Eighty entries confirmed for this weekend's Red Funnel Easter Challenge 13/4/06

Earlier today there were 80 entries confirmed for this weekend’s Red Funnel Easter Challenge. This is the opening event of the RORC season and there will be over 800 competitors and a diverse range of yachts taking part in the Cowes-based regatta.

In Class Super Zero there is an intriguing battle looming between three yachts of 50ft or more: Panthera, Chieftain and Bear of Britain.

Panthera is a carbonfibre Transpac 52 which has been undergoing an extensive refit on the Isle of Wight by Anthony Haines of Alpha Plus who commented: “We are really excited about her first event. The owner Benny Kelly will be helming her for the Red Funnel Easter Challenge. He has chartered some high performance yachts in the past but it is great for the sport to have a new owner coming onto the scene.”

Ger O’Rourke’s canting keel Cookson 50 Chieftain is Panthera’s main rival. She won her Class in the 2005 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Kit Hobday’s Farr 52, Bear of Britain will also be pushing hard and is never easily overcome.

In IRM five Farr 45s are racing including Shaun Frohlich’s Exabyte 4 which currently leads the Raymarine Warsash Big Boat Spring Series; Creative Play the Farr 40 makes six boats racing under IRM.

Also well campaigned yachts such as Nick Lutte’s DK46 Shockwave and RORC Commodore David Aisher’s Yeoman of Hamble will be racing around tight Solent courses over three days. There are also three new boats racing at Easter – Denise and Conor Phelan’s Ker 37 Jump Juice; John Shepherd’s Ker 46 Fair Do’s VII and Mike Greville’s Ker 39 Erivale III.

Approximately 20 boats will be racing in IRC 1 which should make for some very busy start lines. There are four Prima 38s and three Beneteau 40.7s who will without doubt be mixing it up at mark roundings. This class is a real mixture of designs, ranging from the well-campaigned Mumm 30 Asterix, owned by Louis Browne, to John Dean’s Swan 461 Lowly Worm enjoying their second season in the Solent. Edward Broadway’s Max Fun 35 Hooligan V is competing as well as two yachts brand-new this year – Ian MacLean will be racing his Ker 36 Software Mistress with a crew consisting of work colleagues and pro-sailors such as navigator Mike Broughton and top match racing yachtsman Ian Williams.

In IRC 2 about half of the fleet will be J/109s, including Andrew Allen’s No Naked Flames which is in line for a Rolex Commodores’ Cup spot for Ireland. The class will also be complimented by a range of other popular cruiser racers including three HOD 35s such as veteran campaigner Peter Schofield’s Zarafa.

Peter Rutter’s Elan 37 Quokka and Jim McGregor’s Elan 40 Flair IV will add another chapter to their on-going duel and Chris and Anna Neve will be racing No Doubt, a First 34.7 which is a Rolex Commodores’ Cup trialist.

The weather forecast this weekend is, according to weather specialist Mike Broughton, going to be fairly changeable. Explaining what competitors are likely to expect Broughton said: “This Easter the Solent will be experiencing a really mixed bag of wind directions. On Friday there will be a weak occluded front South of Cowes. Skies will be overcast with a fair chance of rain and there should be light westerly winds of 8-12 knots.

“Saturday should see a change in wind direction to easterlies, but this could change massively if a low pressure system over the Cherbourg Peninsular moves even slightly. Forecast wind speed will be less than 10 knots.

“Sunday sees the low pressure system move off to the north-east, roughly over Hamburg, with the wind moving to the north-west and more of a gusty nature. The predicted wind speed will be in the 9-14 knot range and a weak front may arrive from the north-west by the afternoon which could bring some showers.”