by Louay Habib
The 12th edition of RORC IRC National Championship will gather yachts from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom this weekend.
Seven nations gather for the highly competitive 2013 RORC IRC National Championship
The first ever RORC IRC National Championship took place in 2002 and since then, all over the world, national championships using the Royal Ocean Racing Club's IRC rating system have been established. The RORC IRC National Championship has always taken place in the United Kingdom but it is an open event to all and considered to be arguably the most competitive IRC championship in the world.
The overall winner has come from overseas on five occasions; Géry Trentesaux's French Courrier Nord won the inaugural event and three Irish yachts have also won: Colm Barrington's Flying Glove (2005), Tim Costello's Tiamat (2006) and Dave Dwyer's Mariners Cove (2009-2010), which won the championship in consecutive years, the only yacht ever to do so.
David Franks' British JPK 10.10, Strait Dealer, is the current RORC IRC National Champion after scoring seven straight wins last year. Strait Dealer's navigator Graham Sunderland believes that this year will be a lot tougher: 'We have very happy memories from last year but winning the championship again is really out of our hands, we were the dominate boat in our class last year but we will have it all to do just to win IRC Three. The French JPK 10.10, Raging Bee, has a top driver and a hot crew, we saw that in the Round the Island Race when we finished behind them, so I expect a really good battle with them over the weekend.'
Two British TP52s will have an exhilarating duel in IRC Zero, Johnny Vincent's Pace and Sir Keith Mills' 5 West are set for an epic encounter. 5 West tactician Robert Greenhalgh has just won the UK Moth National Championship to add to his multiple world championship titles and will skipper an all-star crew.
'This is the national championship and a very important part of our programme,' confirmed Robert. 'Keith Mills will be driving and apart from Irishman Justin Slattery on the bow, the crew is all British including Jason Carrington, James Stagg, my brother Peter Greenhalgh, Dave Lenz and Ruairidh Scott to name just a few. We are all good friends so there is a great atmosphere on board. Personally it would be nice to win two national championships two weekends in a row! Racing in the Solent is always special for a British crew and its complexities make the race track one of the most tactical anywhere in the world.'
With 18 highly competitive yachts, IRC One will arguably be the most hotly contested class in the championship's history. Piet Vroon's Dutch Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, is the scratch boat and has been in fine offshore form this season, winning three RORC races including last weekend's Morgan Cup. Three Ker 40s are likely to feature highly in the results: Harmen J de Graaf's Baraka GP, Edward Broadway's Hooligan VII and last year's class winner, Andrew Pearce's Magnum 3. However, there are proven winners right through IRC One. Mathieu Goubau's Belgian First 47.7, Moana, is back after coming second in class last year and Mike Bartholomew's King 40, Tokoloshe was in outstanding form at this year's RORC Easter Challenge. Anthony O'Leary's Irish Ker 39, Antix, will be hoping to emulate Irish success in the championship.
'The championship is the highlight of our season,' commented Anthony O'Leary. 'We have won our class in the past but never won overall and looking at the yachts we will be racing against, it will be a fantastic achievement if we succeed this year.'
15 yachts will be racing in IRC Two including past RORC Commodore Peter Rutter's Grand Soleil 43, Trustmarque Quokka 8, which was the overall champion in 2011. RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine will be racing First 40, La Réponse, and will be hoping to win the class having been runner up last year. Bernard Olesinski's French X-40, Xinska, won class at AAM Cowes Week in 2012 and so is a strong competitor. Isle of Wight resident Adam Gosling will be racing Corby 36, Yes!, with a crack crew based in Cowes. The yacht, formerly known as Mustang Sally, was originally built in 1995 but has been extensively refitted and updated this year.
'We really don't know how she will go,' commented John Corby, yacht designer and navigator for Yes!. 'But it is great to see the boat back in great shape and as we are one of the smallest yachts in our class, it will be very interesting to see how we fare against bigger opposition.'
In IRC Four Louise Morton's Quarter Tonner, Espada, is a proven winner and, as the smallest yacht competing at the championship, will be hoping for light airs. However Harry Heijst's S&S 41, Winsome, will prefer a stronger breeze. Best known for offshore racing, Winsome has won class in many RORC offshore events including the Rolex Fastnet Race.
'Winsome competed at the first IRC Nationals and we try to include it in our programme every year,' commented Harry. 'Winsome weighs 11 tons and is not suitable for short course windward leeward racing but we enter for one reason: practice. The standard of the competition is very high and the regatta offers a very good way for us to perfect boat handling and crew training for manoeuvres.'
Racing starts on Friday 5th July with eight races scheduled on tight Solent courses over three days.