With the first race scheduled for Monday on the Solent, this year's Rolex Commodores' Cup will be a hotly contested affair between 11 three boat teams.
Although the race is for cruiser-racers and a proportion of the crew must be amateur, the boats will feature many top race boat sailors from the countries represented.
"We're delighted by the quality and the strength of the entry and judging by the results of many of the entries from the Mees Pierson IRC Championships and Cork Week it looks like it will be a very closely fought event on the water,"
said RORC General Manager, Peter WYKEHAM-MARTIN.
The GBR line-up includes the seasoned campaigner Bear of Britain, Kit HOBDAY and Tim LOUIS' black Farr 52, the leading British big boat in this event two years ago. For this year's Rolex Commodores' Cup she will be steered by Mark CAMPBELL-JAMES and GBR Challenge America's Cup helm Andy BEADSWORTH. Alongside Bear of Britain in the GBR Red is Jonathan and Lisa GORING'S J/109 Jeronimo with sailmaker and former Olympic sailor Kevin SPROUL calling tactics and Jerry OTTER'S Exabyte II with America's Cup sailors Chris MAIN and Jules SALTER on the crew list.
In the GBR Blue team Nick HARTSHORN'S Ker 11.3 El Gringo, returns to the Rolex Commodores' Cup with leading keelboat sailor Ian SOUTHWORTH and Hannah HARWOOD, part of Tracy EDWARDS' crew on Royal & Sun Alliance during their non-stop round the world record bid. Also in GBR Blue is Andrew PEARCE'S IMX 40 Magnum II and the Elan 37 Quokka of former RORC Commodore Peter RUTTER, with navigator Peter SCHOLFIELD on board.
GBR Black has as its big boat the successful IMX45 Exabyte III of Shaun FROHLICH. Also in the team are Fair Do's VI, the Ker 32 of John Shepherd and Adam GOSLING'S latest Yes!, a Beneteau First 44.7 including former Olympic sailors Jeremy ROBINSON and Hugh STYLES on her crew list.
Andrew RITCHIE'S Corby 41 Minx leads GBR White with Open 60 sailor Alex THOMSON leading the crew. Also in this team, are the renamed Beneteau 40.7 Tarka Lee Peck Greenfield skippered by Nick JONES and Jim Macgregor's Elan 37 Civils with Flair.
In an attempt to defend their title, France, the 2002 winners are this time fielding three teams, one more than last time around. The French effort is led once again by the highly effective Gery TRENTESAUX, with a Grand Soleil 45R Courier d'Ile de France in the France Blue team.
Trentesaux recently showed the form of his latest boat by convincingly winning the RORC's Cowes-Dinard-St Malo race in severe conditions. Racing alongside him is the French Admiral's Cup Sinergia 40, Stephane NEVE'S Paprec Recyclage and Erwan DUBOIS' small boat, Guyader L'Esprit de la Mer.
The France Red team sees Jean-Yves Le GOFF'S return to the Rolex Commodores' Cup, this time in the IMX40 Fastwave III. His team also includes Gonzague DUBOIS' IMX45 Pretexte and Musix, Philippe Baetz' X362.
The third French team, France White, is led by Jean Claude NICOLEAU'S Codiam ENSP dh, another IMX45 and also includes Jacques Pelletier's X-43 L'Ange de Milon and Philippe DELAPORTE'S J/109 Pen Azen, the latter with Olympic sailor Christine BRIAND and veteran skipper Laurent CORDELLE on board.
A number of competitors rate the favourites for this year's Rolex Commodores' Cup to be the Irish team. This comprises Chris BROWN, Jennie AUSTIN and Peter HARDING'S DK46 Fidessa Fastwave, a design by Mark Mills that to date has done well under IRC handicap. Ireland's two other boats are Colm BARRINGTON'S new Ker 39 Flying Glove, second in the IRC0 class at Cork Week and Eamon CROSBIE'S Ker 32 Calyx the Voice and Data People, recent handicap winner of the BMW Round Ireland Race. The bigger Ker has sailmaker Eddie WARDEN-OWEN and 18ft skiff world champion Rob GREENHALGH in her crew while the smaller has legendary maxi-boat navigator Ian MOORE.
Another contender will be the Dutch team including the highly successful Peter de RIDDER, sailing the BH41 Checkmate III. So far this year de Ridder has won his class at the Key West and SORC regattas and the Mumm 30 Europeans. Also in the Dutch team are the Grand Soleil 44R Holmatro of Hans Horrevoets and Franz van der Heijden's HOD35 Daikin Airco.
The Belgium team sees the return of Francois GOUBAU'S Beneteau First 47.7 Moana, supported by the Bertrand STUYTS' First 40.7 Liesl and the small ILC30 Breeze of Christian Muyls. Of note is that the Belgium boats are entirely crewed by amateur sailors.
The last team to enter the Rolex Commodores' Cup was Team Europe led by the Franco-Russian crew on Serguei KOTSIOUBA'S IMX 45 Follow Me who recently finished sixth at Cork Week, while the small boat in this team, Bernard MOUREAU'S Merlin was fourth in her class at that regatta. The third Team Europe boat is Axel de Cock's IMX 40 Oxygen.
"I'm pretty happy with our team, but the Irish and the French are going to be very tough,"
said Bear of Britain helm Mark CAMPBELL-JAMES. "Then again the British teams should be good as well. It's great the event has a good number of teams,"
Yes! Skipper Adam GOSLING concurs: "I think the Irish will be the boys to watch. They have got some top boats. The DK46 sailed well will be a difficult boat to beat and the Kers should be all right. But I think the British have got some reasonable teams too."
Racing commences on Monday 26 July with two inshore races.