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RORC Morgan Cup

Monday, 25 June 2007
Event: RORC Morgan Cup Date: 15 – 17th June 07 Report by: Henry Foster A forecast of over twenty knots from the south-west greeted the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme sailors that gathered at Hamble Yacht Services on the morning of Friday 15th June to compete in the RORC Morgan Cup 2007. Thus the usual boundless enthusiasm of our young crew was tempered with a certain degree of apprehension, engendered by the knowledge that a reliable boat, decent foul-weather gear and an iron constitution would be top of the list of requirements for the next 48 hours. This race was to mark the real start of the Farr 45 John Merricks’ Fastnet campaign. Although John Merricks’ third major offshore race of the season this was our first under 22 year old skipper Nick Cherry and, with an average age of just 21, this race was the sailors’ final chance to prove their worth and stake a claim to a place on the boat for the Cowes-St. Malo and ultimately the Fastnet. A frenetic pace was set from 9am on the Friday morning, when the first sailors met to prepare the boat for the ordeal ahead. Not only is John Merricks sailed exclusively by Keelboat Squad sailors but it is also maintained by them and it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of, amongst others, boat captain Rachel Howe that we are able to compete both inshore and offshore in such a strong fleet. Thus it was that work continued frantically until we pulled away from the dock at 5pm and headed out into a turbulent Solent for the start of the Morgan Cup 2007. In contrast to our main rivals Fraxious and Alice II, tactician Colette Blair and Navigator Scott Miller decided to start in the lower middle third of the line under full main and A5. We were unable to carry the A5 for long but our more northerly position paid and by the time we exited the forts John Merricks had pulled out a lead of a few boatlengths over Alice II and Fair Do’s. Unfortunately this situation did not last. The beat up the southern shore of the Isle of Wight saw the lead change hands several times in our 45ft subclass before we reached St. Catherine’s point and settled into our watch system for a long hard slog up the English Channel. The night that followed was a tough one on boats and sailors alike. The punishing wind and sea conditions took their toll on many of our competitors, including one of the other Farr 45s, and a patch of lighter wind in the early hours of Saturday morning kept Charlotte Lawrence and our bow team on their toes with numerous headsail changes. However, despite the conditions, crew morale stayed high and was boosted when, after some fifteen hours of racing, we crossed comfortably ahead of the Volvo 60 Pindar Alphagraphics. After rounding the Hanois lighthouse we were able to ease sheets slightly and head for the finish line off Jersey. With the breeze still in the mid-twenty knot range we hoisted the A5 once more but, as before, this proved short lived. As John Merricks hit twenty knots of boat speed we were forced to drop the kite and head up to make the finish. Despite blowing up our symmetrical spinnaker and losing valuable time within site of the finish we crossed the line at 17:31 on the 16th June. Thus we finished behind Alice II but second out of the three Farr 45s that had started the race. On reflection the Morgan Cup has constituted another major step forward for this relatively inexperienced crew. Every time we head out onto the water we learn more about our boat, our team and ourselves, and the harsh conditions in this race meant that, whilst not being the most enjoyable 24 hours’ sailing, it helped us to acclimatise to the type of boat-breaking conditions we may well face in the Fastnet this August.

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