Nothing beats Nationals

Action from last year's IRC Nationals, with Jump Juice sailing in the fleet with Silk Grove
Action from last year's IRC Nationals, with Jump Juice sailing in the fleet with Silk Grove
Sir Ben Ainslie

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Cowes Week and the Round the Island Race may attract more entries, but for the Solent’s serious racing sailors there is only one event – the IRC Nationals.

The three-day regatta, which starts today (Friday), regularly attracts the most competitive yachts from along the south coast and beyond.

And this year is no exception, with some 59 crews taking part across five classes.

The event has maintained its international flavour, with entries coming from Holland, Denmark, France, Belgium, Ireland and South Africa.

‘There’s a really high standard of competition,’ said Ian Loffhagen, racing manager for the regatta’s organisers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

‘We should be in for a really good weekend of racing – it’s not all about quantity but quality as well, and we’ve got plenty of that.’

While the two biggest boats in the fleet, the TP52 Pace and Farr 52 Bob, will have their own match-race tussle in class zero, most interest will focus on the ultra-competitive class 1.

In particular, observers will be watching to see how the new light displacement Ker 40 Keronimo – which has shown dramatic speed offshore – will fare on the tighter, inshore courses offered in the IRCs.

Also in the spotlight will be X Yachts’ recently launched X44 Performance Xs Moment, helmed by local sailor Guy Jackson with effectively a works crew.

Both of these will face a stern test from veteran Dutch racer Piet Vroon’s Tonnerre de Breskens, the Irish Ker 39 Antix and South African Mike Bartholomew’s King 40 Tokoloshe.

Class 2 also offers several sharp contests, not least between Peter Rutter’s Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8, Jim Macgregor’s Elan 410 Premier Flair and the two First 40s of La Reponse and Carpe Diem.

In class 3, Louise Morton will be hoping to repeat her success from last year, this time aboard the highly-competitive Mat 1010 Matilda.

On the weather front, after today’s benign conditions, tomorrow is forecast to offer more of a test.

‘There will be breeze all weekend,’ said Loffhagen.

‘Although, tomorrow should be quite challenging with gusts in to the high 20s which will mean the crews will have to change gear quickly in the varied conditions.’