After a successful RORC Caribbean 600, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s European season sets sail this week with the RORC Easter Challenge, running on the Solent from Good Friday (3rd April) to Easter Sunday (5th April).
The event provides an opportunity to gently ease teams into the UK season, to test their latest gear and sails or, in some cases, boats, with the unique opportunity of free assistance, both on the water and ashore, from the RORC’s coaching team led by Jim Saltonstall.
As a sign that the UK is at long last emerging from darker economic times, IRC One will be bristling with new hardware with Mike Bartholomew’s GP42 Tokoloshe facing stiff competition from the de Graaf family’s Ker 40 Baraka GP, plus three new additions to the RORC Easter Challenge fleet.
Anthony O’Leary has upgraded Antix, trading in his highly successful Ker 39 for American Marc Glimcher’s ‘turboed’ Ker 40, Catapult – the big boat in the Irish team that O’Leary led to victory in last year’s Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup.
Smallest in IRC One, but with a rating that indicates she will competing with the 40 footers is Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate XVI, a new US-built C&C30 One Design from Mark Mills that is both a high performance sportsboat and mini offshore race boat -an all in one package.
Of course, the RORC Easter Challenge is not only an opportunity for crew to blow away the winter cobwebs, but is unique in the RORC calendar for being a coaching regatta. During the event, on the water coaching is available from the team led by Jim Saltonstall and RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen (himself a former America’s Cup team coach) with assistance from Chuck Allen and Andreas Josenhans of North U Regatta Services, who are coming across from the USA especially for the regatta.
Crews can request specific attention from the coaching team- this can be done in advance by contacting [email protected] – or can simply take on board the coaches’ observations over the course of the weekend.
One team that is planning on making use of this free coaching is the Cowes Race School Mills 39 Zero II, skippered by Jamie Gair.
“It is one of those unique opportunities where not only is on board coaching allowed but this time you can change your sails during the regatta,” says Gair, referring to the amendment to the Notice of Race that allows a crew to change sails provided the measurement of the replacements is the same or less than those featured on their yacht’s IRC certificate. “So we can experiment with lots of different headsails. And it is the first time all the boats get together for the season and work out who’s in the groove or not,” Gair continues.
Zero II was formerly raced in two winning Commodores’ Cup teams, as marinerscove.ie for the Irish in 2010 and as Dignity for GBR Red in 2012. Acquired with a huge sail wardrobe, she will have a new J2 for the regatta. In addition to looking at the sails, Gair adds that the regatta is also for crew training.
Particularly useful are the post-race debriefs from Jim Saltonstall and North U Regatta Services. “The debriefs are invaluable,” Gair says. “These guys identify different areas supported by video and show you who did what well and who did what badly – the great moments and the moments you’d like to forget about! It is an invaluable tool when you have these guys off the boat. They see things that it can be very difficult to see from on board.”
Another new feature of this year’s event is that it will be the first RORC regatta to make use of the new RORC clubhouse on Cowes Parade. Jim Saltonstall’s post-race debriefs will be held there (and not the Events Centre in Cowes Yacht Haven) and the bar and restaurant will be open to competitors.
The aim is to hold a maximum of nine races. The first warning signal on Friday will be at 1255 BST but will be preceded at 1130 by some practice starts. The first warning signal will be at 0955 on Saturday and Sunday when the last start will be no later than 1415. Racing will be on windward/leeward and round the cans courses but may also include ‘Experimental Course Echo’ – an America’s Cup course comprising windward/leewards, but with reaching starts and finishes.
Race reports and news on the RORC Easter Challenge at: http://www.rorc.org/
Image © RORC/Paul Wyeth