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2024 RORC Easter Challenge - Day 1

by Louay Habib / RORC 29 Mar 17:27 PDT 29-31 March 2024

The 2024 RORC Easter Challenge got under way in 'sporty' conditions on Good Friday with strong gusty conditions in the Eastern Solent.

The first European fixture of the Royal Ocean Racing Club 2024 programme is billed as a training regatta with Mason King's coaching team strengthened by support from Ian Walker from North Sails and veteran charter boat skipper Andy Middleton. Rules on outside assistance are relaxed, allowing top coaches to aid competitors in kick starting their season.

PRO Stuart Childerley set one race for the opening day for all classes with a Spring Tide going west for the duration. Congratulations to today's race winners in the IRC Classes: Derek Shakespeare's J/122 Bulldog, John Smart's J/109 Jukebox, and Simon Perry's Cape 31 Jiraffe.

RORC Easter Challenge results available here.

Race One was held in brilliant sunshine with a stiff wind from SSW gusting well over 20 knots. A course of six legs from every point of sail, tested boat handling plus the ability to judge lay lines in a building cross-tide. After racing, a video debrief was held at the Royal Yacht Squadron Pavilion. The coaching team presented to a full turn-out of competitors eager to learn.

"For the majority of the crews racing at the RORC Easter Challenge, this was an opportunity to sail together as a team for the first time since the winter lay-off," commented Mason King. "In 25 knots of wind and at the start of the season, the important areas to focus on are boat handling and that is positively affected by good crew organisation and communication. Teamwork is all important for getting the manoeuvres right but we did see a number of boats spinning out today, especially when gybing."

Ian Walker, UK General Manager for North Sails was out on the water in a coaching role. Ian is a double Olympic medallist and winning skipper of the Volvo Ocean Race, but also coached Shirley Robertson, Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton for the Yngling gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.

Ian Walker commented at the debrief. "For teams that are just getting the boats and themselves back on the water, that was a pretty tough day. However, teams that got out there have made progress, not just for this regatta but for the season ahead."

Just some of Ian's 'golden nuggets' at the video debrief:

"When it's windy it is hard to accelerate at the start because if you bear away, you haven't got the righting moment to gain speed, you have to stay high so you don't fall over. In terms of sail set up, It was gusty and shifty, so a forgiving trim set up is what you want. You need to get rid of the heeling moment with twist in the sail, especially at the top but not the whole sail as you need to be able to point."

"The wind was shifty today, so you probably don't want to get too near lay lines upwind, because the chances are that it is not going to stay lifted on one tack or the other all the way to the mark. It is probably better to stay in the middle of the course and play the shifts."

"Downwind, calling the gusts was very important, and the team needs to react. Just coming down five degrees is a simple solution, but you have to have a crew member calling the gusts and emphasising the big bullets of pressure."

Racing continues at the RORC Easter Challenge tomorrow, Saturday 30 March.

For more information about the Royal Ocean Racing Club visit www.rorc.org.

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