The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) domestic offshore season burst to life with a fast and, at times, furious 100 mile race to Le Havre for the coveted Cervantes Trophy. Sam Marsaudon and Géry Trentesaux's MC34 Patton, Courrier Vintage, finished the course in under 10 hours to win IRC Two and was declared the overall winner. Racing under IRC rule, the French team of seven included UNCL President, Marc de Saint Denis and was skippered by Géry Trentesaux.
Géry Trenteseaux is one of the most experienced helmsmen in the race; he recalled: 'We had more wind at the start than we expected and we had our big spinnaker up, which made for a very fast but at times tricky start, but Courrier Vintage loves going downwind in big conditions. I am too old to helm for ten hours, so we were rotating the driving. It was a very fast race and although the wind was down towards the end, we were not concerned as there was still enough to keep the boat going fast. We received a very warm welcome from the yacht club in Le Havre and celebrated with some dinner and of course some French wine and now we are looking forward to next week's North Sea Race.'
Andrew Budgen's Volvo 70, Monster Project, took line honours and the IRC Canting Keel class in an astonishing elapsed time of just over seven hours. Averaging close to 14 knots for the race, Monster Project was out of sight of the rest of the fleet shortly after the start.
Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, led the chasing pack out of the Solent with Ker 40, Magnum III, in hot pursuit, as owner Andrew Pearce explains:
'Well, what a race; quite spectacular and exciting in the extreme! The wind direction at the start made for a decision between a two-sail reach or our A3 kite and we went for the latter. With 20 knots at the start and rising it was an exhilarating first leg to clear the Solent. With gust after gust blowing through, it was all very exciting and in one bear-away we hit 20 knots of boat speed. Leaving the Solent, we changed to the Jibtop. As the wind increased, we reefed the main and hoisted the genoa staysail; if the breeze had been another ten degrees lower we would have surfed all the way to Le Havre!'
It was a case of digging deep and rotating the helm and trimmers for maximum input and sailing the best numbers. The wind speed was forecast to drop quite steeply through the late afternoon but it was a fast last leg into the finish, with just a slight softening of the wind strength on final approach. First in class and second overall was a satisfying result; we were beaten by Courrier Vintage and very well deserved it was too.'
Magnum III was declared the winner of IRC One with Tonnerre de Breskens second and Edward Broadway's Ker 40, Hooligan VII, taking third.
Runner up in IRC Two was one of the two Figaro II entries from the Artemis Offshore Academy raced two-handed by Sam Matson and Robin Elsey, Artemis 21. RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine's First 40, La Réponse was third in class.
IRC Four was dominated by French yachts; Noel Racine's JPK 10.10, Foggy Dew, corrected out to win the class with Philippe Auber's JPK 9.60, Tusen Takk II, taking second place, a phenomenal effort as the boat was raced two-handed. Jean-Baptiste Crepin's Sun Fast 3200, Jubilon, was less than a minute behind after time correction, to take third.
19 yachts raced to Le Havre in the Two-Handed class with the entire fleet completing the race. The two pairs of young graduates from the Artemis Offshore Academy took the top two positions. Artemis 21, skippered by Sam Matson and Robin Elsey took the win from Alex Gardner and Dyfig Mon in the second Figaro II, Artemis 43, followed by Philippe Auber's Tusen Takk II in third place.
Momentum Ocean Racing was the only two-handed entry in the Class 40 Division, sailed by Dan Dytch and Emma Creighton, and the duo completed the race in just over nine hours to take the class win. Julian Metherell and Mark Denton's Fortissimo was second, with Brieuc Maisonneuve's AL Bucq, skippered by Stephan Theissing, in third.
'This was the first race of our season and we were delighted with the performance,' commented Emma Creighton. 'Third boat across the line, first Class 40 and first double-handed boat by hours! Then we turned straight around and after tucking the boat away in Hamble, it was time for a big breakfast and a nap!'
The RORC Season's Points Championship continues with the North Sea Race which starts on Friday May 10th, the 210 mile course taking the fleet from Harwich to Scheveningen.
In IRC Three, the top two boats on corrected time are subject to protests and therefore we await the decision of the Protest Committee before any trophies can be awarded.