Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39, Antix returns to the Solent in less than a month for the 20th edition of RORC's Easter Sailing Challenge and once again this ever-popular event has attracted a huge range of yachts writes Louay Habib. Raced on tight Solent courses over the Bank Holiday weekend, the event is an ideal way to kick-start a racing season, test new equipment and brush up on boat handling. With seven races scheduled over three days, the RORC Easter Challenge offers an intensive programme designed to blow away the winter cobwebs and get both crew and yachts up to speed.
The fundamental purpose of the regatta is to improve performance for the season ahead. Competitors benefit from complimentary world class coaching, as the rules on outside assistance are relaxed to allow the legendary Jim Saltonstall MBE and his team to provide free on-the-water advice. This year the team will include: the highly experienced Barry Dunning and RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen. The British Keelboat Academy's Phil Johnston will be coaching the J80s. There will also be expert advice from Ultimate Sails, North Sails and Quantum Sails. After each day's racing Jim Saltonstall delivers his impressive video debriefing which is often light-hearted but always packed with knowledge and tips that give tremendous benefit to all of the competitors.
The RORC Easter Challenge provides a golden opportunity to make a great start to the season. Although the prizes are Easter eggs, the regatta is most definitely competitive. The RORC Easter Challenge is a very popular event. Already entries include 22 different types of yacht and many close battles are expected. Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39, Antix returns to the Solent after winning the Rolex Commodores' Cup for Ireland last year.
"This will be the first time that Antix has been competing this year," explained Anthony O'Leary. "We have been out over the winter in 1720s and other boats but nothing beats putting the crew back together. Having excellent coaching, right at the start of our season, is a real bonus and Jim Saltonstall and his team do an excellent job. We are expecting some great racing. There are several boats competing that should be close to Antix on the water. Easter is late this year, so we hope that we won't be getting any arctic conditions!"
Antix should have some close company on the racecourse: Mark Devereux's Swan 42, Brevity, John McLaren's Ker 39, Maridadi, and Michael Bartholomew's King 40, Tokoloshe, are already entered for the regatta.
This year, the Royal Ocean Racing Club is expecting a fleet of as many as 10 J80s which will be level rating. The J80 has become an incredibly popular class, especially with sailing academies such as the British Keelboat Academy. The inclusion of J80s allows a more youthful element to enjoy racing at the RORC Easter Challenge.
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