Racing gets under way this Friday on the Solent for the cream of the British keelboat fleet at the Royal Ocean Racing Club's IRC Nationals writes James Boyd.
The rating rule will create a level playing field between the 53 boats entered ranging from the fastest, the Ker 46 Lady Mariposa, to the slowest, the two Quarter Tonners. In between it must cope with planing machines such as the eight FAST40s or Jamie Rankin's Farr 280, Pandemonium, to the Quarter and Half Tonners originally designed to the IOR rule to Giovanni Belgrano's 1939 Laurent Giles classic, Whooper.
Three 46 footers are competing. In addition to Lady Mariposa is Colin Campbell's Azuree 46 Eclectic, theoretically slowest of the trio. In between is the Marc Lombard-designed Pata Negra, chartered for the summer by the Dutch de Graaf family, who previously campaigned the Ker 40, Baraka GP.
In IRC One they will also face their old foe, Andy Williams' Ker 40 Keronimo, and Tor McLaren's MAT 1180, Gallivanter. There will also be a trio of J/111s, Simon Bamford's Kestrel, Paul Griffiths' Jagerbomb and Cornel Riklin's Jitterbug.
A favourite for this year's title is former RORC Commodore Mike Greville and his trusty Ker 39, Erivale, having come so close to winning last year.
Among the eight FAST 40+s all eyes will be on the latest generation Carkeek design, Girls on Film of 2016 class winner Peter Morton. With a modified cockpit layout compared to her predecessor (now Bastiaan Voogd's Hitchhiker), the IRC Nationals will be her first competitive outing having freshly arrived from her builder in Dubai.
IRC Two will see a dust up between five First 40s, including La Reponse of RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine, who memorably scored three straight bullets on the final day of the IRC Nationals. On that occasion he was beaten to the class win by Adam Gosling's JPK 1080+ Yes!, ultimately crowned joint IRC National Champion. Yes! will return to defend her title.
IRC Three includes regular campaigners such as Harry Heijst's S&S 41 classic, Winsome, Mike Moxley's HOD35 Malice and Mike Bridges' Elan 37 Elaine.
Alongside Quarter Tonners, Berry Aarts' Wings and Tom Hill's Belinda, Phil Plumtree's Half Tonner, Swuzzlebubble, and Whooper, one of the lowest rated is the Poole-based MG 346, MS Amlin Enigma of Ian Braham.
Racing at the RORC IRC Nationals takes place over 23-25th June with a first warning signal each day at 1050