50 teams to contest RORC Vice Admiral's Cup
A 50-strong entry will contest RORC's Vice Admiral's Cup this weekend, with up to eight short, sharp races scheduled across three days for the six classes competing. Light to moderate airs at the start of each day are forecast to build from the southwest, with gusts potentially reaching 25 knots on the opening day, creating conditions that will test crews' reactions to the limit and provide fast planing conditions, especially for the lighter designs.
Very light displacement boats are, unsurprisingly, becoming increasingly popular for this style of racing and the Cape 31 class, which raced at the Vice Admiral's Cup for the first time last year, is now the biggest class at the regatta. In total 13 boats are entered, including many familiar and very successful names from across the yacht racing sphere.
This diversity of talent makes it impossible to predict likely overall winners, especially as two new boats are out for the first time in the hands of very experienced owners: James Howells' Gelert and Anthony O'Leary's Antix. Nevertheless, Michael Wilson and Vince Hayter's Shotgunn will be doing their best to defend their position at the top of the class's 2022 overall leaderboard, while Michael Bartholomew's Tokoloshe 4 will be equally keen to cement their place on the podium.
The HP30 class is home to a variety of fast and lightweight designs that compete under IRC ratings. Nine boats are entered this weekend, when Chris Townsend's modified Farr 280 Gweilo will be looking to continue his winning form, having taken victory in this season's first event, with an almost unbroken run of race wins.
However, the racing in this class is always extremely tight – one of Townsend's victories was with a margin of less than 15 seconds and almost every boat in the fleet notched up at least one podium finish. Sisterships to Gweilo, Moral Compass and Pandemonium, will be pushing hard, as will the strong contingent of the MC31 Vitres, Lutra 30 Jester and collection of four FarEast 28Rs entered. "This weekend will definitely be an exciting weekend of racing and a harbinger of the season to come," says class founder Joe Hall.
Intense competition is expected among the select group of big boats at the regatta. These are racing in the newly formed Grand Prix Zero class, created this year to provide close inshore racing for a range of quick lightweight designs, encompassing IC37s to TP52s, and competing under IRC.
Class President Ian Atkins won Class 1 at the RORC Easter Challenge, racing his GP42 Dark N Stormy. "The racing there was very tight, with all the boats incredibly well sailed. It was also proof we got our thinking right, even though these boats are not one design." Atkins will have much the same team as at Easter, including Jerry Eplett and Dan Primrose, plus Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Ian Walker calling tactics, although Mark Chisnell will replace Suzy Peters as navigator.
"I'm very much looking forward to the racing this weekend, especially being up against [Niklas Zennström's] Rán Vll for the first time and in proving the format of the class," says Atkins. "We're grateful for RORC for providing that opportunity and we hope it will spark a lot more interest in the class."
One of the fascinating aspects of yacht racing is that it's not all about the newest and latest boats, and the revived Quarter Tonner class, which also races under IRC, is still very active, even though many of the boats are now close to 40 years old. The level of competition remains sky high, with several Quarter Ton Cup winners competing this weekend.
Sam Laidlaw's BLT will be seeking to repeat his success at last year's Vice Admiral's Cup, but will face strong competition from many others in the fleet, including Louise Morton's Bullet, winner of the 2019 Vice Admiral's Cup and three time Quarter Ton Cup winner. She will be racing with an all-star female crew, including Hannah Diamond, Kate Macgregor, Ellie Cumpsty, Bethan Carden, Nicky Macgregor, Suzy Russell and Imogen Stanley.
Morton's husband Peter, who's also a multiple QTC winner, makes a return to the fray this year, racing Hellaby, a boat he bought only six weeks ago. She's a Laurie Davidson design that was second in the 1980 Quarter Ton Cup in Auckland to Bullit, which is now owned by Julian Metherell and will also be racing. "The Vice Admiral's Cup is a really important regatta for the class," says Louise. "It's an absolute must as a warm up to the Quarter Ton Cup and most of the good boats will be out this weekend."
These four classes will be joined on Saturday and Sunday by the J/109 and J/111 fleets, which have both long been stalwarts of the regatta and both of which will be out in larger numbers than last year. The format of Vice Admiral's Cup racing means they always enjoy extremely tight racing that both tests and hones all aspects of boat speed, manoeuvres and tactics. At last year's event, for instance, both classes had races in which all the podium places were determined by a difference of less than 50 seconds.
Racing for the Vice Admiral's Cup will take place in the central Solent from Friday May 20 to Sunday May 22.