IRC European Championship incorporating the Commodores' Cup
A third light, tricky day with strong tides at the Royal Ocean Racing Club's IRC Europeans and Commodores' Cup saw a lengthy round the cans course in the central Solent just completed before the wind shut down. After a wait, the skies darkened, the temperature plummeted as a southeasterly wind filled in, lasting just long enough for a singleton windward-leeward to be held for the three classes.
A powerful flood tide off Osborne Bay, pushing boats down towards the pin presented some novel problems along the start line of today's first race. In the starts for each of the three classes, boats were called over early. In IRC One Robert Bicket's Club Swan 42 Fargo was OCS, but remarkably went on to win the complex course, criss-crossing the central-eastern Solent on different points of sail, in varying tidal states.
"We had a few things go our way - a Swan 42 is a great boat in 8 knots of breeze and flat water," observed Bicket, racing his new boat's first regatta with a crew, including several former Solent legends prised from retirement. Thanks to the variable winds and strong tides, there were a few park-ups around the race course and these seemed to work very much in the blue Swan's favour. "We had a few favourable compressions and some good mark roundings, but mainly we just stayed out of trouble," concluded Bicket.
Fargo's victory in race one came at Ino XXX's expense. "We thought we'd won the first race until the wind disappeared 100m from the line and everyone else came in with new breeze," observed owner James Neville. However he and the crew of his HH42 were compensated by winning today's second race, ahead of Mike Bartholomew's higher-rated Tokoloshe II. "We are having a good few days," Neville continued. "We just need more wind, but Stuart [Childerley - PRO] has done a good job keeping things on the road."
Nonetheless, the immaculately consistent Tokoloshe II continues to lead IRC One with no scores lower than second, leaving her five points clear of Andy Williams' Keronimo, with Ino XXX third.
While the First 40s were in the chocolates yesterday, the King 40s fought back in IRC Two today. A 3-3 for Nifty propelled Roger Bowden's team back into the lead, while the Blair family's Cobra managed a convincing win in today's first race, but bombed in the second, leaving her fourth. However the day belonged to Scots Rod Stuart and Bill Ram on their Corby 37 Aurora, which posted a 2-1 elevating her to second in class, three points astern of Nifty.
In the round the cans race, Cobra managed to speed away in clear air, but Aurora defended second well. "The windward start was good for us as we prefer windward-leewards," confided Stuart. "We rounded the first buoy in second in front of the First 40s. When we do that we can generally keep our position, although it's tough in a 12-year-old boat."
As in IRC One, the final tight reach back towards the Isle of Wight into even lighter airs compressed the fleet. "The lead we'd built up became challenged, but it was fine - we then had a great light beat against the tide," continued Stuart. "We are enjoying it, but the very light winds make it challenging."
IRC Three is developing into a two horse race between Michael Mollmann's X-37 Hansen and Didier Le Moal's J/112e J Lance 12. Today definitely belonged to the French who won both races. They now lead, one point ahead of the Danes who posted a 3-2 today.
Jean-Eudes Renier's JPK 1080 Shaitan, chartered to Scottish adventurer Jock Wishart was second in today's first race, but, showing a lack of consistency typical across this fleet thanks to the awkward conditions, was eighth in race two.
As was the case with Fargo in IRC One, so Shaitan was called OCS in today's first race but recovered well. "It was a pushy line," recounted jib trimmer Ruaridh Wright, who at 22 is one of several young Scottish sailors competing. "We fought our way through all the dirt, just finding lanes, got to the right side of the course and came out at the top mark in fourth or fifth. It was a constant battle to keep the boat moving. When we reached the other side of the Solent we managed to get away a bit, while the boats ahead fell into a hole in Osborne Bay. We managed to overtake another two boats on the way in- it was a scrappy fight, but we came out alright."
Kings High on the rise as the Celtic Team reasserts itself
In the Commodores' Cup, Jock Wishart's Celtic Team managed to build itself a cushion on day three of the competition and is now 19 points in front of Kings High, comprising the two King 40s, Nifty and Cobra, plus Mike Bridge's Elan 37 Elaine racing in IRC Three. This was despite the Celtic Team's Shaitan along with her team mates, the First 40 Adventurer and Andrew Williams' Ker 40 Keronimo all experiencing mixed results today.
A change of schedule for the remaining four days of the IRC European Championship and Commodores' Cup was announced this evening, with the offshore race, originally due to take place over Wednesday-Thursday now replaced by a race around the Isle of Wight on Thursday. This race was started yesterday, but abandoned due to light wind.
Fortunately good breeze is forecast from tomorrow afternoon for the remainder of the week, with the strongest set to coincide with the rescheduled lap of the Isle of Wight. Inshore races will take place on the remaining days.