The Royal Ocean Racing Club's domestic offshore programme starts on Saturday 3rd May with the Cervantes Trophy, which takes the fleet from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line in Cowes across the English Channel to Le Havre.
With a fleet of just under 60 yachts from five different countries, it is the French, with 21 boats, who are taking the challenge to the Brits in the hope of continuing the dominance they showed in 2013. The Cervantes Trophy is also the first offshore trial race for yachts vying for selection to represent England in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup to be held this summer in the Solent.
RORC's offshore programme of 10 races in the Channel and North Sea attracts serious offshore racers and some interesting boats. The fastest boat in the Cervantes Trophy and the most likely to take line honours in the race is Chris Le Prevost's IMOCA 60, Rosalba, which recently crossed the English Channel in a ballistic seven hour sprint. Close behind Le Provost will be two Ker 40s, a design that excels offshore. Edward Broadway's Hooligan VII and Rob Lutener's Cutting Edge will do battle to win both IRC One and the race overall. Both boats are also competing for a place in one of the English teams for the upcoming Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.
While the boat will be hoping to earn a place one of the English teams, Ed Broadway confirmed there was an added incentive for the crew onboard Hooligan VII. `We've never actually won this race, so it would be great to win it in its own right and get some points on the board. We're sailing with most of our potential Commodores' Cup crew, many of whom raced onboard last season as well; looking at the forecast they'll be wrapping up warm and huddling for warmth on the rail - it'll be a cold one this weekend!'
Each year the RORC sees an increase in the number of boats being raced two handed and the competition continues to increase with 15 boats competing not only for the Two-Handed Class but for the overall honours as was seen a number of times last season by the father and son team who won the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race. Ian Hoddle's Figaro II, Rare, is the highest rated boat sailing in the Two-Handed Class, which includes Nick Martin's J/105, Diablo-J, which was RORC Yacht of the year in 2012.
After finishing the RORC 2013 season in fourth place in the Two-Handed Class, Nick Martin has been very busy. `Since the last Cherbourg race in September, I've done the Rolex Middle Sea and Sydney-Hobart Races, but know I'll be a bit 'rusty' for this one!' A long term competitor in the Two-Handed Class and returning with a new co-skipper, Francois Turpault, Nick is impressed with the annual growth of competition. `I'm convinced two handed racing remains the ultimate challenge. The thrill of competing and potentially performing well against fully crewed boats is highly attractive and the entire experience, from pre-race preparation through to actual performance, is greatly intensified with just two people and the end satisfaction is worth it. There's certainly never a dull moment!'
IRC Two sees the beginning of this year's campaign for Ian Hoddle aboard his modified Figaro II, Rare, which will culminate in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race in August. Rare was refitted and readied for the 2010 edition of the race, however an electrical fault on the night before the start put paid to their plans. This race is very much unfinished business for Ian. Throughout the season Ian will be raising awareness for the charity CLIC Sargent, a charity focused on helping children with cancer. The class also includes the British Army Sailing Association's J/111, British Soldier, skippered by Phil Caswell.
Last year's RORC Yacht of the Year, Courrier Vintage, will be racing to Le Havre under a new name and with a new crew. Now named Azawakh the MC34 Patton is owned by Vincent Willemart and Eric Van Campenhout and will be a hot contender to retain the Cervantes Trophy, which Géry Trentesaux won on the same yacht last year. Vincent and Eric have been successfully RORC racing for many seasons, most recently with the JPK 10.10 Wasabi and the JPK 110 Rackham.
With 21 entries IRC Three will be the largest class in the Cervantes Trophy Race. Iain Kirkpatrick's X 37, Fatjax, is an extremely successful East Coast yacht and the top British yacht in IRC Three for the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race. They will be looking for a great result to boost their claims for a spot in one of the top English Teams for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.
IRC Four contains the majority of the Two-Handed entries, including several seasoned campaigners: Matthias Kracht's Ultreia! and Kirsteen Donaldson's X 332 Pyxis. Pierre Viard and Nicolas Siloret's Prism 28, Adrenaline, will be racing Two-Handed and is the smallest yacht in the race. Last year's IRC Four champion, Noel Racine's JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, will be racing fully crewed, as will veteran RORC competitor, Harry Heist's S&S 41, Winsome.
It is very good to see such a strong fleet in the opening European offshore of the season,' says RORC Racing Manager, Nick Elliott. 'The RORC really appreciate the support of our French competitors making the trip in such numbers with well prepared yachts and crew. A significant number of entries will be racing Two-Handed and we are expecting a very competitive class. Three of the race destinations are established races across the Channel to France; the Cervantes Trophy Race to Le Havre and later in the season we will also be racing to St Malo and Cherbourg. However, this year the championship will include some new venues as well, allowing competitors to experience new courses and destinations whilst racing with the RORC.'
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