The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s 2019 IRC National Championship has been won out of the blue by a first timer not from the Solent. The 22 boat IRC Two fleet was led from the outset by Stuart Sawyer’s J/122 Black Dog, rounding off the series today with a final bullet to win ultimately by 15 points from the Blair family’s King 40 Cobra.
Today was the third in this three day event where the race committees ventured out into the Solent uncertain of whether they would get racing in. Today it was grey, with sub-10 knot winds and drizzle, and yet two windward-leewards were held on the Hill Head plateau enabling PROs Stuart Childerley and Steve Cole to compete the full schedule on their respective courses.
While the form was firming up in most classes, oddly the opening race saw a new winner in every class, partly caused by a significant shift on the final run. In IRC 1, it was the turn of French owner Dominique Tian on the Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen to prevail, while in IRC 2 it was Performance 40 season leader Christopher Daniel’s J/122E Juno. The IRC 3 (and HP30) bullet went to Malcolm Wootton’s modified Farr 30 Pegasus while Jubilee and Whooper were both upstaged in both today’s races by the Southworth’s Quarter Tonner Protis. Even in the FAST40+ class Tony Dickin's newly acquired Carkeek 40 Mk3 Jubilee managed to break the unbroken string of bullets of Peter Morton's Girls on Film.
Nonetheless, after the mathematics were applied, Black Dog was determined to be the worthy recipient of this year’s IRC National Championship title.
“We haven’t sailed that much this year, so when we came up we said we’d be aiming for the top five and we’d be delighted by top three in our class. To win overall is incredible!” said Stuart Sawyer, his Black Dog also securing the Performance 40 prize. While the team has been sailing out of Falmouth on several boats for the last nine years, Sawyer admitted that they feel isolated racing in Cornwall. Previously they campaigned their J/111 around the Solent, but coming from Cornwall this proved too difficult so, according to Sawyer, he sold it and bought the J/122 “to take it easy. But then after we won Dartmouth Royal Regatta last year we thought we had to come here to see how we’d do…”
Compared to racing in Falmouth, there was more of a chop than a swell to deal with on the Solent but also the tides were far more complex. For the event the regular crew was assisted by North Sails’ Shane Hughes plus a copy of the Winning Tides book. “And you are constantly having to change gears, but my crew has been amazing - I have never seen them hike harder,” said Sawyer who also paid tribute to the late J/Boats dealer and Solent racing guru Paul Heys: “The one person who would have loved to have seen this is Paul. He would have bene so chuffed to see both a Cornish boat and a J Boat do this.”
In IRC 1 all four boats won races, but ultimately it was Tony Langley’s highly polished Gladiator crew, including the likes of Iain Percy and Jules Salter, that prevailed. Despite being a prolific TP52 owner, simultaneously campaigning three boats, this was Langley’s first IRC Nationals. “I love it - it is nice to come home,” he said. “It was good to have some boat-on-boat action with Tala this weekend. We knew we had a bit on because she is a bit faster. They sailed it well.” The UK Gladiator was also Langley’s first. “I have quite a soft spot for this boat. We have won the Round the Island and Cowes Week and St Tropez last year on her and now this.”
image: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com