by Louay Habib
A fleet of 86 yachts in the RORC Channel Race experienced thunder, lightning and all manner of wind conditions, which produced a complex 100 mile race in The Solent and offshore along the south west coast of England. Local weather effects made even the most detailed weather forecast useless and those teams that reacted correctly to the fluctuating conditions were well rewarded. The course took the fleet east out of The Solent then west past St. Catherine's Point and onto Poole, followed by a reciprocal course downwind around the south side of the Isle of Wight with a finish off Gilkicker Point.
Pascal Loison’s JPK 10.10, Night and Day - 2013 RORC Channel Race
Pascal Loison's JPK 10.10, Night and Day, was the overall winner of the Channel Race. The French team have excelled winning class in their last three RORC races. However Pascal was not on board for the Channel Race, his son Alexis and Joel Ahrweiler were the crew. Sensationally Night and Day won the overall prize, IRC Three and the Two Handed Class.
'My father is a great teacher!' smiled Alexis. 'It was a difficult race with many sail changes but the boat is very good in all wind angles and conditions and I think we sailed very well. Like me Joel is a Figaro sailor and we have sailed together for many years. For the Fastnet I will be sailing with 'le professor' (referring to his father) and the start date will be my 29th birthday, so I hope we can really celebrate when we arrive back in Plymouth.'
In IRC Canting Keel two goliaths had a monumental match race, with the lead on the water changing on many occasions. Andy Budgen's British Volvo 70, Monster Project, had an early set back when one of the crew suffered a hand injury requiring medical attention but the team fought back to challenge IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing. In a sprint finish, Monster Project passed Artemis Ocean Racing to take Line Honours for the class by under seven minutes but, on corrected time, the class win went to the young crew on board Artemis Ocean Racing.
In IRC Zero Harm Prins’ Volvo 60, Pleomax, had a memorable race pacing the canting keel class around the track and finishing the course in the fastest elapsed time. Pleomax won IRC Zero to extend their lead for the RORC Season's Points Championship, as the Dutch team corrected out to win by just over six minutes from Derek Saunders' British CM60, Venomous. Dutch Volvo 60, Team Heiner One, was third.
In IRC One Piet Vroon's Dutch Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens 3, took line honours by some distance but after time correction the current leader for the RORC Season's Points Championship could only score sixth place for the race. Steven Anderson's British Corby 40, Cracklin' Rosie, sailed a great race to take the class win, after a tremendous battle with Nick Jones' British First 44.7, Lisa. RORC Commodore Mike Greville racing Ker 39, Erivale III, was third after a close encounter with Laurent Gouy's French Ker 39, Inis Mor.
RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine racing British First 40, La Réponse, was triumphant in IRC Two, after a close battle with the British Army Sailing Association's J/111, British Soldier, and former RORC Commodore Peter Rutter racing Grand Soleil 43, Trustmarque Quokka.
'It was a fascinating race with a plenty of changes in pace,' explained Andrew McIrvine. 'We set off in very little wind and lots of tide but by the time we got to Bembridge the breeze switched off and with the tide holding us back, the fleet compressed. Just as we were thinking about kedging, the Coastguard put out a gale warning! A big thunderstorm appeared and, with the wind increasing to 20 knots, there was a flurry of activity on board with sail changes. As we got near St. Catherine's Point the wind subsided again, so in the first few hours we had gone through just about all the sails on board.
'The wind filled in from the west and we managed to keep inside our competition and got a great benefit because of that. We knew how well we were doing when we crossed ahead of a Volvo 60 as we approached Poole Bar! In our class, we had a really good battle with Quokka and British Soldier, we were all in sight of each other for much of the race. Quokka were using asymmetric kites on the run back to St. Catherine's but we were still locked together as we swapped gybes. However the wind went south and increased quite dramatically gusting close to 30 knots and Quokka blew out their spinnaker. We got away downhill with ten knots of boat speed and three knots of tide under the keel, we hammered past Bembridge Ledge at great speed.'
Night and Day was the winner of IRC Three with Jerome Huillard's French A35, Prime Time, second in class and third overall for the race and John Allison's J/109, Jumbuck, third in IRC Three. Night and Day also won the Two Handed Class with David Gebbett's Dehler 36, Krackpot, in second place and the Artemis Offshore Academy's Figaro II, Artemis 21, in third.
In IRC Four Andy Theobald's Sigma 362, Nokomis, corrected out to win the class ahead of Kevin Sussmilch's Sigma 38, Mefisto, and Chris Choules' Sigma 38, With Alacrity. Nokomis was also the overall runner up for the Channel Race. 'It is not often that we are 'in the chocolates' so that was very satisfying,' commented Andy Theobald. 'As always, good boat preparation and an excellent crew were vitally important but if there was one stand out moment in the race, it would be near the beginning, when we chose to stay inshore approaching Bembridge Ledge. We were not far behind the Sigma 38s so we knew we were in the hunt. Nokomis goes very well downwind and we managed to hold our kite from Poole back to Bembridge. Six of the seven crew on board will be taking part in the Fastnet next month and this win has definitely given us confidence, it goes without saying that our preparation this year is far better than the last time we attempted the Fastnet. In 2011 we broke our rig just a few days before the start and never started the race.'
After months of preparation, the RORC Season's Point's Championship continues with the flagship race of the season The 45th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race will start on the 11th August with the largest fleet in the history of the race taking part.