Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dark’n’Stormy RORC IRC Nationals

J/111 sailing off Cowes, England (Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- The sixty-one crews that sailed in the RORC’s IRC National Championship were eased gently into the regatta on their first day, initially with sub-10 knot conditions. However, by the time the fourth and final race was held, the breeze had built to 20+ knots in the gusts. This, combined with a short, sharp chop kicked up by a building flood tide, led to numerous wipe-outs.

The largest class competing at the IRC Nationals is the 19-strong IRC Two. In this, the competition is tight at the top. However, it is the new J/112E J-LANCE 12 of France's Frederic Bouvier that was looking most threatening to the class leader YES!

In IRC Three, a standout performer was the J/35 BENGAL MAGIC that won the last two races of the day.  She is also part of the GBR Red Commodores' Cup team.

On Saturday, the wind was expected to be lighter, with 10-12 knots forecast from the southwest. Race Officer Stuart Childerley intended to stage one windward-leeward race and two round the cans. As he explained: "We want to get three races in, because on Sunday it looks quite light and there might be a slight delay too. I don't want to leave more than two races on the table for Sunday, which is why we pushed hard for four races today."

Day Two- Thunder and lightning - very, very frightening!  With micro-storms, intense, frequent deluges, thunder and lightning, conditions for day two resembled an episode from the Old Testament; the Great Flood perhaps.

This made for a "very testing day," recounted PRO Childerley. "It looked really good for half an hour, but then very quickly, shower cells developed, creating havoc."

The fleet was initially packed off on a windward-leeward course. However, as Childerley explained, “for those, you expect half decent conditions to make it fair, while we were seeing a number of shifts and the wind was up and down. Then the wind just dropped out completely. So the decision-making process wasn't in their hands and I abandoned that one."

Unfortunately, from then on, conditions turned 'biblical' as a stream of storms cells rolled across the Solent, causing the wind range to span nothing to 20 knots, with giant shifts.

During a momentary break in the storms, one round the cans race, was successfully completed, albeit with a few stop-starts. While the intention was to hold three races, in fact after some patient waiting by increasingly soggy crew, the decision was made to send the fleet in, after the conditions failed to stabilize.

In IRC Two, Saturday’s surprise winner was Andy Theobald's J/122 R&W, which in yesterday's four races had been unable to finish a race better than 13th. However, today they were on fire, winning their race and the Tiny Mitchell trophy.

In IRC Three, with five races held to date, the British J/35 BENGAL MAGIC was still laying second overall.

To make up for Saturday’s lost races, the aim was to start half an hour earlier for Sunday, the final day of competition, with a warning signal at 0955. The intention was to run two windward-leewards and one round the cans race. The forecast was for 8-12 knots from the southwest.

Day Three - Unlike stormy Saturday, on a slightly more serene Sunday the race management team was able to hold one windward-leeward in 8-15 knots winds. This was followed by two round the cans races in the central/eastern Solent, during which the wind built to 20+ knots, creating a short sharp chop from the building flood tide.

IRC 1 Class the J/111s ended up finishing in 8th place, Jan Van Berne’s Dutch crew on RED HERRING, and in 10th place, Chris Jones and Louise Makin’s British team on JOURNEYMAKER II.

The J/112E J-LANCE 12, sailed by Fred Bouvier and Didier LeMoal, started out by leading the regatta after the first two races, posting a 1-2.  However, the sailing conditions changed significantly for the next five races, putting an enormous emphasis on DDW sailing against current, where the symmetric spinnaker equipped boats could simply slide down the beach with keels 6” clear of the bottom and make big gains.  In the end, for a sport-cruiser, the J/112E showed it had the fastest speed upwind in its class, comprised mostly of JPK 1080s and First 40s.  Her fourth place in such a large, hot fleet of boats did not go un-noticed by the Solent racing cognoscenti.  After their “flash in the pan” performance on the second day, Andy Theobald’s J/122 R&W finished 12th overall.

Finally, the most remarkable performance by a J/crew over the weekend was that by the J/35 BENGAL MAGIC, one of only two boats in the entire class to post all top five races in eight races counted.  They placed second in class.  Fellow J/sailors on the J/92 WILDEBEEST V skippered by Craig Latimer placed 7th and Richard Sparrow’s J/97 ONLY MAGIC took 8th.  For more RORC IRC Nationals sailing information