Final preparations were underway yesterday in Crosshaven in readiness for the start of racing for the IRM Class at Cork Week.
With exactly the same number of boats due to race as competed at Cork Week in 2002, 22, there is clear evidence that this fleet can sustain itself as the de facto grand prix class at least until the arrival of the new Grand Prix rule.
The fleet spans the full spectrum of IRM style race boats, from the Farr 52 pair Chernikeeff and Bear of Britain through six IC 45's, three Farr 40's, seven Ker 11.3's and three Mumm 36's.
"Despite the fact there is no obligation at all for the organisers here to run racing for IRM they are very keen and we have mustered a really strong fleet and should see some good, exciting racing."
commented Steph MERRY, chair of the IRM Class Association.
Remarkably almost a quarter of the competing skippers are drawn from outwith the UK and Ireland. Two skippers are from the Royal Hong Kong YC. David CULLEN sails the IC 45 Atomic Struan, Adrian MCCARROLL has a Dutch registered Sydney 40 Pride. David MORRIS and Frank DUNCAN from Malta race an IC 45 Rebel with their crew. Marcos Vivian from Australia and his team sail a Farr 40, and the Dutch crew on the Lutra 52 Tonnerre are regular trophy winners.
A slight tweak to the rule since last year should see any inherent rating advantage previously enjoyed by the bigger boats annulled, opening up the opportunities for some of the smaller boats to do well.
The Farr 52 duel should be fascinating, to the point that it may provide opportunities for the lead 45 to do well, if they spend too much time tussling with each other.
Kit HOBDAY'S Bear of Britain competes as the current IRC National champion and has held the upper hand in many of the key races this season. They have been training exceptionally hard over the spring and summer. In contrast Peter HARRISON'S Chernikeeff crew have yet to step aboard the Farr 52 yet this season in earnest, but Harrison fields a strong team of GBR Challenge regulars including Ian BUDGEN steering with Chris MAIN on tactics, Tom MCWILLIAM on main, Mo GRAY on mast. Chernikeeff won the IRM National Championships last season.
"We haven't sailed on the boat at all but we're pretty punchy. We've got a good crew with lots of experience so it should not be too much of a problem. I think that big boats perhaps do not have the same advantage that they had in the past so we will have to work hard and perhaps the littler boats are more in with a shout."
Suggests Chernikeeff navigator Marc FITZGERALD.
Defending champion from 2002 is Glyn WILLIAMS' Wolf, the IC 45. Having just won the Swan 45 North Europeans they have a strong, regular crew, and were putting in some extra time on the water yesterday.
"We have done a bit of work on the boat these past two or three weeks and I think that we can be sure that we will have the lightest, fastest and best prepared IC 45 on the water and the crew have been working hard. We are here to win."
Said Williams yesterday.
David MCLEAN'S Babbalaas, the IC 45, have also assembled a strong crew and should be able to push Wolf hard. With Jeremy Robinson steering, they have Pete Selby navigating, Ossie Stewart as tactician, and Lou Varney on main.