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Rolex Fastnet Race - Battle lines drawn for IRC Three

by Louay Habib / RORC 11 Jul 2023 08:51 PDT 22 July 2023
Jules Hall & Jan Scholten's J/99 Disko Trooper (AUS) © Rolex / Andrea Francolini

Nearly half of the impressive fleet of nearly 90 boats in IRC Three come from the drawing board of three tried and tested designs: Sun Fast 3200, JPK 1010 and J/109.

Also in the mix are some of the latest production yachts such as the J/99, as well as historic boats and sailors from years gone by. While the majority of the boats in IRC Three are about 10 metres in length, the sheer size of the armada means that the total waterline length is greater than the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

The most popular design in IRC Three is the Sun Fast 3200, with 19 racing from France, Great Britain and the Netherlands. However, with three different generations of the original 2008 design, as well as options on sail choice, the IRC Rating Rule corrects the finish time of each boat.

?Cora (GBR) raced by Tim Goodhew and Kelvin Matthews leads IRC Three for the RORC Season's Points Championship having scored impressively; winning class in the De Guingand Bowl and Morgan Cup, and class runner-up for the Myth of Malham. Cora has been IRC Class runner-up on a number of occasions and won IRC Four in 2021. Cora's ambitions for 2023 will be achieved by a winning performance in the Rolex Fastnet Race, but Cora has stiff opposition from France, just in the Sun Fast 3200 fleet.

"The two names that jump out of the 3200s are the French boats Enedis and Georgia, but the JPK 1010 are also incredibly strong competition," commented Cora's Tim Goodhew. "We had a good race with Enedis (Jacques Rigalleau) on the kite run back from the Fastnet Rock in 2021 and Georgia (Penny Aubert) is a quick and well-sailed boat that is usually towards the front. We would definitely benefit from a breezy run back from the Rock. Hopefully not a 25-35 knot beat on day one again, that was hard!" concluded Tim Goodhew.

With almost identical IRC Rating to the Sun Fast 3200, the 18 JPK 1010s in IRC Three will produce a super-pod of light displacement production cruisers in IRC Three.

The JPK 1010 has raced in IRC Four in previous Rolex Fastnet Races, winning class in the last four editions. In 2013 the Loison's JPK 1010 Night and Day was the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Mark Brown's team from Gosport UK, racing Jetpack (GBR) is the top JPK 1010 for the 2023 RORC Season. Jetpack won class for the Cervantes Trophy and then took on the French JPK1010s in the Cowes Dinard St Malo Race. Only Hebel & Aubert's Les P'tits Doudous en Duo (FRA) was ahead of Jetpack to St Malo, and then only by 11 seconds in a 24-hour race. The brigade of French JPK 1010s also include some magnificent opposition. Patrick Molitor will be competing in his fourth race in a row with Fleur du Sud (FRA). Jean-François Chériaux's Ad Hoc (FRA) was second in this month's IRC Doublehanded Europeans, plus Ludovic Menahes' Raphael (GBR) and Vincent Gautier's Papillon 4 (GBR), are all capable of winning IRC Three.

One of the most successful British small boats in recent years is undoubtedly Richard Palmer's JPK 1010 Jangada (GBR). RORC Yacht of the Year for 2020 and 2022, plus the overall RORC Season's Points Champion last year and overall winner of both the RORC Transatlantic Race and Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race. In the past, Richard has raced the boat with two highly experienced short-handed sailors; Jeremy Waitt and Rupert Holmes. However, for this year's Rolex Fastnet Race Richard will race alongside his daughter Sophie; the pair last raced together in the AZAB Race.

The J/99's IRC Rating is generally a few points higher than both the Sun Fast 3200 and the JPK 1010, but the more modern hull shape, longer bowsprit, and minimalistic deck layout, make the J/99 a real downwind flyer. The J/99 Disko Trooper (AUS) is definitely on a mission, raced by Jules Hall & Jan Scholten, a pair of Laser sailors from Sydney, Australia. Disko Trooper will be racing with over 100 double-handed teams throughout the IRC classes. Note, the pair did not ship their boat from Australia, the duo will be racing Wayne Palmer's Hamble-based J/99 Jam, which is much more eco-friendly! This will be Disko Trooper's first big race since winning the inaugural IRC Double-Handed class in the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and the boat now has a symmetric option for the first time. Disko Trooper is one of four J/99s in action, including Panther (NED), Gorilón (ESP), and Jiro (GBR).

The J/109 Class has its own prize for the Rolex Fastnet Race and 12 of the 35ft (10.67m) bowsprit design are eligible for the J/109 RORC Trophy, as well as class and overall honours under IRC.

Mike and Susie Yates' Jago (GBR) competes both fully-crewed inshore and doublehanded offshore. For the Rolex Fastnet Race, Mike Yates will be double-handed with Will Holland, a rigger for Pip Hare's IMOCA team. For Mike Yates the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race is to resolve some unfinished business from 2021 when his doublehanded entry had to retire.

"We retired for many reasons," he recalls. "Not least by putting my knee through the oven door which meant no food - kind of important for a doublehanded crew!"

Wim van Slooten and Jochem Nonhebel will be racing J/109 Firestorm (NED). They are a highly experienced double-handed team from Jachtclub Scheveningen. Wim has been competing Two-Handed and this is the fifth Rolex Fastnet Race for Firestorm. Rob Cotterill's J/109 Mojo Risin' (GBR), fully crewed by family and friends, is having a superb season with RORC. Mojo Risin' is in third place for the RORC Season's Points Championship.

The Royal Engineer Yacht Club's Fulmar raced in the first edition in 1925 and the long association continues with J/109 Trojan (GBR), crewed by servicemen and women from the Royal Engineers YC. The Royal Armoured Corps YC, formed in 1949, will also be racing a J/109 White Knight 7 (GBR). The RACYC has a long history in the Rolex Fastnet Race including the team lying-a-hull 50 yards from the Fastnet Rock on the tragic 1979 race. They were swept many miles away from the Rock, and then they sailed home unscathed.

While the Sun Fasts, JPKs and J/109s abound in IRC Three, the beauty of the IRC Rating System is that totally different designs can race against each other, all with the potential to win, if they sail like heroes and the weather gods are smiling.

George Radley's IOR 40 Imp (IRL) include his son George Jnr and an entire crew from Cork Ireland. The famous 1976 Ron Holland-design was originally sailed by Californian David Allen in the 1977 Fastnet which Imp won from Jeremy Rogers' Moonshine by just six minutes after nearly six days of racing. Imp last appeared in the Fastnet Race in 1987, winning her class. George has owned Imp for 27 years and there is no mistaking the Irish colours on her hull.

Dirk Lahmann's 1978 Aluminium Doug Peterson 43 Snifix Dry (GER) is another colourful boat in IRC Three, both in terms of hull and character of the crew. The only real modification for short-handed racing is an auto-tack system for the foresail. Dirk became a RORC member after the 2021 Race and will be racing double-handed with Erhard Zinmerman. Snifix Dry, raced Two-Handed, finished the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race in an elapsed time of 17 days. Dirk stepped ashore immaculately dressed to be greeted by his wife for a Gin and Tonic!

Two boats racing in IRC Three are skippered by some of the most experienced sailors in the race. Neal Brewer's Humphries 30 Bespoke (GBR) is one of the smallest boats in the Rolex Fastnet Race and this will be Brewer's 21st race. The 1972 S&S 41 Winsome (NED) is one of the largest and oldest boats in the class. Skipper Harry Heijst will be taking part in his 11th race. Winsome won her class in the 2005 race and has also won class in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. The oldest boat in IRC Three is Jack Meredith's 1969 S&S Swan 43 Reindeer (GBR) from Stirlingshire, Scotland. Reindeer has been a regular in the Fastnet Race and was made famous by E. Newbold Smith in his book 'Down Denmark Strait'.

Experts may agree that the winner of IRC Three may well be the best IRC corrected time for a Sun Fast 3200, JPK 1010 or J/109, and only that class victory can secure a chance of winning overall. For the previous five editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the elation of overall victory has been enjoyed by a team racing a yacht of less than 40ft, so the dream of lifting the Fastnet Challenge Cup is more than a possibility for the winner of IRC Three.

The 50th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race starts from Cowes, Isle of Wight on Saturday 22nd July. For further information, please go to the Rolex Fastnet Race website:

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