Royal Cork's Antix skippered by Anthony O'Leary has finished as runner up in the IRC 1 division at a heavy weather staging of the British IRC Championships this afternoon.
With eight bullets in eight races, Peter Rutter and the crew of the Grand Soleil 43, Quokka 8, comfortably secured the 2011 IRC National Championship title as well as victory within IRC 2.
"I am incredibly proud - my crew have really worked their hearts off," said Rutter. "I have never been able to win this regatta before and I said to them 'we have to nail it this time' and they have worked their cotton socks off. So I am very very pleased and it is nice to have got this one finally put away. The boat is going well, the sails are good and the crew work has been stunning."
Matters were made no easier for the crew after Quokka 8's skipper unwisely chose light and moderate weather kites for this regatta, which has typically seen the wind rarely drop below 20 knots. Rutter paid his respects to the RORC race committee for laying on a good series, also admitted that being one of the fastest boats in Class 2 also helped. "It was the place to be, in winds of this strength - it helped you get clear wind. But keeping the boat under the rig was the important thing in this regatta!"
One of the favourites in IRC1, Jonathan Goring's new Ker 40, Keronimo, put this to the test today when on the final run of the second and final race, she was nailed by a squall, causing her to re-enact the famous pitchpole of Silk II (as captured on camera by Beken of Cowes). Tactician Simon Shaw recounted what occurred: "A big black cloud was chasing us down the run and we'd just changed on to the no4 and gybed to come into the mark when the front of the gust hit and the wind went from 26 to pretty much 40 knots...
"The boat instantly jumped into the wave we were following. The rudder was fully out of the water. It was a bit like watching one of those Extreme 40 capsizes - you are on top of the world looking down at the boat, holding on to the runners with your legs dangling down into the cockpit going 'hang on I thought this only happened on catamarans!'"
Keronimo teetered in her pitchpoled position for what seemed like 10 seconds, her bow buried so deeply into the water that the instrument displays on her mast were submerged, until eventually the fitting at the end of her bowsprit exploded and the chute roared aft destroying all the stanchions along her starboard side. "We lost one guy off each side and one off the bow," continued Shaw. "So we scooped everyone back in, wrestled the chute down over the back, pulled the jib up, bore away and carried on with the race." Thankfully no one was hurt in the incident.
Royal Cork's Antix finished second in Cowes this afternoon. Photo: Paul Wyeth
Victory in the hard fought IRC 1 was deservedly scooped up by the winner of both today's two races, Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens 3, also winner of the Jackdaw Trophy for coming second overall under IRC. Anthony O'Leary's Antix finished just a point adrift in second in IRC 1, ahead of third placed Keronimo.
Another equally unusual incident occurred prior to the start of today's first race on board Peter Morton's MAT 1010, one of the contenders in IRC 3, when her port cabintop window imploded. The exact reasons for this remain a mystery. but Morton believes the window was weakened by a barber hauler block repeatedly rapping against it and broken terminally when the weight of one of the crew was applied to it. In the brisk conditions they were forced to retire.
In IRC3 today's winner, claiming both races, was Michael Brough's Bavaria Match 38 Steady Barker, but even this fine show left them three points adrift of Mike Bridges' Elan 37, Elaine, the class victor.
Brough, who has been toughing it out since he twisted his knee during racing yesterday, says Steady Barker enjoys light or heavy airs and in this regatta they have seen more than their fair share of the latter.
Their racing today was also not without incident. "Before the start of the second race our mainsail ripped luff to leech," said Brough. "We just got it down, put some duck tape over it and it managed to make it all the way." Fortunately when the squall hit on the last race they were sailing upwind and the most they saw was 32 knots. Even so they decided to play it safe on the final run and chose not to hoist the kite. "We thought we'd see if anyone blinked before we put the kite up," admitted Brough. "Fatjax tried it and went over on her side. Even so we were doing 10.5-11 knots without the kite."
IRC 4 saw Adam Gosling's Corby 30 Yes! claim two bullets to win their class overall, albeit just three points ahead of Michael Kershaw's Half Tonner, Chimp.
Generally of this RORC IRC Nationals Brough observed: "The races have been great. Everyone is absolutely shattered on the boat, including the bowman. It has been hard racing and I'm glad RORC stuck with it rather than just canning it."