North of Britain's premier annual regatta, kicks off today on Loch Fyne 25/5/07

A clash of the Scottish Series Trophy titans is on the cards when the Bell Lawrie Scottish Series, the north of Britain’s premier annual regatta, kicks off today.

With Ireland’s Anthony O’Leary and his Royal Cork YC crew moving up to the regatta’s Class 1, the prospect of a champions league final is in evidence as no fewer than six current or past Scottish Series Trophy winners will be racing in the 17-boat fleet for four days.

O’Leary, who also won in 2004, has replaced his successful Corby 35 Antix with a well known Dubois 37 which has been named Antix Dubh. Having extensively updated the boat and adding more sail area – in particular large masthead asymmetric spinnakers – the Cork team are hoping that the extra horsepower will finally get the best from a boat which many consider has never reached her fullest potential.

But among their closest rivals will be fellow Cork sailors on Conor and Deniece Phelan’s Ker 37 Jump. Serving as tactician, alongside mainsheet trimmer Irish Olympian Mark Mansfield, will be Tarbert’s Ruaraidh Scott, himself the 2003 winner of the Scottish Series trophy.

Hopes of retaining the Scottish Series Trophy in Scotland for the first time since Scott’s popular 2003 win may rest with Jonathan Anderson and his well drilled team aboard the Beneteau 47.7 Playing FTSE. Anderson remains the only skipper to have won the top trophy three times, in 1979, 1986 and 1992. A formidable challenge will also come from Geoffrey Howison who won in 1990 with his Humprheys 3/4 tonner Local Hero. Howison now races with his family and close friends, but their recent form, winning the 75 boat Kip Regatta, suggests they are not short of speed with their BH41 Local Hero.

Completing the muster of past Scottish Series Trophy winners racing in Class 1 are Jon Fitzgerald, tactician on the 1999 winner Pepsi, the Sigma 33, who will be tactician on Chris Tiso’s new Farr 40 Tiso Thunderbird, and 1995 winner John Highcock due to guest on some races on Alan Hannon’s Strangford-based J/124 Bjaysus.

Classes 2 and 3 are not short of talent either, and there should be no assumption that this year’s Bell Lawrie Scottish Series Trophy winner will automatically be drawn from Class 1. In the 20-boat Class 2 past trophy winners Chris Bonar on the BH36 Bateleur 97 will be a force to be reckoned with and Steve Goacher will be steering Keith Lord’s new A35 A-Crewed-Interest.

Goacher, who won the main trophy for his triumph in the Sonata class in
1993, makes the leap into the IRC classes for the first time. Bonar won in 1997 and 1985. A real mixed bag of weather is expected for the 170 crews, with light to moderate breezes giving way to some stronger winds towards the end of the regatta. Racing concludes on Monday.