Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Great Training @ RORC Easter Challenge

J/109 sailing off Cowes, England (Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)-The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s sailing season started this past Bank Holiday weekend with the RORC Easter Challenge. This inshore event on the Solent provided a mix of windward-leeward and round-the-cans racing over three days, in 15-20 knots of breeze.  The event culminated in a prize-giving at the RORC Cowes Clubhouse on Sunday afternoon where a seemingly endless supply of Easter eggs was up for grabs!

As in 2017, all sizes of yachts were competing, including J/109s, J/111s, and a newly launched J/121.  All made use of the free coaching laid on for Easter Challenge competitors by the RORC, led by coaching legend Jim Saltonstall. Saltonstall’s team includes RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen and Mason King, a strong posse from North Sails UK and the welcome addition of Australian international coach and Etchells sailor, Andrew Palfrey.

“The philosophy behind the weekend was to give everyone with new boats, crews and equipment the opportunity to start bringing it all together ready for the season’s events,” Saltonstall explains. “We covered all 10 aspects of the most challenging sport in the world- information that would normally cost you £1000s! In short, crews can get what they want out of the weekend.”  With the RRS Coaching/ Outside Assistance rule eliminated, sailors could step on to a coach RIB or the coaches on to the boat, at any time during a race.

J/109 sailing RORC Easter ChallengeDay One
The Easter weekend is traditionally when flowers start blossoming, birds return to the trees, animals rouse from hibernation and the earth generally warms up. Day one of the RORC Easter Challenge, supported by North Sails, saw none of the above with the competitors across the four classes braving the conditions, with raindrops that felt like icy bullets and an easterly wind from Russia that brought a Southern Ocean chill.

From his race committee boat located in the central Solent just east of the Brambles Bank, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s PRO Stuart Childerley had three windward-leeward races scheduled but in the end cancelled the last one sending competitors home to gently steam and thaw out ashore.

Good Friday was a good day for Chris Preston’s J/109 JUBILEE. They were unbeaten on the day, claiming the lead in the IRC Two ahead of the well-sailed J/35 BENGAL MAGIC skippered by James Chalmers. Preston, who has owned his J/109 JUBILEE for two years now, ‘IRCed it’ over the winter, changing for example to non-overlapping jibs. He is sailing this Easter Bank Holiday weekend with a supreme team that includes newly appointed Cowes Week Regatta Director Laurence Mead and renowned coach, umpire and rules expert Bill Edgerton. The trio are rotating roles this weekend to enable any or all of them to be able to take the boat out during the summer: Preston is keen to ‘give back’ to sailing and on Tuesday nights regularly takes out UKSA Junior Instructors.

Of their performance, Preston said, “We have done good preparation this year and have a crew with nicely diverse experience which just seems to fit together really well. Today we were lucky, we had really good starts and wind with tide is good for an J/109.”

JUBILEE has a highly mixed program this year; from J-Cup and Cowes Week, to some offshores, where Preston will compete doublehanded with Mead. This being the RORC’s annual coaching regatta, the club’s CEO Eddie Warden Owen and former professional coach, bucked the conditions, to assist the JUBILEE team (among others) with some upwind trim issues.

J/35 sailing off Cowes, EnglandDay Two
At Friday’s post-race debrief at the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Cowes clubhouse, coaching legend Jim Saltonstall advised crews that he and the coaching team from North Sails would be examining rules. The competitors duly obliged, assisted by one of the strongest tides of the year. This caused numerous close encounters; taking boats over the start line early; on to weather marks; one even snagging the race committee boat’s anchor chain. As a result, the queue outside the protest room resembled a doctor’s waiting room.

For day two of competition there were 6-12 knots of wind, the temperature on the water was just 5°C, but seemed balmy compared to yesterday’s Siberian conditions. Stuart Childerley’s race management team staged three windward-leewards on the central Solent followed by a round-the-cans grand finale to get the boats home.

Competition was tight in IRC Two, where the crew of BENGAL MAGIC, the 1983 vintage J/35 that competed in the Commodores’ Cup two years ago, made a sterling return after a year out of sailing.

“Today was fantastic racing, very close,” said skipper James Chalmers. “The second race was so exciting. We got to the weather mark among Jubilee, Cora, Strait  Dealer and even Redshift- a proper mark rounding! We were pushed left on the run, but we saw a bit of a gap, popped the gybe in, soaked into the mark, and got inside Strait Dealer to win the race. There were only seconds between us.”  As a result, BENGAL MAGIC, that is older than the majority of her crew, pulled into the lead.

J/121 sailing off Cowes, EnglandDay Three
Conditions caused racing to be cancelled on the third and final day of the RORC Easter Challenge.  At 0900, when the decision was announced, PRO Stuart Childerley explained, “Currently, we have less than five knots on the Solent and we have a lot of flood tide for the next hour and a half which will be very hard for the boats to make over the ground in that wind strength. Then as the tide improves for a very short window the wind is forecast to drop to nothing and then the tide will deteriorate. So, the long-term future for the day is not good, and the current conditions are not sailable. In view of it being a training regatta, Easter Sunday and having had two really good days, let’s make a decision and move on.”

In IRC 1 Division, the top J was Chris Jones & Louise Makin’s J/111 JOURNEYMAKER II, sitting in 6th place.  Just behind them was Chris Daniel’s J/122E JUNO in 7th, and after a very slow start, Nick Angel’s brand new J/121 ROCK LOBSTER ended the series on a high note, taking 2nd in the last race to finish in 9th.

Chalmer’s J/35 BENGAL MAGIC won IRC 2 followed by the first day class leader, Chris Preston’s J/109 JUBILEE in third place.

The next event in the RORC calendar is the Cervantes Trophy, starting on May 5th, while the inshore program continues with the Vice Admiral's Cup from May 18th to 20th.  Sailing photo credits- Paul Wyeth
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