by Louay Habib
The RORC Season's Points Championship has arrived at the halfway stage with 112 yachts entered for The Morgan Cup, the seventh race of the thirteen race series with the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Yachts from Belgium, France, Great Britain, Holland, Ireland and Russia will be racing to Dieppe.
Farr 52, Toe in the Water
Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens 3, leads the championship overall from Géry Trentesaux's MC34 Patton, Courrier Vintage, with Edward Broadway's Ker 40, Hooligan VII, in third place. All three yachts will be racing for The Morgan Cup, as will the current holder, Andrew Pearce's Ker 40, Magnum 3.
In IRC Zero Derek Saunders' CM60, Venomous, leads the championship but this weekend the much travelled British yacht will have tough competition. Scratch boat for the class is Dutch Farr 60, Team Heiner One, skippered by four time Olympian and Round the World veteran, Roy Heiner. Harm Prins’ Volvo 60, Pleomax, has been in great form the season and Lloyd Hamilton skippers Farr 52 Toe in the Water, crewed by injured servicemen from the British Armed Forces who have just announced that the team will be taking part in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race.
'The Morgan Cup will be our third qualifier for the Rolex Fastnet,' commented Lloyd. 'The team are starting to really gel together and we are focusing on competing in this one, rather than just adding up the miles, it is a big milestone in the team's development. In the last two races, we have been testing the boat and the crew to see whether these guys could sail overnight and as the skipper, I am happy that they have the capability. The crew have always had the drive and the determination but we had to work out if they could physically cope with racing the boat: the environment of living on a boat and a watch system is second nature to them but we are definitely in race mode for this one.'
With 39 yachts, IRC Two is the largest class racing for The Morgan Cup, including class leader Courrier Vintage and second place La Réponse, skippered by RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine. Storm Force Coaching's Cheeki Rafiki, skippered by Ifan James, is in third place for the season and is one of nine Beneteau 40.7s racing to Dieppe.
'I am very proud of what Ifan and the crew have achieved so far this season but we are only half way through and there are some great boats returning from the Caribbean that have only just started racing,' commented Storm Force Coaching's Doug Innes. 'There are nine charter crew on board for the offshore team and although we don't insist on them having raced before, we do make sure they all have a decent level of sailing experience before they can enter the team. Racing against similar yachts makes the racing very competitive. In the past, you really only saw the other yachts at the start and near the finish but with yachts carrying tracking systems, it is now possible to see how we are doing against the rest of the fleet, which keeps everyone highly motivated.'
This weekend a new class leader in IRC Three is a strong possibility. Robin Taunt's J/109, Jibe, is leading the class for the season but will not be sailing and a host of yachts will be looking to take the lead. Nick Martin's J/105, Diablo-J, and Todd Well's J/109, Je Vante, are the likely successors. However Christopher Palmer's J-T'Aime and Kevin Armstrong's Jazzy Jellyfish have been in fine form this season.
Thirteen yachts will be racing to Dieppe in the highly competitive Two-Handed Class. So far this season, 44 yachts have raced with the RORC Two-Handed and only 50 points separate the top seven teams. 2012 RORC yacht of the year, Diablo-J skippered by Nick Martin, leads the class with Simon Mitchell's Sunfast 3200, Roxanne, in second and two young skippers from the Artemis Offshore Academy in a close battle for third. All four yachts will be competing in the Morgan Cup.
'Being a Fastnet Year, there's plenty of additional competitors so this year is tougher than 2012 for sure,' commented Diablo-J skipper, Nick Martin. 'In the Two Handed Class it is very much still open season with a lot to do to secure the top slot. The Fastnet will change the game with the amendment to the rule of only one points factor race to count, so realistically, the season will largely be decided in Plymouth. However, there are a few races to go before then to increase our chances of overall success. We have our work cut out to correct a couple of below-average performances. It is all to play for!'
The Morgan Cup was donated to The Royal Thames Yacht Club by John Junius Morgan, a member of the JP Morgan banking family, and was first presented for a race in 1929. The race first appeared in the RORC programme in 1958 and it has been jointly organised by the two clubs ever since. The Morgan Cup course has the RORC fleet racing to France for the first time since May 4th. Dieppe is accessible at any level of tide and has been a fishing port for centuries. The waterfront and narrow lanes are famous for superb fish and seafood restaurants, as well as Normandy specialities including, Calvados, sweet herring and cidre bouché.