Challenge for competitors on IRC Europeans’ opening day

Racing got underway today in the seventh IRC European Championship, this year taking part in the Netherlands as part of Damen Breskens Sailing Weekend.

Part of the four-day competition to determine who gets this year’s title for the RORC and UNCL’s popular rating rule, is a medium coastal race which was contested today. This only started at 1200, after a 90-minute wait for the wind to fill in.

For the three classes, PRO Menno Vercouteren set three winding courses. The longest was 30 miles for IRC One, the shortest 21 for IRC Three, with the aim of all three finishing approximately in unison.

In fact, the Ker 46, Van Uden, was first home while the last arrivals in IRC Three arrived some 45 minutes later. Anticipating the right shift, Vercouteren set multiple triangular courses to ensure there would always be some form of upwind, downwind and reaching in between.

Gerd-Jan Poortman and a young team on Van Uden-Rost – Ineke Peltzer pic

While over the day the wind veered through the best part of 180 degrees, racing got underway off Breskens in the mouth of the River Scheldt in a light 11 knots south-westerly, which gradually veered, but dramatically increased.

“By the time the small boats finished it had built to the mid-20s and the sun was out. If they didn’t like that – they should play golf,” mused Vercouteren.

Van Uden-ROST, skippered by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Gerd-Jan Poortman and with a young up-and-coming crew from the Rotterdam Offshore Sailing Team (ROST), appeared to have won IRC One. This was until they were scored DSQ after a protest.

The protest stemmed from a start line incident when Van Uden was luffed coming into the pin by RORC Commodore James Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX and failed to keep clear. The incident caused Ino XXX to receive a small hole.

“We kept going and had a fantastic race – winning by quite a margin,” explained Poortman before the jury’s decision. “It has been fantastic with the young guys and the steps we have made over the last month since Cowes Week. This is our last event for this crew on our boat.”

Poortman said they were most concerned about Lance Adams’ Cape 31 speedster KataBatic, which was substantially behind them, but ultimately this did not matter. Losing the protest resulted in the Dutch boat being scored DSQ – an especially painful outcome given that today’s race both scores double points and is non-discardable (discards come into play after five races).

This tranfers first place to the Goubau family’s Beneteau First 47.7 Moana, from Belgium followed by KataBatic and Ino XXX.

J109s Majic and Jolly Jack Tar enjoy a duel in IRC Two – Ineke Peltzer pic

In IRC Two, the battle for the lead was between two J/109s. Arjen van Leeuwen’s Joule has been the scourge of the Solent this summer, but John Smart’s slightly lower rated sistership Jukebox, has been making inroads into them.

Today Joule came home first, to win by a minute under IRC corrected time from the Brits on Jukebox with the higher rated A-35 Paul Jonckheere’s Njord from Belgium a further 10 seconds back.

“We had a bad start and we are sailing with some new people, but during the first beat they got settled in. We tried to get back into the game – and we did,” van Leeuwin said.

With the course, a building wind that was veering and the tide in the River Scheldt, today was one won or lost by the navigators/tacticians.

As van Leeuwen, who races out of Scheveningen, explained: “With the tide against you, you had to be on the shallow bit on the banks. At one point we were 50m behind one boat and in one tack we gained 150m!

“You could make huge gains sailing in the shallows. At the start in just six knots and a lot of current, it was very difficult to keep the boat moving. During the day the wind increased and by the end of the day we had 23-24 knots. It was really fun. We had all the conditions we could wish for.”

Rakka and Mavi cross the finish line in IRC Three – Ineke Peltzer pic

In IRC Three, ostensibly it appeared that the building wind favouring the small, with Alain Rousseau’s Dehler 29 Picsou winning under corrected time from Iwan Vermeirsch’s HOD35 Zarafa, in turn 34 seconds ahead of Michel Dorsman in the well named X-362 Sport Extra Djinn.

Coming from Nieuwpoort in Belgium, Picsou is the smallest boat in the fleet, and has a hot French crew with whom Rousseau has raced for a decade. Despite her diminutive size, typically she does well at IRC events both in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Of today’s race Rousseau commented: “It was very good, but a little tricky because we made a small mistake on the second leg. Afterwards we had some advantage with the tide and the wind was building and we were always under spinnaker. So, it was good for us.” They ended the race in a lively 26 knots.

Zarafa (left) taking second place in IRC Three – Ineke Peltzer pic

While today saw almost the full range of weather conditions and points of sail, tomorrow the wind is forecast to be from the northwest and more stable. The intention is to run three races: two windward-leewards and then a round the cans course.

Further information on the event website:

James Boyd/RORC media

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