The Channel Race started in a very light south westerly breeze of about four to six knots, and the race was to prove highly tactical. Tidal strategy was of course vital, but wind strategy was at least equally important. It was a day for keeping your head out of the boat.
Inevitably some boats parked up for a while, but the fleet enjoyed some sparkling sailing with the breeze getting up to about 12 knots on Saturday afternoon in beautiful sunshine and a wonderful night sail, in the Channel, under a carpet of stars. The breeze held out for the majority of the fleet through to Sunday morning.
Nick and Suzi Jones had a terrific race in their First 34.7 Astarte winning Class Three, Two Handed and the overall IRC Prize.
'It was a hard race but very enjoyable.' Commented Suzi Jones. I think the defining point of the race was keeping Astarte going during the night and the early hours of the morning. We managed to just keep her going forward all the time and concentrated on changing the gears when we found the breeze to make the best use of it.'
'I have to say, Suzi deserves a lot of praise for the win.' Admitted Nick Jones. 'She just wouldn’t give up and kept the boat going. I hope the RORC are going to give us free tickets to pick up the prize at the RORC members Cocktail Party, as I have a feeling that Suzi will be after a new dress after this win!'
In Super Zero the young crew form the RYA Keelboat Programme, racing TP52, John Merricks II flourished in the light conditions, beating Piet Vroon’s Lutra 56, Formidable 3 into second place for the second year running. Derek Saunders’ Custom 60,Venomous was third.
In Class Zero, Mike Greville’s Ker 39, Erivale III, scored yet another class win which sees them back on top of the Overall RORC Season’s Points Championship. French Rolex Commodores’ Cup entry, Jean-Claude Nicoleau’s IMX 45, Codiam was second and Ric Searle’s Stimson 42, Global Yacht Racing was third. Phillipe Falle and his Puma Logic crew have only just returned from ACC Bank Cork Week but the sailing school’s Reflex 38 was in good form, sailing well, to take Class One from Philippe Delaporte’s J/122 Pen Azen. The Army Sailing Association’s Archamboult 40, British Soldier continued their consistent form with a third place.
Harry Heist’s and his crew on S&S 41, Winsome were delighted with a class win, as one of the heaviest boats in his class, the light airs conditions would have not been favourable for the team from Holland. Harry Heist commented: 'It was an innovative course but I think it was the correct decision. If we had continued sailing west in the Solent further than Lymington, many of the competitors would have started to go backwards on the tide.
By turning back towards the west, all of the boats left the Solent in a correct manner with several different tactical options available. If we had started later, there was the possibility that the there would have been no wind in the Solent to get out into the Channel.' In second place in Class Two was John Loden’s HOD 35 Psipsina who was also sailing two handed and in third was Robin Taunt’s J/105, Jibe taking their first podium finish of the year.
It tricky to set a course of any length in light airs especially where tidal effects play such a huge part, as Racing Manager Ian Loffhagen explained:
'Designing a course when the weather forecast shows little wind to play with is always difficult, but from the start we realised that with only two hours of favourable tide, at least half the fleet would be out of the race if they failed to make Hurst Narrows in time. Hence our decision to start to the west but then return east with the tide. It was a very busy morning for Royal Yacht Squadron starts so it was important to get the fleet away on time. We were very pleased that the course worked out pretty well for most of the fleet.'