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Grand Prix Zero Round 2 at the RORC IRC Nationals - Rán top of the Magnificent Seven

by Louay Habib 14 Jun 2022 21:43 BST 10-12 June 2022

The Royal Ocean Racing Club's UK IRC National Championships has been running for over 20 years. This year for first time, all seven boats racing in the big boat class were all GP Zero Class boats.

Niklas Zennström's Carkeek 40+ Rán 7, not only won IRC One, but was also awarded the overall win. The GP Zero Class is forecast to grow in number with more teams expected for the next round at Cowes Week.

Led by PRO Stuart Childerley, the RORC set eight races to test the all-round ability of boats and crew, including a mixture of windward leeward and round the cans courses. A medium to strong south-westerly breeze, topping out at 20 knots coupled with the infamous Solent tides, produced a technically challenging and exciting race arena.

The IRC Nationals RORC Race Committee put in a polished performance, assisted by spectacular racing conditions. The RORC should also be applauded for allowing two additional crew for any team with the required number of youth or women sailors.

Niklas Zennström's Rán 7 was awarded the overall win for the IRC National Championships by just 0.0005 of a point from Adam Gosling's Yes! (racing in IRC Three). Zennström's always drives Rán and has a world class backbone including Tim Powell, Steve Hayles, Justin Slattery, Toby Iles and Tom Kiff. But Rán Racing is not all world class warriors, Mark Lees, Joy Fitzgerald, Ben Childerley, Lilly Lower, Rebecca Coles and Hamish Macdonald are all talented sailors with serious accomplishments already, and they are still learning the dark arts from the best.

"It is fantastic!" commented Rán's Niklas Zennström. "We've won our class before but never overall. We had an amazing weekend, so we are very pleased. It was fantastic sailing with good wind and good weather and also really good race management - we have nothing to complain about at all." Niklas was also enthusiastic about the new Grand Prix Zero. "It has been really cool to have the other boats - the 43 and 46, etc - mixing it up. It works very well - with a few more boats, you get a critical mass on the start line."

Full Results for RORC IRC Nationals IRC One here

An important aspect of the GP Zero Class is fun and friendship. The RORC Cowes Clubhouse entertained the class with a Barbeque after racing mid-regatta. Sailors from the GP Zero Class enjoyed a get-together with good banter and plenty of laughter!

"From a simple chat with Ian Atkins, we really have something building here," commented GP Zero Class Manager Nick Bonner. "There are a lot more boats that fit into the IRC rating band for GP Zero, and we welcome them to come and enjoy some great racing in a friendly fleet. A big thank you to the RORC for laying on a great regatta and to all of the competing boats - it has been a real blast!"

Ian Atkin's GP 42 Dark n Stormy was a solid second in IRC One, finishing on the podium in every race, often within seconds of Rán after IRC time correction.

"The whole GP Zero Class is delighted that Rán won the IRC Championships overall against bigger fleets, which just underlines the GP Zero ideals," commented Dark n Stormy's Ian Atkins. "The Dark n Stormy team are also delighted that we beat Rán in a race for the first time, which for us was more significant than coming runner-up for the class."

"This weekend was great, the most wind we have sailed in as a team, so for all of the Dark n Stormy crew this was a new experience," commented Dark n Stormy's tactician Ian Walker. "Boats like Rán, Dark n Stormy and Elvis have an edge over the other boats in the class when the breeze gets up. However, in lighter winds the boats with longer water line length, like Van Uden and Baraka, will have an advantage. In this regatta the FAST40+ style boats were quicker downwind, but we needed to be because all of the boats were sailing really well, congratulations especially to Van Uden for winning Race 7. Rán are a class act, but we take a small victory in that we did take one race off them. We have got to try and build on that moving forward."

The young Dutch team on Ker 46 Van Uden, put in a huge performance finishing the regatta in third place, just a point ahead of Filip Englebert's Swedish Ker 40+ Elvis. There was just the faintest smile from Van Uden's skipper Johnny Poortman. Beating his mentor, the famous Bouwe Bekking, who was calling tactics on Elvis. The Van Uden crew are from the Rotterdam Offshore Sailing Team and even counting the skipper, three-time Volvo Ocean Race sailor Poortman, the average age is just 22.

"Cowes is the English Caribbean!" Poortman remarking on the fabulous weather. "It is fantastic to have the GP Zero Class going, we come all the way from Holland because the competition is great, and we can really see if we are racing well. We were very happy to win a race, beating Rán. Racing and sometimes beating the likes of Bouwe Bekking, Ian Walker and so on, is a really big deal for Van Uden. This is an important achievement because it helps to give the crew the jump into big boat racing. They can show the world that they can race well, and maybe get that big ride with top teams. We are here, we are happy, and we will be back. Van Uden's next GP Zero event will be Cowes Week."

The competition was fierce right through the GP Zero boats, with six of the seven teams making the race podium. The de Graf family racing Dutch Ker 43 Baraka GP was fourth on countback from Nick Griffith's IC37 Icy. Bertie Bicket's IC37 Fargo had a monumental duel with Icy decided in the last race by a single point. Well done to the Royal Ocean Racing Club for hosting a professional and highly enjoyable IRC National Championships. Round 3 of the 2022 GP Zero Series will be 30 July-06 August at Cowes Week.

To stay tuned to the GP Zero Class visit the Facebook page.

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