#rorc –Irish cruiser racing is to the fore on the Solent this weekend as the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year makes a big splash on the Solent. Antix, Anthony O'Leary's turbo-ed Ker 40 is the runaway leader, having won all but one of the five races held. O'Leary's team on Antix, two-time winner of the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, now holds the biggest lead across the RORC Easter Challenge's four classes writes James Boyd.
A stiff northerly breeze gave the second day of the RORC Easter Challenge more of a winter feel, rather than a spring one. But an early start and the shifting 15 knot winds that built towards 20 were enough for the Race Committee to hold four races, making up for yesterday's one.
Within IRC One, the inter-Farr 45 competition remains close with Toe in the Water Too trailing the British Keel Academy crew on Kolga by just two points. Toe in the Water Too, which made strong starts in today's first two races, as ever has injured servicemen among her crew. On this occasion they include Steven Palmer, a former Royal Engineer who lost both his legs in Afghanistan.
"He has been brilliant," said Toe in the Water skipper, Lloyd Hamilton. "As part of the trim crew, he has been flying the spinnaker really well although he is pretty tired now. We tried to do some training pre-event but there has been no wind for the last few days so this was a baptism of fire for some of them."
In IRC Two, Simon Henning's Channel Islands-based team on the Mumm 36, Alice, leads from Peter Morton's JND 35, Salvo. However winner of today's first two races was the X 40, Xinska, of Cowes-based superyacht designer Bernard Olesinski.
Skippering Xinska is Rupert Morgan, who was pleased by their performance, even though in the last two races he admitted getting stuck "in the wrong groove upwind. We were going well downwind, but it was very close. Running into the finish of the last race there were five of us abreast!"
Free coaching is paying off
The Xinska crew has been making good use of the free coaching at this regatta from Jim Saltonstall's team and North U Regatta Services. "This is a cruising boat which we have converted and it is not designed to change gears," said Morgan. "We have a hydraulic backstay and a tiny cockpit; getting weight off the rail is a problem."
Also benefitting from the coaching here has been the all-female crew on board the Reflex 38, Sirens' Tigress. This is only the third occasion they have sailed their boat after acquiring her in October and converting its set-up from two-handed to fully crewed.
"We got a bit of a surprise yesterday when it was so light and we decided to go with our A sail which we'd never used before," admitted skipper and co-owner Susan Glenny. "We weren't as practiced with that as we should have been. So we went back to the symmetric today and it was great - we had some really great crew work."
She adds that with a very light forecast for tomorrow, tonight they will be examining yesterday's notes. "We got lots of tips about gybing and preventing drag. I love this regatta - you really learn a lot, and it is great to get that level of coaching when you are learning yourself."
In IRC Three, David Franks' IRC Nationals-winning JPK 10.10, Strait Dealer, duplicated Antix's scoreline today with three bullets and a second, but only three points behind is the Dutch team on Willem Schopman's BH 36, Intention.
It is similarly close in IRC Four where Sam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner, Aguila holds a three point lead over David Lees' High Tension 36, Hephzibah. Sadly the other Quarter Tonner competing, William McNeill's Illegal Immigrant, got severely holed during a port-starboard incident two minutes into today's first race and has been forced to retire.
The RORC Easter Challenge is not only about the crews learning, but the Race Committee too. Today's second race was held on 'Experimental Course Echo' - effectively a modern America's Cup-style course comprising windward-leewards, but with reaching legs at the start and finish.
PRO Stuart Childerley said that they learned a lot, particularly in terms of how to set the line, the distance between the line and the first mark, the optimum wind and tide strengths in which to hold such races - 7-14 knots and when the tide is neutral or slightly against. "It is an interesting concept - where do you start on the line, the importance of the 'trigger pull', etc. There are a lot of decisions to be made by the sailors to get it right and if you get it wrong there are a lot of penalties."
Tomorrow, the final day of racing, the forecast is for very light winds.