Spring Series Preview

Jo Grindley looks at the runners and riders

Saturday March 17th 2001, Author: Jo Grindley, Location: United Kingdom
Not affected by the current foot and mouth crisis, this Sunday marks the start of the 2001 big boat sailing season, with the first weekend of the Mercantile Credit Warsash Spring Series, which runs until 29th April. Last year 272 boats competed in the event. Similar numbers are expected this year for what many crews see as a shakedown for the start of the season.
The fleet will be split into two groups, blue for the IRM, IRC classes, Sigma 38 and 33s with one race-a-day scheduled in the eastern Solent. Two short races-a-day are scheduled for the white group, comprising the IRM2, Bowspit, Mumm 30, Cork 1720, Sportsboat and Hunter 707 classes.

The IRM class will be one of the closest-fought, with five or six Farr 40s expected, all of which will be using the regatta as practice for the British Admiral's Cup selection trials later this year. Mark Heeley's GBR 25, with Olympic Finn gold medallist Iain Percy and his Olympic coach and two-time Admiral's Cup class winner David Howlett teaming up as tactician and navigator, will start as favourites. Philip Tolhurst's Warlord IV will also come into the frame once it returns from Miami, where they have just finished competing in the Farr 40 class at the SORC regatta. The boat is currently in transit.

While the Farrs will undoubtedly be fighting it out amongst themselves, Roaring Meg, the Ker 11.3, will be looking for a class win. It was the Jason Ker-designed 35-footer that looked so promising in last year's Commodores' Cup, before being dismasted at the start of the offshore race. Although four Kers are expected to be ready in time for this year's Round the Island Race, with eight or nine expected to compete in Cowes, only Roaring Meg will be racing at Warsash.

In last year's Hamble Winter Series it was Robert Barr from Torquay sailing his IMX 40 Maverick who won IRC class 0. He will again start as favourite, but as crew-member Tom McWilliam from UK Sails told madforsailing, there will be stiff competition from Charles Dunstan's ‘Nokia Communicator’. Dunstan has traded in his BH 41 this winter and bought Richard Matthews's Barlo Plastics, the John Corby-designed 41-footer.

Dunstan's new boat has a good pedigree. Last year it won class 0 at both the RORC IR2000 Championships and the Scottish Series, also finishing second to Roy Disney's Pyewacket in Cork Week with Andy Beadsworth at the helm.

The United Airlines-sponsored British Admiral's Cup Sydney 40 will also be out, and although sporting an all-star crew, including Andy Beadsworth, Richard Sydenham and Ian Walker, the Olympic sailors may struggle for a top-three place due to the Sydney's horrific handicap.

In the white group, the Cork 1720 will get their own start for the first time. With the class still growing, 1720 national champion and America's Cup designer, Jo Richards, sailing Stephen Fein's Full Pelt, may be up for some stiff competition. Russell Peters, better known for sailing 18 Foot Skiffs and competing on the Ultra circuit has bought a new boat this winter. Also new to the fleet will be Olympic coach Rob Andrews and Alan Hillman. Hillman told us they will only be competing in the Warsash Spring Series, once the weather warms up.

The biggest one-design fleet by far will still be the Hunter 707s. Forty-five competed last year and, with late entries still coming in, the same is expected this year. You'll be sure to spot the pink and blue spinnakers sailing around the Solent through the drizzle. Let's hope for some sunshine.

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