by Louay Habib
2014 RORC IRC National Championship - The hottest day in the UK this year caused a delay to the start of the RORC IRC National Championship but it was well worth the wait. Once a sea breeze had fully developed in the Western Solent, three races were completed: two windward leewards, followed by a round the buoys race back to the central Solent. The stable westerly breeze of 10 knots lasted all afternoon, building for the last race, to give a late but great finish to the first day of action for the RORC fleet.
Day one of the RORC IRC National Championship
The boat-on-boat action was intense with a wall of boats arriving in unison at mark roundings and results decided by seconds. The Western Solent is famed for its tidal race and with Spring Tides in force, the effects were accentuated. Reading the tide today was a crucial factor towards performance.
Three yachts from three different countries dominated the first day of racing. South African GP 42, Tokoloshe II is in pole position with Irish Ker 39, Antix, second and Dutch Ker 40, Baraka GP, third.
Mike Bartholomew's Tokoloshe II won the first race by just 11 seconds on corrected time from Harmen de Graaf's, Baraka GP. Having correctly read the tidal changes in Race Two, Tokoloshe II scored a second bullet. Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39, Antix, scored podium finishes all day and ended the day on a high, winning the last race. Cowes Race School's Mills 39, Zero II, scored their first podium finish, taking third place in Race Three by just 20 seconds from Stewart Whitehead's Farr 45, Rebel.
Tokoloshe II navigator, Pete Selby, spoke about the conditions: 'For the first race staying in the tide for the first beat was fairly obvious but by the second race, the tide had changed in the middle of the course but not on the shore, so it paid to stay in deep water for the run, and head for the shore on the beat and not everyone had spotted that. We have got to be happy with our results today, on short courses it is difficult to make up our time on the opposition but we started well and that is always important, especially in light airs where clear air becomes even more important.'
An intense battle resulted in six yachts claiming podium finishes in today's three races. Kevin Miller's Scottish First 40, Zephyr, scored two bullets today to lead the class. Jim Macgregor's British Elan 410, Premier Flair, won the last race to finish just a point off the lead. Peter Morton's British JND 35, Salvo, recovered from a bad start to battle back and claim third in class. There were podium finishes today for Roderick Stuart and Bill Ram's Scottish Corby 37 Aurora, Paul McNamara and Tony Lowe's First 40.7, Incognito, and Adam Gosling's British Corby 36, Yes!
Kevin Miller's First 40, Zephyr, from the Royal Gourock Yacht Club, will be representing Scotland in the forthcoming Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. Zephyr bowman, Moray Clark, spoke about the team's performance today. 'Getting clean starts, staying in clear air and nailing the manoeuvres was the aim today. It is a simple fact that he who makes the fewest mistakes usually wins. The team did well for the first two races but we misjudged the tide at the start of the last race and we were late, caught in bad air and we paid the price.'
There was a dramatic start to the championship with reigning class champion, James Chalmer's British J/35, Bengal Magic, coming last in the first race. After hitting a mark in a crowd of yachts,
Bengal Magic took a penalty and couldn't recover. 2012 national champion, David Franks' JPK 10.10, Strait Dealer, did not fare well either, scoring a lowly fifth place in the first race. However Strait Dealer bounced back to win the following two races and leads the class. Willem Schopman's Bashford 36, Intention, scored two second places to claim second in class, just a point ahead of John Barrett's First 35, Stiletto. Mike Bridges' Elan 37, Elaine, and Bengal Magic scored podium finishes and the racing was incredibly close, exemplified by Race Two: Strait Dealer won by just five seconds on corrected time.
Three vintage yachts dominated the podium with every race winner being decided by a matter of seconds. After three races Peter Morton's Half Tonner, Swuzzlebubble, scored two bullets to lead the class. J/24 European Champion, Ian Southworth, helming Quarter Tonner Whiskers and Gioavanni Belgrano's Whooper ended the day with equal points. However Whiskers is just ahead by virtue of a first place in Race Two. Reigning class champion, Nick and Adam Munday's J/97, Indulgence, struggled against the opposition on the windward leeward courses but came back in the last round the cans race to lift the team to fourth in class.
Swuzzlebubble won Race One by just seven seconds and skipper and veteran racer, Peter Morton, explains the winning strategy. 'There were a lot of bigger yachts from other classes in the race area, so finding clear air and holding a lane was always going to be difficult. In the first race, we actually planned to gybe set at the top mark but we were forced to bear away and set the kite towards the shore. We got lucky and actually found lifting pressure, so it really worked out for us. Like they say - it's better to be lucky than talented!'
Racing continues tomorrow for the RORC IRC National Championship with more races scheduled in the Solent. For more information please visit the website.