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RORC Channel Race Won By Scarlet Oyster

13th August 2023
Ross Applebey's Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster was the RORC Channel Race winner
Ross Applebey's Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster was the RORC Channel Race winner, the penultimate race of the RORC Season’s Points Championship Credit: Paul Wyeth

Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster has won the 2023 RORC Channel Race overall under IRC. The top three boats in IRC Two filled the overall race podium with less than four minutes between them after IRC time correction. Ian Hoddle’s Sun Fast 3300 Game On, racing with Ollie Wyatt was second overall and won IRC Two-Handed. Third overall was Gareth Edmondson’s JPK 1030 Insert Coin. Congratulations to all the IRC Class winners including IRC Zero winner Henry Bateson’s Iceni 39 Andrasta, skippered by Bill Edgerton with the RORC Griffin Youth Team. In IRC One, Gilles Fournier & Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia was the winner.

The penultimate race of the RORC Season’s Points Championship proved to be a windy affair with 20-25 knots of south westerly wind for most of 145nm race. Starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line the fleet beat west leaving North Head to Port to avoid the worst effects of the tide and wind at The Needles. The beat continued as far as Peveril Ledge off Swanage. A downwind sleigh ride back to the southside of the Isle of Wight and as far east as Shoreham Outfall, had boats hitting over 20 knots of boat speed. In the hours of darkness, a series of shorter legs, at a variety of wind angles, tested the boat handling and stamina of the teams. The finish was at Browndown in the Eastern Solent.

Ross Applebey’s Scarlet Oyster, with a highly experienced crew that has raced thousands of miles together, got away to a great start and revelled in the upwind conditions to get into a strong position after IRC time correction by Peveril Ledge. “We might have been a little under canvassed at the start but with the possibility of 30 knot gusts, our main aim was to get away to a clean start out of The Solent and not make life unnecessarily hard,” explained Ross Applebey. “We played the shifts pretty well to Peveril Ledge, and got there a little ahead of our routing,” continued Ross.

Scarlet Oyster’s competition in the race included a number of downwind flyers and sail damage to Scarlet Oyster also slowed the displacement Oyster 48 for the middle part of the race, which was all off the breeze.

“From Peveril Ledge to The Needles Fairway it was a deep starboard-tack reach and we had our A4 up with the boat achieving 17 knots of boat speed.” However, just as Scarlet Oyster approached The Needles Fairway Buoy a big gust hit the boat blowing the head off the kite. “In windy conditions we rig to drop the kite into the cockpit with a retrieval line, so two of the crew immediately got onto that. This kept much of the bottom of the kite out of the water and the rest of the crew was able to get it back on board fairly quickly. We then elected to hoist the Jib Top and a staysail, which was a little under powered but okay. At St. Catherine’s we had a bear-away and with no A4, we had to hoist our old A3. Meanwhile the downwind flyers, especially Game On and Insert Coin, were making big gains hitting over 20 knots of boat speed. Pintia had gone for their Code Zero and was really flying.”

As Scarlet Oyster approached Owers the wind went aft, which did not suite their sail set up. “We just couldn’t get deep enough with our A3 and the risk out-weighed the reward of keeping it flying. We poled out our Jib Top and set another jib to leeward, it was slower than a spinnaker but it reduced our losses and was far less stressful. However by Shoreham Overfalls we were probably last in IRC Two, but racing against surfing boats this was what we expected. We knew that with a heavy strong crew we could make up our time for the upwind legs; this was our forte. ” commented Applebey.

Approaching Shoreham Overalls, the Scarlet Oyster crew readied themselves and the boat for a big finish. “We went through our checklist and got the boat set up so that we would be straight into our stride for upwind trim. Very quickly we saw the gains; the crew were all hiked out and with full enthusiasm remaining until the finish. Our expectations increased as we realised that we would have a slight tidal advantage on the boats behind us.”

Scarlet Oyster won The Channel Race after IRC time correction, beating Game On and Insert Coin by less than four minutes after over 18 hours of racing. “The IRC rule does a good job,” commented Ross Applebey. “The course setters gave a good balance of upwind and downwind angles, it just shows if you have a great team that is focused and committed, an older displacement boat can compete with modern well-sailed planing yachts under IRC.”

Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia Photo: Paul WyethGilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia Photo: Paul Wyeth

Seven boats that retired during The Channel Race have been accounted for with no reports of any injuries to racing crew. Sun Fast 3300 Atomic was dismasted in 20 knots of wind, east of Bembridge IOW. Ronan Banim’s Galahad of Cowes and Mark Rayward’s Stormcloud should both be commended; both retired from the race to stand by to assist Atomic.

The final race of the 2023 RORC Season’s Points Championship will be the Salcombe Gin Castle Rock Race starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron Line, Friday 01 September from 1800 BST. The Salcombe Gin Castle Rock Race is also Race One of the IRC Double-Handed National Championship. 

RORC Channel Race results here

Published in RORC Team

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  • Established in 1925, The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) became famous for the biennial Fastnet Race and the international team event, the Admiral's Cup. It organises an annual series of domestic offshore races from its base in Cowes as well as inshore regattas including the RORC Easter Challenge and the IRC European Championship (includes the Commodores' Cup) in the Solent
  • The RORC works with other yacht clubs to promote their offshore races and provides marketing and organisational support. The RORC Caribbean 600, based in Antigua and the first offshore race in the Caribbean, has been an instant success. The 10th edition took place in February 2018. The RORC extended its organisational expertise by creating the RORC Transatlantic Race from Lanzarote to Grenada, the first of which was in November 2014
  • The club is based in St James' Place, London, but after a merger with The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes now boasts a superb clubhouse facility at the entrance to Cowes Harbour and a membership of over 4,000