The weather conditions leading up to the race looked uncertain, with a complex pressure system over northern Europe which could make it a good test for the international fleet from Belgium, Britain, France, The Netherlands and Russia. Nevertheless, as Saturday morning dawned on the fleet, the sailors sprang to life and took off on a fast and furious 100 nm race across the English Channel to Le Havre, France for the coveted Cervantes Trophy. A Volvo 70 completed the course in a blistering pace, just over 7 hours for a 14 kts average!
IRC Four was the biggest class with 37 entries including last year's IRC Three winner and RORC Yacht of the Year, the J/105 DIABLO-J skippered by Nick Martin. Two-handed sailing continues to grow with 18 yachts racing, confirming the attractiveness of this discipline. DIABLO-J (Nick Martin) will be defending the IRC Two-Handed title won last year, as Nick Martin explains:
"Here we go again! It's seven months since the last race of the 2012 season, which saw DIABLO-J clinch the Two-Handed and IRC Three titles, 3rd in IRC overall and the coveted RORC 'Yacht of the Year'. It's all to play for again, with a clean slate and no advantage! Every race has to be fought hard and won. We've done a lot of pre-season preparation; replacing, fixing, upgrading and ensuring everything works as it should for performance and safety. And for me, a particular feature for the season - ensuring I have a dependable co-skipper for the full season (unlike last year with 5 different guys!). Andy Boyle from Dublin, Ireland, with whom I won the Two-Handed and Team Trophy in the 2012 Round Ireland Race, is fully signed up and we're excited about the season ahead."
Nineteen yachts raced to Le Havre in the IRC Two-Handed class with the entire fleet completing the race. The fifth boat to finish elapsed in this strong fleet happened to be Martin's J/105 DIABLO-J, ultimately correcting out to 6th overall in a race dominated by "wedges of cheese", boats designed only to go reaching downwind. For such one-dimensional conditions, that's an extra-ordinary performance for Martin's J/105! Not far off the pace was Richard Palmer's J/109 JANGADA TOO, finishing just sixteen minutes back from DIABLO-J on elapsed and correcting to 12th overall.
In IRC 2, the Army Sailing Association's brand new J/111 BRITISH SOLDIER was the scratch boat and only managed to get across the Channel less than 30 minutes faster than her older J/105 sibling, correcting out to 9th in IRC 2. Finishing just behind them was the Belgian J/111 DJINN sailed by Jean-Patrick Smal. Their fleet, too, was led by "off-the-wind surfboards".
IRC 3 was the largest class in the fleet with 24 boats. With such strong competition, it was surprising to see Robin Taunt's team on the J/109 JIBE excel in the off-wind conditions; their virtuoso performance enabled them to pull off a 3rd in IRC 3, just 45 seconds off corrected for 2nd! Ten of their J/109 class-mates didn't even crack the top ten. Counting as well in this class was the always dangerous pair team on the J/105 DIABLO-J, taking 5th in class! For more RORC Cervantes Trophy sailing information