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2019 IRC National Championship - Preview

by James Boyd 13 Jun 12:55 PDT 5-7 July 2019
Entry for the IRC National Championship closes on 20th June where the cream of the IRC fleet gather to compete in the UK's highly competitive event over three days - 5th-7th July © Paul Wyeth /

After being temporarily replaced by the IRC European Championship last year, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's IRC National Championship returns to the Solent next month with a program of inshore races including a variety of windward-leewards and around-the-cans courses. The event has also reverted back to its three day, Friday to Sunday format, over 5th-7th July.

Already the race is attracting an international cast with entries received so far from the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, as well as, of course the UK and France, where the RORC and the Union Nationale Course au Large jointly own and administer the IRC rating system.

The IRC Nationals is open to yachts with an IRC Endorsed certificate and a rating between 0.850 and 1.450. While entry closes on 20th June, at present entries span the highest rated - David Collins' Botin IRC52 Tala - down to Giovanni Belgrano's classic 1939 Laurent Giles sloop Whooper, which is lowest rated.

Whooper is a significant entry as aside from being a classic, she is also the defending IRC National Champion from 2017. However Belgrano plays down his victory from two years ago:

"It is quite bizarre because Whooper is an 80-year-old boat racing all the modern ones. And two years ago we had a special set of circumstances regarding how we won with the conditions - very strong upwind, 20 knots every day. A few years before that we could barely stay up with the fleet! This time we will give it our best shot, but it is a very long shot."

Even now, Belgrano maintains that Whooper's results are very wind speed-dependent - they get terrible results in less than 10 knots. "We push twice as much water around as the other guys." However there are additional advantages of her older design notably shallow draft, which is especially handy for visiting the shallower parts of the Solent.

The IRC Nationals will be one of the top events for Whooper this season and for this she is getting new racing sails. "There is no point in going to a gunfight with a knife," continues Belgrano. "Even though we have had the boat for 15 years, every year we improve, learning how to sail it." He is also pleased that in 15 years of campaigning his yacht, his crew has expanded to include several children and siblings of his long-term crew.

Adam Gosling returns having won IRC Two at the 2017 IRC Nationals aboard his JPK 10.80 Yes! This year he is campaigning his newer JPK 11.80.

In 2012, David Franks won the IRC National Championship outright on board his smaller JPK 10.10 Strait Dealer. He is also back this year with a new boat, the J/112e Leon.

"The IRC Nationals are an important event in our sailing calendar, bringing together some top boats and crew, with some first class race management," states Franks. While new to him, his boat already comes with an outstanding pedigree being the former J-Lance 12, which with different crews was crowned both IRC European Champion and the Offshore Sailing World Championship in the Hague last year.

"My first time out on her was Cowes Week last year and we came close to winning the Black Group," Franks continues. "This year I'll be facing several other J112es on the track with some good crew opposing us, and I'm sure we'll have a close contest. I can see some of the opposition in Cowes training and working on their boats so it won't be easy to beat them, but of course one of the joys of yacht racing is the battle.

"As usual I have the tide, tactical and navigational guru Graham Sunderland on board. He and I have had considerable success together over the past 13 years or so and we'll be striving to win the 2019 IRC Nationals, but it would be foolish to make any predictions with a fleet of this high standard."

Another long term competitor in the IRC Nationals is former RORC Commodore and Admiral Andrew McIrvine, who returns with his seasoned First 40 La Réponse. The attraction of the IRC Nationals? "It is easily the toughest and best IRC inshore regatta in the UK," explains McIrvine, who has yet to win the event but has previously finished a worthy second. "Having a consistent crew is a hugely important component to have any success, especially inshore," he advises.

While the IRC Nationals will have its usual IRC TCC-based class splits, La Réponse will also be using her results from the event to count towards the 2019 results for the Performance 40 class.

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