With 61 yachts from seven nations, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s three day long IRC National Championship, starting tomorrow (Friday 24th June), will feature one of the strongest line-ups of recent years.
In addition to the new high speed, adrenalin-fuelled box rule classes, the FAST40+ and HP30, several competitors are using the IRC Nationals as a warm-up for next month’s Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup. Almost all of the Commodores’ Cup teams will be represented this weekend, and across the size range – from the GBR Blue big boat, James Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX, competing in the FAST40+ class to James Chalmers’ J/35 Bengal Magic and Philippe Bourgeois’ A35, Dunkerque – Les Dunes de Flandre, both racing in IRC Three, but part of the GBR Red and Flanders North Sea teams in July.
Among them is also the present IRC National Champion, Peter Morton, who returns with his JND35, Salvo, which is one of the three boats in the Commodores’ Cup Israel team. However for the IRC Nationals, the regular Salvo crew is on board.
As to the prospects of him successfully defending his IRC Nationals title, Morton is not optimistic. “It looks like we will have quite a difficult task on our hands. Last year we were lucky enough to be at the top end of our group. Now we are in Class 2 with some 19 boats, most of whom rate higher than us. So I would be most surprised if we pull it off again.”
However he is impressed by the competition this year: “It is a good turn-out compared to last year. The Commodores’ Cup and the arrival of the FAST40+ class make a difference. You might find my namesake [Peter Morton, owner of the FAST40+ favourite Girls on Film] does very well. It will be good to keep the ‘Morton’ name up there somewhere!”
Racing at the top of IRC Two is Admiral of the RORC, Andrew McIrvine, whose La Réponse is one of five First 40s competing (along with two First 40.7s) and will be part of GBR Red in July. This weekend La Réponse will lining up against Frans Rodenburg’s slightly higher-rated sistership, Elke, that is part of the Flanders team.
“It has certainly improved,” says McIrvine of this year’s IRC Nationals line-up. “It has been boosted by the eleven FAST40+s and the HP30s, but there seems to be a better entry in the other classes as well, a good mix.” McIrvine points to other IRC Two boats he expects to do well: Bernard Olesinki’s X-40, Xinska, and Poole legend Jim Macgregor’s Elan 410, Premier Flair, sailing with a crew likely to include some of his Olympic sailor daughters. “If it is light, the JPK 10.80s will slaughter us. If it is medium and there’s isn’t too much downwind when they can plane, then we’ll be alright. We raced against Elke in the Rolex Fastnet Race and although they beat us on the water, we beat them…just…on handicap.”
IRC Two includes four JPK 10.80s, including one of the favourites for this year’s IRC Nationals title – Adam Gosling’s brand new Yes! – plus Marc Alpérovitch’s Timeline, part of the France Red Commodores’ Cup team. Another beginning to show form will be JPK 10.80 Shaitan, being campaigned by Scottish adventurer Jock Wishart. The majority of Shaitan’s crew is Scottish, and also includes 1969 Finn Gold Cup winner Thomas Lundquist, who will be helming, and Finn National champion, Julian Smith.
Wishart only got hold of his new boat three weeks ago and after two training weekends, he competed in the North Sails June Regatta out of the Royal Southern YC last week. He says his teams remain on a steep learning curve. “I’d like to do well over this weekend. We did pretty well last weekend when we finished with a first and we dominated the starts. We are still missing some sails – we’ll just have to use what we’ve got at the moment, but all the crew will be together this coming weekend.”
At present the forecast for the IRC Nationals is light to moderate with a building 10-13 knot southwesterly tomorrow, lighter winds on Saturday and 10-14 knots from the west on Sunday.
Saturday’s winners, across all of the IRC Nationals’ five classes, will be awarded Tiny Mitchell trophies, named after the founder of the originally Corinthian Yacht Club, now the RORC Cowes clubhouse. These trophies will be awarded solely to overall winners on Saturday, based on all the races completed that day, with no discards.
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