Trophy. Peter has foot surgery some days prior and I must remain in the States to receive an award from my local Yacht Club (Annapolis Yacht Club) that same night. We will have a crew member, Roy Disney in attendance to accept on behalf of the entire Wizard team."

After the prize-giving, guests partied until the early hours with a live set from Brando, courtesy of RORC partner Sevenstar Yacht Transport. Fastnet Marine Insurance also supported the event, as they have done for the last 11 years, along with William Grant & Sons Distillers and Ocean Safety.

The 21st edition of the RORC Season's Points Championship will start on 23rd November 2019 with the RORC Transatlantic Race.

List of 2019 RORC Season's Points Trophy Winners 

Season's Points Championship Overall Winner - Jazz Trophy for 1st in IRC Overall: Sun Fast 3600, Trevor Middleton with Black Sheep

Also winning: Keith Ludlow Trophy for the Navigator on the yacht that is First in IRC Overall: Duncan Munro Kerr Youth Challenge Trophy - Jacob Carter from Black Sheep, 1st in IRC Three winning the Grenade Goblet, Serendip Trophy for Best Series Produced Yacht, Alan Paul Trophy for Consistent High Performance,

The 2019 Yacht of the Year winning the Somerset Memorial Trophy: Wizard, Volvo Open 70, David & Peter Askew

2019 Class winners:
Multihull: Buzz, Seacart 30, Ross Hobson
Class40: Eärendil, Catherine Pourre
IRC Zero: Tala, Botin IRC 52, David Collins
IRC One: Ino XXX, HH42, James Neville
IRC Two: Courrier Recommandé, JPK 1180, Gery Trentesaux
IRC Three: Black Sheep, Sun Fast 3600, Trevor Middleton
IRC Four: Foggy Dew, JPK 10.10, Noel Racine
IRC Two-Handed: Bellino, Sun Fast 3600, Rob Craigie & Deb Fish

Special Trophies:
Seamanship Trophy for an Outstanding Act of Seamanship: Roy Disney with Pyewacket

Meritorious Award for outstanding keelboat performance by a RORC member:
Grant Gordon, Louise Racing (Dragon) - 1st King Juan Carlos Trophy, 2nd Dragon World Championship, 5th Dragon Gold Cup

Arambalza Swan Cup for the Best Swan: Swan 38, Jonathan Rolls, with Xara
Beken Trophy for Concours d'Elegance: Fred Shepherd Yawl from 1939 Paul Moxon with Amokura

Assuage Tankard for 1st Overall in the Morgan Cup Race and Winning the J/109 RORC Trophy J/109: David McGough with Just So
Assuage Tankard for 1st Overall in the Myth of Malham Race and 1st Overall in the Cervantes Trophy Race: Farr GP42, Ed Fishwick with Redshift
David Fayle Memorial Cup for Best Sailing School Yacht: First 40, Yuri Fadeev of Capstan Sailing School with Skylander

Haylock Cup for Best British Service Yacht: X-41, Army Sailing Association with British Soldier

Multihull (26 boats):
1st Multihull: Seacart 30, Ross Hobson, with Buzz
2nd Multihull: Normanni 34, Joel Malardel, with Tancrède
3rd Multihull: Dazcat 1295, James Holder, with Slinky Malinki
4th Multihull: Trimaran, Andrew Fennell, with Morpheus
5th Multihull : Ts42, Christian Guyader, with Guyader Gastronomie
Class40 (29 boats):
Concise Trophy for 1st Class40: Catherine Pourre with Eärendil
2nd Class40: Ian Hoddle with Manic
3rd Class40: Luke Berry, with Lamotte - Module Création
4th Class40: Renaud Courbon, with Boogie Down
5th Class40: Henrik Bergesen, with Hydra

IRC Zero (65 boats):
Europeans Cup for 1st in IRC Zero: Botin IRC 52, David Collins, with Tala
2nd in IRC Zero: Cookson 50, Franco Niggeler, with Kuka 3
3rd in IRC Zero and Winning the Highwayman Cup for best elapsed time of an IRC yacht in the Cervantes Trophy, Morgan Cup, Cowes Dinard St Malo and Cherbourg races:Volvo Open 70, Lance Shepherd, with Telefonica Black

4th in IRC Zero: Carroll Marine 60, Derek Saunders - Windward Sailing, with Venomous

5th in IRC Zero: Ker 46, Van Uden Holding B.V. with Van Uden

IRC One (124 boats):
Trenchemer Cup for 1st in IRC One: HH42, Rear Commodore, James Neville with
Ino XXX

2nd in IRC One, 4th in IRC Overall and also winning the Peter Harrison Youth Trophy for a yacht racing under IRC with a minimum of 33% of the crew under 25, and winning an Assuage Tankard for 1st Overall in the Cherbourg Race: A13, Mark Emerson, with Phosphorus II

3rd in IRC One: Ker 40, Lars & Birgitta Elfverson , with Keronimo

4th in IRC One: XP 44, Arto Linnervuo, with Xtra Staerk
5th in IRC One: JND 39, Didier Gaudoux, with Lann Ael 2

IRC Two (97 boats):
Winning the Emily Verger Plate for 1st in IRC Two and Winning the Stradivarius Trophy for the Best Overseas Yacht and also Winning a medallion for 5th in IRC Overall:
JPK 1180, Gery Trentesaux, with Courrier Recommandé

2nd in IRC Two and 3rd in IRC Overall: JPK 1180, Tom Kneen with Sunrise

3rd in IRC Two and winning the Dillon Perpetual Ladies' Trophy: J/133, Gilles Fournier & Corinne Migraine, with Pintia

4th in IRC Two and Winning an Assuage Tankard for 1st Overall in the Cowes Dinard St Malo Race: Oyster 48, Ross Applebey, with Scarlet Oyster
5th in IRC Two and 4th in IRC Two-Handed: Sun Fast 3600, Gavin Howe, with Tigris

IRC Three (147 boats):
1st in IRC Three winning the Grenade Goblet (+ overall winner of 2019 and other trophies - see above): Sun Fast 3600, Trevor Middleton with Black Sheep
2nd in IRC Three and 2nd in IRC Overall, plus 1st in IRC Two-Handed, winning the Psipsina Trophy and also Winning the Boyd Trophy for 1st in the Mixed Two-Handed Division: Sun Fast 3600, Rob Craigie & Deborah Fish, with Bellino
3rd in IRC Three and 3rd in IRC Two-Handed: JPK 1080, Louis-Marie Dussere, with Raging-bee²

4th in IRC Three and 5th in IRC Two-Handed: Sun Fast 3600, Vice Commodore, Nick Martin, with Diablo

5th in IRC Three: A35, Richard Elliott, with Eaujet

IRC Four (141 boats):
Winning the Assuage Trophy for RORC Members and Winning the Cowland Trophy for 1st in IRC Four: JPK 10.10, Noel Racine, with Foggy Dew
2nd in IRC Four: JPK10.10, Emmanuel Pinteaux, with Gioia
3rd in IRC Four and 2nd in IRC Two-Handed: Sun Fast 3200, Nigel Goodhew, with Cora

4th in IRC Four and Winning the Freddie Morgan Trophy for a Classic Yacht in IRC: S&S 41, Harry Heijst, with Winsome

5th IRC Four and Winning the Oldland/Watts Aquadanca Trophy for the Sigma 38 with the highest Season's Points: Sigma 38, Chris Choules, With Alacrity

Published in Scottish Waters

The 2020 IRC European Championship will be held at Cork Week as part of the unique celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

As Afloat previously back as 2016, the 5th edition of the IRC European Championship will take place in Cork Harbour over five days of racing from Monday 13th July to Friday 17th July 2020. The championship is expected to attract a record fleet of highly competitive IRC rated boats vying for the overall win and class honours.

On Wednesday 8th July, prior to the IRC European Championship, the Morgan Cup Race will start from Cowes, bound for Cork. Organised by the Royal Ocean Race Club (RORC) since 1958, this will be the first time that the course has been set across the Celtic Sea to Cork. The 324nm race is expected to attract a substantial fleet and will be a weighted race within the world's largest offshore racing programme, the RORC Season's Points Championship.

"With a large majority of Irish boats already holding IRC Endorsed certificates there is the prospect of many strong Irish entries"

"The Irish IRC fleet are highly competitive and with a large majority of Irish boats already holding IRC Endorsed certificates there is the prospect of many strong Irish entries," commented Director of Rating for IRC, Dr Jason Smithwick. "With this diverse range of boat types racing under the IRC rating system we have been working closely with the Royal Cork Yacht Club to create an exciting and varied race programme with a mixed range of courses. This balance of course types will allow all boats to have a chance and create a fair and interesting event for the competitors. The IRC rating offices have also been working with the organisers to have a thorough programme of equipment inspection to ensure good equipment control before and during the event," continues Smithwick.

Corinthian teams racing small and medium size boats have enjoyed tremendous success in the IRC European Championship. In 2016 the inaugural championship was hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht and was won overall by Royal Cork's Paul Gibbons racing Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge. For the last three championships French teams have won overall. The 2020 IRC European Championship will feature high performance boats, including a number of FAST40+ teams expected to be racing under IRC. Prizes are also awarded to the best Corinthian team, as well as individual IRC Classes.

Overall winners of the IRC European Championship

  • 2016 Paul Gibbons' Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge (Cork, Ireland)
  • 2017 Guy Claeys' JPK 10.10 Expresso 2 (Marseille, France)
  • 2018 Didier le Moal's J/112E J-Lance (Cowes, UK).
  • 2019 Yves Ginoux's Farr 36 Absolutely II (San Remo, Italy)

For the 2020 IRC European Championship, competitors will enjoy wide-ranging and competitive racing afloat, as well as the Royal Cork's unique and historic celebration of their tricentennial.

"We're delighted to welcome the IRC European Championships back in 2020 where the fleet will enjoy a varied programme of races set in and around Cork Harbour," commented Cork Week Director of Racing, Rosscoe Deasy. "Shorter racecourses will be specially laid outside of Roches Point, a wonderful sailing area with open sea conditions and stable winds, while the famous 'Harbour Race' will bring additional navigational and tactical challenges. A 10-14 hour 'Coastal Race' is planned along the treacherously beautiful Irish headlands, providing a demanding test of crew focus and endurance. Admittedly the real test will be found ashore in Crosshaven where only the stoutest of hearts will be able to resist the siren call of the legendary Cork Week craic. It's going to be a great event!"

Published in Cork Harbour
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Representatives of the International Rating Certificate (IRC) from around the world met in France for two days of debate and discussion at the beginning of October.

The 2019 Congress was hosted by l’Union Nationale pour la Course au Large (UNCL) and the Société des Régates d'Antibes, and delegates arriving into Nice airport enjoyed an aerial view of the racing at Les Voiles de St Tropez.

Congress 2019 was chaired for the first time by Irishman and former Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) Commodore Michael Boyd, supported by Vice Chairs Malcolm Runnalls, and Carl Sabbe (BEL). Delegates gathered from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Turkey and the USA; and from organisations including RORC, UNCL, the Royal Yachting Association and the International Maxi Association.

The annual conference provides a good forum for IRC owners’ representatives and administrators from many countries to share experiences and ideas from different perspectives and racing cultures; this year was no exception with both formal and informal discussions taking place over the weekend. In additional meetings, the IRC Congress agreed on a number of developments for 2020 as a result of research by the Technical Committee throughout the year, while the IRC Policy Steering Group reinforced the good relations between RORC and UNCL, joint owners of the IRC Rule.

"The 2020 IRC European Championship will be hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht Club as part of the club's 300th anniversary year"

All at Congress agreed that great events drive participation, and it was interesting to hear of initiatives aimed at increasing IRC fleets, particularly amongst cruiser-racers. For those aspiring to IRC Champion status two events confirmed for 2020 are the IRC European Championship in Ireland in July, hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht Club as part of the club's 300th anniversary year, and the ORC/IRC World Championship hosted in Newport by the New York Yacht Club in September.

IRC rule changes approved for 2020 include rules relating to whisker poles, the input of list angle for water ballasted boats, the definition of bulb weight and several housekeeping items. The Technical Committee have agreed an enhanced formulation for 2020 to improve the treatment of different fin keel types and water ballasted boats and the rating of whisker poles. In addition, research on flying headsails (also referred to as ‘code zero’ headsails) has made excellent process and the intention is to publish a definition early in 2020 and offer trial certificates later in the year.

The Congress Minutes and associated documents including IRC 2020 Rule changes are online here

Published in ICRA
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77 boats competed in the 2019 Royal Ocean Racing Club Channel Race. The international fleet experienced a variety of conditions and wind angles, testing boat handling and tactical skills writes Louay Habib.

Perhaps the surprise overall winner, from a fleet including professional racing teams, was J/121 Darkwood owned by Dubliner Michael O'Donnell. David Collins' British Botin IRC 52 Tala was runner up, and Dominique Tian's French Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen was third.

Michael O'Donnell, based in London, last competed in the Channel Race in the 1983 Admiral's Cup, as a 15-year old nipper. His J/121 Darkwood was only launched this year, and four of the crew including Michael, race in the classic Solent-based XOD Class. Darkwood is very much a team of friends and family and will be competing in next month's Rolex Fastnet Race.

“I was basically a rope-puller on big boats such as Mike Slade's Leopard but I have learnt a huge amount in the XOD Class, especially from Steve Lawrence and Alistair Shaw who are part of the Darkwood team, ”commented Michael O'Donnell. “We are pretty good at getting off the start line, but I have not done any offshore racing since 2013. I am glad that the RORC make us do the qualifying races before the Fastnet; you learn so much about the boat and how to sail together as a team. We made a lot of sail-changes especially during the night, which was hard work with just five on board. Rosie (O'Donnell) did a great job in the pit, and Jamie (Holmes) impressed on the bow. We are thrilled to have won the race, but we have a long way to go, I am sure that the wily teams in the Fastnet are not quaking in their boots just yet!”

"My family sailed from the Royal Irish Yacht Club on Dublin Bay and also from Kinsale Yacht Club. Darkwood will be racing in the Round Ireland Race next year, at the RCYC 300 and of course, the main highlight, Calves Week in West Cork " Michael O'Donnell told Afloat

In IRC Zero, it was joy and pain for David Collins' British Botin IRC 52 Tala, which missed out on the overall win by under three minutes after time correction. However, Tala beat an all-star class in IRC Zero including Peter Harrison's British Maxi72 Sorcha, Eric de Turckheim's French NM54 Teasing Machine, and Frank Niggeler's Swiss Cookson 50 Kuka 3.

"We pushed pretty hard, but I think that the string-drop system breaking at Owers cost us those 100 seconds in real time,” commented Tala's Pete Redmond. “You are racing against the clock, and you can't leave anything out there on the water. Campbell (Field) and Paul (Wilcox) did a great job calling just about every shift, and the crew did a lot of peels, which were spot on. This was the first big Class Zero fleet we have raced since the RORC Caribbean 600, so it was good to check where we are. We feel pretty strong from this performance, but the weather conditions could be very different for the Fastnet.”

The win in IRC Two went to Yves Grosjean's French J/133 Jivaro. Tom Kneen British JPK 11.80 Sunrise was second, just over 14 minutes behind after IRC time correction. With a crew from Northern Ireland, England and Hong Kong, Anthony Day's XC-50 Explorer was third.

“This result is very encouraging, as it has been an effort to get Jivaro back to the Solent to compete for the Fastnet,” commented Yves Grosjean. “After the Channel Race, the team are in the right mood, we have great anticipation for the big race to come. At the start of the Channel Race, we were the only boat in our start to go inshore at the Squadron Line. It paid off as we led our class out of the Solent. Inshore after the Needles Fairway Buoy avoiding the worst of the tide worked well, and we had a good lead at the virtual mark. After that it was all about fighting to maintain our lead, but the big wind shift towards the end of the race was a nerve-racking moment, as we saw the JPK 11.80 Sunrise catch up, but we held on to win.”

In IRC Three, Erik van Vuuren's Dutch W36 Hubo scored a narrow victory over Rob Craigie's Sunfast 3600 Bellino. Both teams were racing Two-Handed, Craigie with his regular partner Deb Fish, and van Vuuren with the young apprentice Jochem Schoorl. British pair, Henry Bomby and Hannah Diamond, racing Sun Fast 3300 Fastrack XII, was third.

It was a fantastic race, everything was in it!” commented Erik van Vuuren. “Normally I race with my partner Yvonne Beusker but she is not able to join me for the Fastnet. Jochem is only 22, he has sailed all his life, has the right attitude and is full of energy. This was our first Two-Handed race together and it worked perfectly. From the start we battled with Bellino, and as in any race, you have to be keen and focused until the end. After St.Catherine's Point the forecast was correct; a big rain cloud arrived moving to the east. We kept to our plan, staying high of the next mark. We kept up good speed and that was the game-changer.”

Published in RORC
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For the previous four editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the elation of overall victory has been enjoyed by a team racing a yacht of less than 40ft. In the 2013 and 2015 editions of the 605-nautical-mile offshore race, the top three boats overall came from IRC Three and Four.

This year, currently 340 teams will race under IRC for the overall win and over half of them will be competing in IRC Three and Four. The vast majority of the 3,000-strong competitors in the 400-boat fleet are passionate amateurs, racing on a huge variety of boats, with 88 different designs found in these two classes.

Eighty-five yachts have entered IRC Three: 46 from Great Britain, 18 from France and also Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, and the USA.

Twelve JPKs will be competing in IRC Three this year, including their designer Jean-Pierre Kelbert, racing JPK 10.30 Léon Two-Handed, with Alexis Loison.

JPK designs have an impressive track record, winning IRC Three for the last three editions of the race, and the race overall in 2013 (Pascal and Alexis Loison, JPK 10.10 Night and Day). In 2017, the class went to the wire, with Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret’s JPK 10.80 Dream Pearls winning by just 71 seconds from Marc Alperovitch’s JPK 10.80 Timeline. Alperovitch had previously won class in 2009, while taking fourth in 2013, as well as second in 2017. Both teams will be back this year, with Timeline now in two handed mode.

“We reckoned that there were 10 boats in a position to win and that included five British boats,” says Timeline’s owner Alperovitch about the 2017 race. “There was always a competitive boat next to us, it is quite strange to be in the middle of the Celtic Sea and be racing as if it were ‘round the cans’, except it took roughly half a day to overtake another boat!”

Eight Sun Fast 3600s will be in action, including two British teams in top form: Trevor Middleton’s fully crewed Black Sheep and Rob Craigie’s Bellino, racing two handed with Deb Fish.

The Rolex Fastnet Race is likely to decide who will be in pole position overall for the 2019 RORC Season’s Championship. Four of the Black Sheep crew met on the Clipper Round the World Race and this will be Middleton’s third race in succession.

“We are not thinking about the overall win, just to put in our best performance for the race,” explained Middleton. “The competition in our class is really tough, but if I was to single out one area in respect of Bellino, it is that they run symmetric spinnakers to our asymmetric, so a tight reach back from the Rock would be just fine for Black Sheep.”

“TrevorTrevor Middleton’s Sun Fast 3600 Black Sheep | Photo: Tim Wright

Eighty-nine yachts have entered IRC Four: 52 from Great Britain, 16 from France and also entries from Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the USA.

Noel Racine’s Foggy Dew is one of 11 JPK 10.10s racing in the class. Racing his former JPK 9.60 and his current charge, Racine has an impressive record in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Taking part in all seven editions since 2005, Racine has won his class three times and placed third and second respectively in the last two races. In this year’s 179-boat Cowes-Dinard-St Malo Race, Francois Moriceau’s JPK 10.10 Mary was the class winner and second overall.

“NoelNoel Racine’s Foggy Dew | Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Designed in 1985 by David Thomas in collaboration with the RORC and the Royal Thames YC, and built in Plymouth, Seven Sigma 38s have entered IRC 4. The one-design sloop was built to stand up to tough offshore conditions using data from the tragic 1979 Fastnet Race.

Chris and Vanessa Choules’ With Alacrity is the leading Sigma 38 for the 2019 RORC season. Since 2009, With Alacrity has completed all five editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race, finishing in the top three Sigma 38s every year, before finally winning in 2017.

“We have owned With Alacrity for 15 years and having done a transatlantic, we got hooked on the racing, particularly the competitive racing against other Sigma 38s. The Rolex Fastnet Race is the longest race we can realistically do, and we aim to get around safely and with a happy crew,” explained Chris Choules.

“SigmaSigma 38 With Alacrity | Photo: Paul Wyeth

Sixteen J/109s will be competing in IRC Three and IRC Four. The 35ft bowsprit design has its own prize, the J/109 RORC Trophy. The leading J/109 for the RORC season is David McGough’s Just So, overall winner of the 2019 Morgan Cup with 85 teams racing under IRC. Just So won the J/109 RORC Trophy in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race.

The British Armed Forces have a long history in the race and this year, four teams from Her Majesty’s Armed Forces will be racing in the J/109 fleet. The RAF with Red Arrow, the Royal Naval with Jolly Jack Tar, the Royal Engineers with Trojan, and the Royal Armoured Corps with Ajax.

“JollyJolly Jack Tar | Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Jolly Jack Tar’s skipper Lt Tom Thicknesse RN started yacht racing with the Royal Navy; this will be his second race, and first as skipper.

“Whatever the weather, we are expecting a mentally and physically draining race that demands everything from the crew. We have our sights set on the Inter-Regimental Trophy for the best service yacht and aim to be in the top five J109s overall,” says Thicknesse.

“Offshore sailing has been a key element of Royal Navy sport and adventurous training for many years as the mental and physical challenge gives the opportunity to develop the endurance, leadership, teamwork and courage of our crew. The race epitomises this challenge.”

Classic yachts abound in IRC Three and Four, including 17 Nautor’s Swans and four more classics from the drawing board of Sparkman & Stephens. These majestic yachts with beautiful lines will also race for the S&S Trophy.

All of the classics competing in the 48th biennial Rolex Fastnet Race will be eligible for a new trophy donated in 2017 by Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy, owners of the S&S yawl Dorade, winner of the Fastnet Race in 1931 and 1933.

Former Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, Rives Potts will race his McCurdy Rhodes 48 Carina having crossed ‘the pond’ with the 2019 Transatlantic Race this summer. Potts’ connection with the race goes back to the infamous 1979 Fastnet Race which he won as crew on media mogul Ted Turner’s Tenacious.

The oldest boat in the race this year is Paul Moxon’s 1939 Amokura. The Shepherd-designed classic yawl was built as ‘a speedy vessel, suitable for both cruising and ocean racing’ and designed for Major Ernest Harston, ADC to Lord Mountbatten. She will be joined in IRC Four by Sir Francis Chichester’s famed 53ft ketch, Gipsy Moth IV which is run as a charity to maintain her sailing heritage.

“PaulPaul Moxon’s 1939 Shepherd-designed classic yawl Amokura | Photo: Beken

Another classic yacht with a strong connection to the 1979 race is the Contessa 32 Assent, which was originally named Tessa of Worth and the only yacht in Class 5 to complete the 1979 Fastnet Race. Assent, which has the shortest waterline length (24ft) in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, is now owned by Kit Rogers and skippered by Simon Rogers. Their Father Jeremy Rogers set up Contessa Yachts in 1961.

“This is a pilgrimage to show respect for the ’79 race, now 40 years ago,” commented Simon Rogers. “Our crew will be my oldest child Hattie, and Kit’s oldest Jonah, who are both 19, and this will be in their first Fastnet.”

Published in Fastnet
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The Royal Ocean Racing Club's ongoing interest in Ireland continues to grow with rumours that RORC's annual Morgan Cup race will set sail for Ireland from Cowes in 2020. 

The London Club lists both of Ireland's top offshore races, the Round Ireland Race and the Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race, on its points Championship programme and in 2016 its inaugural IRC European Championships was staged as part of Cork Week. Now that relationship is set to grow with the arrival of the Cup Race if the unofficial word is correct.

The Morgan Cup is an annual fleet race with a fleet topping 100-boats which regularly sails to France or the Channel Islands each June. It is a 110-mile offshore race that insiders say may now come to Ireland instead. It would be excellent timing for the UK fleet fillip given the important anniversary year for Irish sailing, that includes Royal Cork's 300th anniversary

Ireland has developed excellent connections with RORC that includes Irish sailors holding high office in the 95-year-old club. RORC Chief Executive Eddie Warden Owen recently competed at Dun Laoghaire Regatta, winning in his class of visiting Seabirds.

In 2014, Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish Yacht Club was elected as its Commodore and now serves as Chairman of RORC's IRC Rating Congress. Boyd himself is a winner of the 2017 edition of the Morgan Cup, as Afloat reported here.

In 2014, Anthony O'Leary's Antix of Royal Cork was named RORC Yacht of the Year. The Cork Harbour sailor also served as the club's Vice Commodore and he was twice winner of RORC's Commodore's Cup.

More than a decade previously, in 2002, Dublin Bay sailor John Bourke was elected RORC Admiral.

It hasn't all been plain sailing between RORC and Irish sailing, however. Also in 2002, there was an aborted attempt to stage the Admiral's Cup on Dublin Bay.

Published in RORC
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Teams from all over the world will be racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club this weekend in the RORC Channel Race, the 11th race of the RORC Season's Points Championship, which precedes next month's Rolex Fastnet Race. Teams from as far away as Australia, China, and Russia, will compete with teams from all over Europe and Scandinavia. Starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line, a course of up to160nm will be chosen by the RORC Race Management team. 80 teams are expected to be racing for the overall win, decided by the best corrected time under IRC, the rating rule administered by the RORC and the Union Nationale pour la Course au Large (UNCL).

IRC Zero

12 teams will be racing in IRC Zero, the largest fleet for the big boat class since the 2019 RORC Caribbean 600. Three teams are likely to compete for Line Honours: VO65 Team Brunel raced by a mainly Finnish crew, led by Robert Staeuber (SUI) and Ysbrand Endt (NED). VO65 Ambersail II will be sailed by a predominantly Polish crew, but also include the combined talents of Brian Thompson (GBR), and Nicholas Lunven (FRA). Also, one of the favourites for Line Honours will be Maxi72 Sorcha, sailed by Peter Harrison (GBR) with Steve Hayles (GBR) navigating.

After IRC time correction, a multitude of teams have a proven track record including; Botin IRC 52 Tala - David Collins (GBR), Cookson 50 Kuka 3 - Franco Niggeler (SUI), Cookson 50 Riff Raff - Brian McMaster (AUS), NMYD 54 Teasing Machine - Eric de Turkheim (FRA), Ker 46 Lady Mariposa - Nigel King (GBR), and Ker 43 Baraka GP - Harmen de Graaf (NED)

IRC One

Class leader for the season, A13 Phosphorous II - Mark Emerson (GBR) will be in action, but five of the top teams in the class will not be racing. Several teams have the chance to climb up the leaderboard, including HH42 Ino XXX - James Neville (GBR) , Ker 40 Keronimo - Lars & Birgitta Elfverson (SWE) with Dublin Bay's Kenny Rumball on board, J/112 Darkwood - Michael O'Donnell (IRL), and Corby 38 Double Edge - Chris Schram (NED).

The much travelled Lombard 46 Pata Negra will be sailed by a Chinese team for the Rolex Fastnet Race. XP-44 Xtra Staerk skippered by Arto Linnervuo (FIN) is back racing with the RORC with his Finnish crew. The Tall Ships Youth Trust has three entries, all with sail training crew. Cowes Race School's Corby 45 Incisor - James Gair (GBR), and Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen - Dominique Tian (FRA), will also be in action.

IRC Two

JPK 11.80 Sunrise - Tom Kneen (GBR), will be looking to extend their class lead for the RORC season. Sun Fast 3600 Tigris sailed Two-Handed by Gavin Howe (GBR) has an opportunity to improve on their impressive fifth in class for this season. Skylander - Yuri Fadeev (RUS) is the leading First 40 for the season, but hard on the Russian's heels are Sailing Logic's fleet of First 40s. Hoping to take the lead after the Channel Race will be Lancelot II - Jon Tyrrell (GBR) and Arthur Logic - Jim Bennet (GBR). Cowes based Performance Yacht Racing have two boats racing, Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8 and J/120 Sunset, with the crews for next month’s Rolex Fastnet Race. J/122 Jolly Jellyfish will be sailed by the Seaventus Russian Offshore Racing Club, skippered by Vladimir Chirkov (RUS), a past competitor in the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Sydney Hobart.

RORC YachtsSun Fast 3600 Bellino, 1957 Laurent Giles sloop Cetewayo, Sigma 38 Sam, Class40 Manic

IRC Three

The Sun Fast 3600s Black Sheep and Bellino will be continuing their battle for both class and overall supremacy in the 2019 RORC Season's Points Championship. Black Sheep is skippered by Jake Carter (GBR) and owned by Trevor Middleton (GBR). Rob Craigie & Deb Fish race Bellino Two-Handed. A35 Eaujet - Richard Elliott (GBR), will be racing, hoping to make the class podium after the Channel Race. Top competition comes from Jean-Eudes Renier (FRA) and Jack Trigger (GBR), racing JPK 10.80 Shaitan Two-Handed. Admiral's Cup winner, Erik van Vuuren (NED), will be racing Two-Handed with his W36 Hubo.

A flotilla of four J/109s will be in action in IRC Three, part of the fleet of 19 J/109s that will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. The Royal Armoured Corps and RAF will be in this weekend's combat zone, as will JYS Jan with a young Maltese team led by Nikki Henderson (GBR). The Dutch duo, Joppe Schepers & Jasper Heikens, will be racing Two-Handed with Jomalija.

IRC Four

Nigel & Tim Goodhew (GBR) continue their Two-Handed campaign this weekend, racing Sun Fast 3200 Cora. The father and son team lead IRC Four, and are placed third overall for the season. For the Channel Race, Cora is one of a few light-weight flyers that will be taking on heavy-weight opposition including: the 1957 Laurent Giles sloop Cetewayo - David Murrin (GBR), S&S 41 Winsome - Harry Heijst (NED), Dehler 38 Longue Pierre – Cooper & England (GBR), Swan 36 Finola - Chris Frost (GBR) and Sir Francis Chichester's famous 53ft ketch Gipsy Moth IV - Richard Chalmers (GBR).

Four Sigma 38s will be racing in IRC Four: Kindred Spirit – Christoffer Kobusch (GER), Rho - Sophie O'Neill (GBR), Sam will be skippered by Peter Hopps (GBR), and Machismo II, skippered by Tim Levett (GBR), will be crewed by the Olden family.

Seacart 30 Buzz - Ross Hobson (GBR) and Class40 Manic – Ian Hoddle (GBR), will both be competing under multihull and Class40 rules. Flyer winner of the 1977-78 Whitbread Round the World Race is also entered, skippered by Marc van Bemmel (NED).

The impressive RORC fleet will be divided into three starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line, Cowes. The first start is scheduled for 0900 on Friday 27th July. The best vantage points will be along Cowes Green and Egypt Esplanade on the Isle of Wight. Follow the race online with YB AIS tracking showing each boat’s position and class ranking

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The weather will play a significant outcome in determining the overall results of the Rolex Fastnet Race. Winning your division is more within each team's control, and here we'll look at the top three IRC handicap categories in terms of size and speed. IRC Zero is where the biggest boats congregate and is likely to produce the monohull line honours winner. However, you have to go back to the 2009 and 2011 editions of the race to find the last Maxi to win overall - on both occasions the impeccably sailed Rán 2.

IRC One produced the last edition's winner in 2017, and Lann Ael 2 is back to defend her title, although victory in this hard-fought division will be no picnic for the French crew. IRC Two is also capable of delivering an overall winner, and it is here where the 2015 winner Géry Trentesaux is returning with his new boat, Courrier Recommandé.

Let's take a look at some of the runners and riders, and speculate on who might emerge victorious in 2019

IRC Zero

The biggest boat in IRC Zero is the 100-footer Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag 100, owned by Seng Huang Lee from Hong Kong. The international crew is led by experienced Australian sailor David Witt, former 18ft skiff sailor and skipper of the Scallywag team in last year's Volvo Ocean Race. She will be relying on a windy start and light airs conclusion to have a chance at winning on handicap.

RamblerGeorge David's American Rambler 88 Photo: Rick Tomlinson
Closest rival in terms of speed through the water is Rambler 88, George David's canting-keeled sloop from New York. The 88-footer has clocked up some impressive results which include overall winner of Les Voiles de St Barth, line honours winner of the RORC Caribbean 600 and the Rolex Middle Sea Race, as well as third on the water in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Rambler 88 also took monohull line honours in the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race, so has the raw speed, thanks to an experienced crew that numbers many of the America's Cup winning Alinghi crew in its ranks, not least former Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth. This will be David's fifth time of competing, and the ambitious owner still hankers for the overall win: "Too often we have been bridesmaid, which could be what brings us back - along with the great traditions and scenery of this classic race."

Expect to see a tough battle between the Maxi 72s Lucky and Sorcha (formerly the two-time Fastnet winner Rán 2) along with Jethou which was extended over the winter from a 72-footer to 77ft. Lucky was previously the Maxi 72 World Champion Bella Mente now in the hands of American owner Bryon Ehrhart, following in the footsteps of his 63ft Reichel Pugh design and before that the TP52 in which he scored a series of strong results. Lucky has already demonstrated her class with some strong performances in the Mediterranean including Capri Sailing Week, the Rolex Giraglia Race, Palermo to Monaco and the Maxi Worlds. Ehrhart has twice competed in the Fastnet, so knows some of the pitfalls along the way, not least from running aground on the Shingles bank not long after the 2015 start, which forced his RP63 out of the race. No wonder then that Ehrhart identifies the start as one of the most critical parts of the course, where he believes the key to success will be "picking lanes through smaller, slower boats in restricted waters. We'll aim to sail safe, sail hard and sail fast."

Quite a few ex-Volvo Ocean Race boats show up in this division, with Volvo 60s, 65s and 70s all hoping for some fast downwind sailing to make the most of their round-the-world design pedigree. Perhaps the most competitive of these is the VO70 Wizard, formerly Franck Cammas' 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race winner Groupama 4, now owned by Baltimore brothers, David and Peter Askew. Recent winner of the Transatlantic Race 2019, Wizard keeps on clocking up significant victories, notably the RORC Caribbean 600, Chicago Mackinac, Bayview Mackinac and Newport - Bermuda Race, along with a class win at the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Not so surprising when you learn that the team includes a couple of Volvo Ocean Race veterans - former winner Rob Greenhalgh from the UK, two-time skipper Charlie Enright of the USA and Australian navigator Will Oxley.

Further down the size range are a bunch of competitive 50-something-footers, including David Collins' Botin IRC52 Tala (formerly Interlodge and Spookie) which recently claimed line honours victory in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Myth of Malham race. Tala will enjoy a good battle with Outsider, a purpose-built offshore TP52. Expect a tight fight between five Cookson 50s, including the Italian team Endlessgame owned by Pietro Moschini, which includes past America's Cup helmsman Paolo Cian in the crew. Watch out for Ron O'Hanley's Privateer as the pick of the bunch after finishing runner-up to Lann Ael 2 in the overall standings for the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race.

A couple of other boats in this size range are Oystercatcher XXXIII, owned by east-coast racing veteran, Richard Matthews, who this year will be celebrating his 23rd Fastnet Race, and exactly 50 years since he and fellow crew member, Alan Brooke, first raced around the lighthouse. Oystercatcher XXXIII is a Ker 51 which was previously campaigned by Dutch race veteran Piet Vroon, best known for his series of Tonnerre yachts. Among the crew is the 470 Olympic Champion from Rio 2016, Saskia Clark, who hails from the same part of the country as Matthews.

Teasing Machine is a NMYD 54 which has recently completed the slowest ever Transatlantic Race, after which 600 miles of Fastnet racing will seem but a sprint. Eric de Turckheim is the French owner of a boat which was designed specifically with distance races in mind. Teasing Machine has already proven her pedigree with third overall in the 2017 Rolex Middle Sea Race, winning the 2017 RORC Transatlantic Race and the 2018 Atlantic Anniversary Regatta. De Turckheim has similarly impressive results in his previous Fastnets, 2nd in IRC2 in 2013 and 3rd in IRC1 in 2015. The crew are a mix of amateurs and professionals, including some Volvo Ocean Race veterans, led by Laurent Pages.

IRC One

As outright winner of the last Fastnet Race in 2017, Lann Ael 2 must be considered a hot favourite to win IRC One. After Didier Gaudoux skippered the JND 39 to a near-perfect race in 2017, the Frenchman and his mostly Corinthian crew will be hoping for another set of perfect conditions for their yacht. A lifelong sailor who did his first RORC races in 1978, Gaudoux says the yacht was designed with the Fastnet in mind. "You have to be a bit lucky with the weather to win, but I am very proud to have designed a boat with Bernard Nivelt to win the Fastnet."

Philippe Frantz and his NMD 43 Albator will be one of a number to give Lann Ael 2 a run for her money. Launched in 2017, Albator went on to win class in the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 and the 2018 Rolex Middle Sea Race, where she also finished 3rd overall. This is the first time Frantz has attempted the Fastnet Race and he is wary of the weather, conditions and speed, but is nevertheless focused on the win. The yacht comes well prepared, with a crew comprising a mix of dinghy sailors, a Figaro sailor and previous competitors from the Route du Rhum, America's Cup, Half Ton Cup and Trophée Jules Verne. If anyone could win at his first attempt on the Fastnet, it's Frantz.

Conor Fogerty RAW 4649Conor Fogerty's new foiling Figaro 3 Raw Photo: Afloat

Competing in the 138-boat Myth of Malham Race this season was the HH42 Ino XXX raced by James Neville who was second on corrected time in the 30-hour race. Sixth overall in the 2017 Fastnet, Ino XXX will find herself competing against the recent third-placed Myth of Malham finisher, the Ker 40 Keronimo raced by Lars & Birgitta Elfverson (SWE).

If the conditions come right for Raw, one of the new foiling Figaro 3 keelboats, then former Irish Sailor of the Year, Conor Fogerty, could be lighting up the Celtic Sea. Fogerty is intent on an Olympic campaign for the new doublehanded offshore event in Marseille 2024, but is sailing four-up for the Fastnet.

Based on sheer experience in the Fastnet, the crew of Lutine from Gosport must be considered as a contender. Neil Armstrong is skippering the X-55 this year, and he's looking forward to the amateur crew showing what can be achieved with a concerted training programme.

Another crew that never misses a Fastnet is Moana, a First 47.7 skippered by François Goubau who races with his wife and three sons. This will be the Belgian boat's 10th Fastnet Race and one of the three sons, Mathieu, will be steering the boat as he has been since the age of 16; this is his 11th Fastnet yet he's still only 38 years old. Over the years Moana has been a RORC race regular, ranging from the Commodores' Cup (second in 2016) to the IRC Nationals and Cowes Week (class winner) and has taken three podium places in class at the Fastnet.

IRC Two

The most likely winner of IRC Two will be Géry Trentesaux, who won the race in a JPK 10.80 in 2015 and won last year's Rolex Middle Race in his present boat, JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommandé.

Gery Trentesaux Courrier Recommandé Gery Trentesaux's JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommandé Photo: Paul Wyeth
Having spotted the success of the JPK designs and Trentesaux in particular, Tom Kneen bought a JPK 11.80 last year with a view to winning the Fastnet Race at his third attempt. From a comedy of errors in his first Fastnet just four years ago, the Plymouth businessman has proven a fast learner with his Sunrise crew. "The biggest challenges are the tides between the Solent and Land's End - we have lots of decisions to make," says Kneen, whose team are almost all RORC Under 35 crew and three of whom are members of the RORC Youth Griffin Committee. Additional expertise comes from the young navigator Tom Cheney who works for INEOS Team UK.

Christian Teichmann and Hugh Brayshaw are racing Abu 43 in the doublehanded fleet but could threaten for a division win. Formerly owned by the Artemis Offshore Academy, Abu 43 is an enhanced Figaro II, optimised for racing under IRC. Teichmann, a German investor, is competing in his first Fastnet while this is Brayshaw's second assault on the Rock. Young, but with a wealth of offshore experience, Brayshaw is optimistic about their chances. "I think this time racing shorthanded will mean the latter stages of the race could be hard. But last time we rounded the Rock with a clear sunrise and all these boats around us. We are hoping to finish amongst the top of the Figaro IIs, however, if conditions are right then we could see ourselves towards the front of our class and two-handed."

Another double hander worth watching in IRC Two is Ajeto!, a J/122 sailed by joint owner-skippers, Robin Verhoef and John van der Starre from the Netherlands. The engineer and dentist from The Hague have been Dutch IRC champions four times, and were European J/111 champions in 2015 with a previous boat, Xcentric Ripper, with which they won class in the 2015 Fastnet. It's the fourth Fastnet for another J/122, Junique Raymarine Sailing Team, specially adapted for shorthanded sailing and a proven performer in the hands of Chris Revelman and Pascal Bakker who took 3rd in class at the 2018 Round Britain and Ireland race.

The First 40 and First 40.7s will be out in force for IRC Two but whether any can threaten the more optimised boats in this division is another matter. The First 40, Sailplane, is owned by Rob Bottomley and skippered by Nick Martin, and will be hosting Catherine Keohane and her friends and family. It will be Keohane's second Fastnet and this time she is driving a more competitive entry. "We decided to choose the crew and the boat to be more competitive. It is a challenging race attracting a world-class fleet from around the world and it gives us a 'kick' to be taking part alongside professional and amateur sailors alike." With seven out of the 10 crew having completed one or more Fastnets, this is an experienced Corinthian crew.

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The Royal Ocean Racing Club's 2019 IRC National Championship has been won out of the blue by a first timer not from the Solent. The 22 boat IRC Two fleet was led from the outset by Stuart Sawyer's J/122 Black Dog, rounding off the series today with a final bullet to win ultimately by 15 points from the Blair family's King 40 Cobra. As Afloat reported earlier, Dublin sailor Shane Hughes of North Sails Ireland was tactician on the winning entry from Falmouth.

Today was the third in this three-day event where the race committees ventured out into the Solent uncertain of whether they would get racing in. Today it was grey, with sub-10 knot winds and drizzle, and yet two windward-leewards were held on the Hill Head plateau enabling PROs Stuart Childerley and Steve Cole to compete the full schedule on their respective courses.

While the form was firming up in most classes, oddly the opening race saw a new winner in every class, partly caused by a significant shift on the final run. In IRC 1, it was the turn of French owner Dominique Tian on the Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen to prevail, while in IRC 2 it was Performance 40 season leader Christopher Daniel's J/122E Juno. The IRC 3 (and HP30) bullet went to Malcolm Wootton's modified Farr 30 Pegasus while Jubilee and Whooper were both upstaged in both today's races by the Southworth's Quarter Tonner Protis. Even in the FAST40+ class Tony Dickin's newly acquired Carkeek 40 Mk3 Jubilee managed to break the unbroken string of bullets of Peter Morton's Girls on Film.

Nonetheless, after the mathematics were applied, Black Dog was determined to be the worthy recipient of this year's IRC National Championship title.

"We haven't sailed that much this year, so when we came up we said we'd be aiming for the top five and we'd be delighted by top three in our class. To win overall is incredible!" said Stuart Sawyer, his Black Dog also securing the Performance 40 prize. While the team has been sailing out of Falmouth on several boats for the last nine years, Sawyer admitted that they feel isolated racing in Cornwall. Previously they campaigned their J/111 around the Solent, but coming from Cornwall this proved too difficult so, according to Sawyer, he sold it and bought the J/122 "to take it easy. But then after we won Dartmouth Royal Regatta last year we thought we had to come here to see how we'd do..."

Compared to racing in Falmouth, there was more of a chop than a swell to deal with on the Solent but also the tides were far more complex. For the event the regular crew was assisted by North Sails' Shane Hughes plus a copy of the Winning Tides book. "And you are constantly having to change gears, but my crew has been amazing - I have never seen them hike harder," said Sawyer who also paid tribute to the late J/Boats dealer and Solent racing guru Paul Heys: "The one person who would have loved to have seen this is Paul. He would have been so chuffed to see both a Cornish boat and a J Boat do this."

In IRC 1 all four boats won races, but ultimately it was Tony Langley's highly polished Gladiator crew, including the likes of Iain Percy and Jules Salter, that prevailed. Despite being a prolific TP52 owner, simultaneously campaigning three boats, this was Langley's first IRC Nationals. "I love it - it is nice to come home," he said. "It was good to have some boat-on-boat action with Tala this weekend. We knew we had a bit on because she is a bit faster. They sailed it well." The UK Gladiator was also Langley's first. "I have quite a soft spot for this boat. We have won the Round the Island and Cowes Week and St Tropez last year on her and now this."

The closest competition for Black Dog's overall IRC Nationals win came from David Franks' J/112e Leon. Her otherwise perfect scoreline was broken twice today, by Pegasus and then in race two by Bruce Huber's Xanadoo, one of two sisterships to Leon competing. "He got his boat this year to come on to give us some competition, but now he is starting to bite our neck," observed Franks, who was the IRC National Champion with his previous boat Strait Dealer in 2012.

One of the tightest battles occurred in IRC 4 where Nigel Goodhew's Sun Fast 3200 Cora and defending champion Giovanni Belgrano on Whooper both suffered disappointing days enabling the Southworth-powered Protis to leapfrog them into second overall. However, winning overall by five points with a consistent 2-2 today was Christopher Preston's J/109 Jubilee.

"It was great fun," observed Preston. "We were very pessimistic about whether we'd all be racing at all today, but then the wind came in and the race committee got it going at the right time and we had two very nice, interesting races with the turn of the tide in the second which made it tactically interesting. It was a much better day than we had dared hope."

As to why Jubilee won, Preston attributed it to being "well prepared with a good crew who sail well together. It helps being at the top end of the rating bracket with a boat that is extremely good and a wide envelope to windward. We had consistently good starts and boat speed that enabled us to use our tactics, which was a big advantage." It was also possible that today's lighter breeze didn't suit Whooper.

Dominating the FAST40+ class was Peter Morton's Carkeek 40 Mk3 Girls on Film. "We had a pretty good weekend with seven firsts and a second," acknowledged boat captain Nick Butt, who reckons he has done most IRC Nationals since the event started. Owner Peter Morton was not on board today, and the only point they dropped was in today's first race. "We weren't where we wanted to be at the start," said Butt. "We went around the first mark second and it got really light on the second beat and the fleet compacted. Then coming down the run we got mixed up with all of the classes on the shorter course, so there was a lot of bad wind and we were all compacted again. So Jubilee got us by seven seconds."

The HP30 fleet raced in IRC 3 and was won, with the exact same scoreline as Girls on Film, by Locke family's Farr 280 Toucan. With the absence of his father Glyn this week, son Anthony was in charge together with brother Alex. "It was a great regatta," Anthony said. "We were really pleased with the organisation. It felt like we sailed well and we had great racing with all of the HP30 boats. Today was heavily challenging - very puffy and the pressure was up and down a bit. The race committee did a good job getting two races in because I didn't think it was going to happen." Generally of the three day event he said: "We had a bunch of situations where things went our way - which was great. The other boats were sailing really well and it was really great racing. It was fantastic HP30 racing." Toucan currently leads the HP30's 2019 championship.

Prizes were presented to the class winners this afternoon at the RORC Cowes clubhouse.

Full results can be found here

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The most competitive class at the Royal Ocean Racing Club's IRC National Championship has an Irish leader in that Howth Sailor Shane Hughes of North Sails Ireland is a tactician on the J122  Black Dog.

IRC 2 is also the biggest fleet with 22 boats, including the whole Performance 40 fleet. 

Overall, Stuart Sawyer's Falmouth-based IRC Nationals first-timers on their J/122 Black Dog continued to score well. A 1-4-2 today has left them with a 15 point lead ahead of the Blair family's King 40 Cobra. The Goubau family from Belgium had an excellent day on their Beneteau 47.7 Moana, posting a 4-2-4, while also on the ascent was Adam Gosling's fine crew, including double Olympic 470 silver medallist Nick Rogers, on the JPK 11.80 Yes! whose 5-3-1 today has elevated them to fourth overall.
Yes!

"It was more our conditions, a slightly more orienteering-type course and the boat is good on that," said Gosling, who over the winter has had Yes! twin rudders replaced. Gosling also paid tribute to Black Dog: "It is great to see such a well-sailed boat. It is good they are winning."

Today's third winner in IRC 2 was the all-star cast, including Andrew Cape and Jerry Hill, on board Robert Bicket's Fargo. Yesterday their Swan 42 shone in race two finishing second and today was the same, sandwiched by otherwise deep results. Bicket described their moment in the sun: "It was a tricky start at the boat end and we managed to just get away and stretch our legs on the beat to get clean air. So it was all the usual classic stuff. It is a difficult fleet with 20+ boats, so you have to get a good start. It is basically about not making mistakes. If you do, you are in the mid-teens."
He added: "There's a great fleet of IRC boats here - well done to the RORC for getting so many to come and race."

Maurice O'Connell, also of North Sails, is tactician on another Class two entry, Tor McClaren's MAT 1180 "Gallivanter". 

Conditions came good on day two with a less severe tidal effect on the Solent due to a later kick-off time and a breeze that peaked at 16 knots. This allowed both race committees (IRC 3-4 run by the RORC racing team's own Steve Cole and Stuart Childerley PRO for the larger classes) to run two windward-leewards rounding off the afternoon with a longer round the cans race. The windward-leewards for the bigger boats was on the Brambles bank with the course for the smaller classes set further west.

While in some classes the leaderboard remains tight going into tomorrow's final day, in others there are some exceptional, stand-out performances. In the six-boat FAST40+ class, for example, Peter Morton's Carkeek 40 Mk3 Girls on Film holds a perfect six bullet score line. Glyn Locke's Farr 280 Toucan has the same tally in the seven-strong HP30 class, leaving the likes of Malcolm Wootton's modified Farr 30 Pegasus and Richard Woof's J/90 Jo 90 to scrabble for the last podium positions.

One of the tightest fights is taking place among the biggest boats in IRC 1 where today the tables were turned with David Collins' IRC 52 Tala getting the better of Tony Langley's Gladiator, posting a 1-2-1 to the polished 52 Super Series team's 2-1-2.

"It was nice sailing - less one-sided than yesterday and a lot of options," explained Tala's tactician, Brett Aarons. "Yesterday, being a higher-rated boat, it was hard to extend enough away from Gladiator and we were still getting used to racing the boat inshore. Today we got over any issues we had.

"We are a little bit faster than Gladiator, with a slightly deeper keel and a slight taller mast. In shorter races you don't extend enough, but the races today and wind strength allowed us to use our extra power and, together with some good sailing, that allowed us to get away.

"David [Collins] is new to the TP, but he did a great job driving today. In the starts he was not afraid of getting the boat into some small gaps..."

The most competitive class here is also the biggest - IRC 2, with 22 boats, including the whole Performance 40 fleet. Overall Stuart Sawyer's Falmouth-based IRC Nationals first timers on their J/122 Black Dog continued to score well. A 1-4-2 today has left them with a 15 point lead ahead of the Blair family's King 40 Cobra. The Goubau family from Belgium had an excellent day on their Beneteau 47.7 Moana, posting a 4-2-4, while also on the ascent was Adam Gosling's fine crew, including double Olympic 470 silver medallist Nick Rogers, on the JPK 11.80 Yes! whose 5-3-1 today has elevated them to fourth overall.
Yes!

"It was more our conditions, a slightly more orienteering-type course and the boat is good on that," said Gosling, who over the winter has had Yes! twin rudders replaced. Gosling also paid tribute to Black Dog: "It is great to see such a well-sailed boat. It is good they are winning."

Today's third winner in IRC 2 was the all-star cast, including Andrew Cape and Jerry Hill, on board Robert Bicket's Fargo. Yesterday their Swan 42 shone in race two finishing second and today was the same, sandwiched by otherwise deep results. Bicket described their moment in the sun: "It was a tricky start at the boat end and we managed to just get away and stretch our legs on the beat to get clean air. So it was all the usual classic stuff. It is a difficult fleet with 20+ boats, so you have to get a good start. It is basically about not making mistakes. If you do, you are in the mid-teens."
He added: "There's a great fleet of IRC boats here - well done to the RORC for getting so many to come and race."

One point off having a perfect scoreline is the leader in IRC 3, David Franks' J/112E Leon, which today scored straight bullets, despite having one of her crew Medevaced off with a head injury. Leon's six point lead is still vulnerable, but the dominance of the 2012 IRC National Champions is such that sisterships, Xanadoo and Happy Daize, plus the First 40.7 Incognito, are most likely to be left fighting for the remaining podium positions.
On a roll after his exemplary 1-2-1 yesterday is Christopher Preston's J/109 Jubilee. However, while they posted a third bullet today, they are facing increasing ferocious competition from defending IRC National Champion, Giovanni Belgrano's and his 1939 vintage Laurent Giles-designed classic Whooper.

Preston admitted that their scoreline was let down today by a 7-5 in the opening windward-leewards. "We had a problem in the first race with a twisted kite, but we had really good starts all the way through. With a J/109 it is a problem when it is wind against tide, because the beats become very short and the JPKs are faster downwind. We got most of it right. We have got a great crew and are having a great time. We had 2-3 knots more wind than yesterday. It made for lovely racing."

Preston was pleased to observe that at this national championship for the RORC and UNCL's jointly owned rating system, the standard of racing is noticeably higher than other events in which he typically competes.

Racing continues tomorrow with a third and final day with an impossibly light forecast when 'no racing can possibly happen'. The common hope is that the race officials will defy the wind gods for a third successive occasion.

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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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