While the RORC Easter Challenge is on the one hand a training regatta offering free world class coaching from grand masters like Jim Saltonstall, it also kicks off the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s domestic racing season.
At present inshore racing is going through a halcyon period in the UK with the return of grand prix racing in the FAST40+ class and the more attainable Performance 40s. The former started with boats such as Ker 40+s and GP42s but has since evolved its own purpose-built hardware as exemplified by Niklas Zennström’s Rán 7. While the FAST40+ has an IRC TCC rating band of 1.210-1.270, the Performance 40s are heavier displacement IRC boats with a TCC range of 1.075-1.145.
Both will be out on the Solent in force for the RORC Easter Challenge over 19-21st April.
Seven FAST40+s are expected, including 2018’s stand-out performer, Rán 7. Meanwhile Johnny Vincent’s Pace has been rechristened Arabella and is being campaigning by Niall Dowling, who famously last year scored the Volvo Round Ireland Race ‘double’, winning both on elapsed time and corrected.
For this season Ed Fishwick’s Redshift team has moved into the FAST40+ class acquiring Tony Dickin’s Farr-designed GP42, Jubilee (originally Franck Noel’s Near Miss).
“For a while Ed thought it was too much of a step-up in terms of crew and budget,” explains Fishwick’s long term right hand man, Nick Cherry of their move. “But we saw them racing and it was really our next obvious step – it would be fast, fun, worth a try.”
This season Redshift has a big program including the FAST40+ circuit, but also RORC offshores, although not the Rolex Fastnet Race. Cherry explains: “It is not the ideal boat for going offshore for a long period. It has plenty of holes in it – you can’t stop the water coming in, you just have to get it out efficiently…”
The coaching facility at the RORC Easter Challenge will enable the crew to fast-track working up their new steed. “We have always found the coaching to be important – it is definitely good to get eyes off the boat,” says Cherry. “For example I’ve never before been involved in string drops. It is hard to get a good camera angle filming that on board, so getting video from off the boat will really help.”