O’Leary’s Antix secure Easter glory on Solent

Antix in action. Picture: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com
Antix in action. Picture: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com
Sir Francis Chichester on Gipsy Moth IV.

NOSTALGIA: Chance to climb on board one of most famous yachts in history

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The weather gods threw everything in their locker at sailors in the RORC Easter Challenge, with light airs and shifty conditions in the sunlight to persistent torrential rain, big breeze and poor visibility.

Damp or not, the conditions offered a suitable early Solent season workout for racing crews spread across four closely-contested classes.

As it transpired, Sunday’s four-race finale saw triple victories from yachts in all four classes, but in only two was that enough to clinch a class win.

Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 39 Antix had been consistent throughout the three-day regatta in IRC1 and sealed the deal with a 1-2-1-1 scoreline – putting down a marker as the leading Irish boat in this summer’s Commodore’s Cup.

Antix finished ahead of James Gair’s Cowes-based Mills 39 Zero II, which posted three wins over the long weekend – their finest hour coming in light conditions on Saturday’s third start.

‘We port tacked the whole fleet despite being the lowest handicapped boat,’ said Gair.

‘The boys were going ‘‘are you serious?”’

‘And I said ‘‘we are going for it!’’ So we crossed the fleet and led them into the beach where there was less tide and more pressure.’

The third step on the IRC1 podium went to the Farr 45 Espresso Martini, who put in a strong showing in Sunday’s big conditions to finish ahead of Rockall IV.

Also putting in the wins when it mattered was David Franks’ JPK 10.10 Strait Dealer, a former winner of the IRC Nationals, who fended off a strong challenge in IRC3 from Benoit D’Halluin’s A35 Dunkerque Plaisance.

‘We started a bit slow but we got faster,’ said Franks.

‘The Easter Challenge is a lovely warm-up for the season and it has a nice feel to it.

‘This year it was rainy but we had the wind and the Race Committee did a good job with some pretty big shifts to deal with.’

Mark Devreux’s Raygun and Iain Kirkpatrick’s Fatjax also took IRC3 wins over the weekend in a class that was too close to call until the end, with Raygun edging this duel for third spot.

In IRC4 Louise Morton’s quarter-tonner Espada looked to have sealed matters after two days but posted an uncharacteristic 9-6-8-6.5 on Sunday to leave her vulnerable to Ian Braham’s hard-charging MG 346 Haven Knox Johnston Enigma.

Her three last-day bullets brought her to within 1.5 points of Espada – close but not quite enough.

It was a similar tale in IRC2 where Peter Morton’s last-day triple on his JND 35 Salvo could only bring him within touching distance of Simon Henning’s victorious Mumm 36 Alice.

It did, however, keep him 0.5 points ahead of James Neville’s Corby 36 Ino.