by Louay Habib
The RORC Channel Race is set to commence this coming weekend with 90 yachts expected to start this tenth race of the RORC Season's Points Championship and the last RORC race before next month's Rolex Fastnet Race. Weather conditions are predicted to change with an uncertain weather pattern and thunderstorms likely.
IMOCA 60 Artemis (Artemis Offshore Academy)
Racing in IRC Canting Keel is the IMOCA 60, Artemis, skippered by British Jules Verne winner and multiple solo round the world sailor, Brian Thompson. 'The Channel Race is part of our build up to the Fastnet,' commented Brian. 'We will be fully crewed and part of the crew will be injured servicemen from the Toe in the Water charity, the Channel Race is a perfect opportunity for testing out the boat and the crew under race conditions and I am really looking forward to sailing in home waters. I love sailing with the Toe in the Water team, I consider it a very special experience and one that fills me with a lot of satisfaction.'
In IRC Zero Harm Prins’ Dutch Volvo 60, Pleomax, took class honours for last weekend's race to St Malo and leads the class for the RORC Season's Points Championship for the first time, deposing Derek Saunders' CM60, Venomous, from pole position. Both yachts will be racing this weekend and the competition for the Channel Race will be increased by two yachts making their debut for the championship. Dutch Olympic and veteran round the world sailor Roy Heiner will skipper Volvo 60, Team Heiner One, and the much travelled Spanish Swan 80, Plis Play, will also be on the start line.
Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens 3, leads the RORC Season's Points Championship overall and in IRC One but the class lead is only a marginal one. Andrew Pearce's Ker 40, Magnum 3, and Edward Broadway's Ker 40, Hooligan VII, are definitely still in contention. All three yachts will be hoping for fair winds that will suit their fast reaching designs.
With 25 yachts entered, IRC Two is the largest class racing in the Channel Race. Géry Trentesaux's MC34 Patton, Courrier Vintage, put in a gutsy performance in last week's race. Refusing to retire in light airs, the French team took nearly two days to cross the Channel but were rewarded with a virtually unassailable lead in Class Two for the championship. A clutch of yachts are vying for second place for the season and will be racing this weekend including RORC Admiral, Andrew McIrvine, racing First 40, La Réponse, Stormforce Coaching's First 40.7, Cheeki Rafiki, Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Logic, and Reflex 38, Puma Logic, skippered by Tim Thubron.
In IRC Three Pascal Loison's French JPK 10.10, Night and Day, will be hoping to make it a hat trick of wins racing with the RORC having won class in the last two races. After coming second in last weekend's Cowes Dinard St Malo Race, the J/109 Jibe, sailed by Fergus Roper, is the class leader with 2012 RORC Yacht of the Year, J/105 Diablo-J sailed by Nick Martin, leading the chasing pack ahead of Todd Wells' J/109, Je Vante, and Christopher Palmer's J/109, Je T'Aime.
Kevin Sussmilch's Sigma 38, Mefisto, with Olympic multihull specialist Will Howden amongst the crew, leads IRC Four for the championship. Simon Mitchell's Sun Fast 3200, Roxanne, is in second place. However Noel Racine's JPK 10.10, Foggy Dew, is in fine form. Foggy Dew have only raced three times this season scoring two class wins and a runner up place. A win in the Channel Race may send the team from Cherbourg to the top of the leader board.
David Kenefick's Figaro II, Full Irish
12 yachts will be taking part in the Channel Race racing Two-Handed, including Ireland's David Kenefick from Crosshaven, County Cork, who has just completed Le Solitaire de Figaro racing his Figaro II, Full Irish. 'I will be racing double handed with Olaf Sorensen, who despite the name is from Kinsale, Cork and is a world class Dragon sailor,' commented David. 'This is a perfect opportunity for a warm up for the Fastnet and I am really looking forward to it as I have never done the Channel Race before. It looks like a very competitive fleet and I will be interested to see how we do against the other Figaros, I am sure we will be racing close to each other on the water. In the big picture, this will be my third attempt at the Fastnet but I am still to finish the race, I have learnt that boat preparation is a key issue and the training and racing beforehand is very important, hopefully this will be third time lucky for me.'