Latest hardware out on the Solent tomorrow

RORC Easter Challenge sets sail tomorrow

Thursday April 5th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Light to moderate breeze and a mostly sunny outlook is on the cards as three days of racing get underway on the Solent tomorrow at the RORC Easter Challenge.

62 boats are entered with the fleet split into IRC classes 1-4 with a separate class for the J/80s.

The forecast shows the wind mostly to be under 10 knots for duration of the event, but gusty and with significant shifts occurring over the three days: the wind easterly, but backing into the NNW tomorrow, returning to the east on Saturday before backing into the northwest again and dropping on Sunday.

This being the RORC's UK season opener, so all eyes will be on the new boats out on the race course. Among these is a boat expected to deliver a significant punch in IRC Three: David Franks' latest Strait Dealer. Based in Malta and for many years a regular in the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Franks moved back to the UK last year, selling his J/125. Over the winter he acquired a JPK 1010. This French 33 footer is the first of its kind in the UK, but left a lasting impression when sisterships Foggy Dew and Wasabi demolished the opposition in IRC Three of the Rolex Fastnet Race last year. The new Strait Dealer's first outing was two weeks ago when they won their class in the Warsash Spring Series.

So the RORC Easter Challenge will be a good warm-up for the Strait Dealer crew: "We are in class 3 and we are pretty much the lowest rated boat in that class, which isn't a good thing," says Graham Sunderland, who runs the campaign for David Franks. "But as Rob Greenhalgh, once said: 'This is a practice event, so let's practice winning!'"

Unfortunately the forecast isn't ideal for Strait Dealer. "All these boats have their zones and the weak spot for our boat is sub-10 knots," admits Sunderland. "But equally, so was the Spring Series and we nailed that. So we'll see how we go."

In IRC One, a full-on match race is expected between the two Ker 40s, Jonathan Goring's Keromino and Andrew Pearce's Magnum III, the latter brand new.

Andrew Pearce says the significant coaching aspect of the RORC Easter Challenge will be an extension of the Magnum team's training program. "I have always used Jim Saltonstall as our own personal trainer and mentor anyway," says Pearce. "Whenever we do a Commodores' Cup campaign - which was 2004 and 2008, and now 2012 - I bring Jim on to the team, so we have been training with him for some weeks and the RORC Easter Regatta is like a continuation of that."

Jim Saltonstall, the regular coach at the RORC Easter Challenge, is away on holiday at present, so the coaching at the RORC Easter Challenge is being run by the highly experienced Barry Dunning.

Having carried out some two boat testing against Keronimo, Pearce is also looking forward to lining up against the rest of the IRC One opposition, including the King 40s Tokoloshe and Cobra.

Cobra (ex-Argie Bargie) was acquired just before Christmas by father and son Mike and Seb Blair, who previously campaigned the Ker 11.3, Skipjack. Like many of the boats taking part at the RORC Easter Challenge, the Cobra crew is using the event as a warm-up for the British trials for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.

"Even though this isn't our trials selection it is almost our Commodores' Cup crew," says Freddie Hall, who runs the campaign for the Blairs. Helmsman on board is Hall's father-in-law, Chris Warnsley.

Looking forward to this weekend's regatta, Hall says: "It is a very challenging fleet. There are no bad boats there. It is going to be a chance for us to see where we are against the competition. The competition at the Easter regatta is going to be as hot as other regattas this season, especially with two new Ker 40s."

A unique feature of the RORC Easter Challenge is the on the water and shore-based coaching and Hall agrees that they will find this useful to ensure they have the set-up correct on their new boat. "The team has sailed together for many years now, so hopefully we have a running start on manoeuvres."

Racing is due to get underway at 1300 tomorrow, but before this, from 1100, lines will be set allowing teams to try some practice starts.

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