The Vice Admirals' Cup fires up on Friday with three days of racing on the Solent for the seven invited classes.
While the Diam24od multihulls will be showing a clean pair of heels to the fleet, another class competing at the Vice Admiral's Cup for the first time is the Impala 28. 40 years ago the David Thomas-penned One Design won the backing of the 'Offshore One Design Council' in its quest to promote offshore racing. With the first boats launched by Hunter Yachts two years later, it has since proved one of the top designs of its era.
Due to encouragement from Class Captain Ben Meakins and other owners, the Impala 28 is going through a resurgence with 16 boats expected at this year's Nationals and 12 regularly racing out of the Hamble. Seven are competing in the Vice Admirals' Cup, including Fearnought, last year's National Champion, now in the hands of another National Champion, Mike Jones, and Two Frank, current leader in the JOG Series and also a past National Champion. Another to watch is David Thomas' own boat of old, Trudi, named after his wife and now campaigned by Chris Williams.
As Meakins puts it: "There aren't many boats where you can race one design, offshore and inshore and go cruising for £10k!"
J/Boats are represented by the J/109 and J/111 with 6 of each entered. Among the J/109s are the second and third placed finishers from last year's Nationals: Robert Stiles' Diamond Jem and David Richards' Jumping Jellyfish. The J/111 line-up includes reigning World Champion, Martin Dent with Jelvis.
Campaigning the J/111 since 2014, Dent typically sails with a young team, including family and students. He reckons being World Champion means nothing: "It is a good fleet and we'll be struggling again against the top teams, like Tony Mack in McFly, Cornel [Riklin] in Jitterbug and [Chris Jones'] Journeymaker II."
The Vice Admiral's Cup is becoming a must-do regatta for the J/111s as it is the first event of the year they sail under class rules (as opposed to IRC), limiting their sail inventory and to sailing with one 'pro' on board. Dent also likes it being a three day event..."that's better than two and the Vice Admiral's Cup has always got good race management."
As to J/111 racing, Dent continues: "It is such good fun: You put the kite up and start ripping downwind at 16-17 knots, and you think 'great - we're going really fast', but then you find that everyone arrives at the same time at the leeward mark. It's never a procession, there are always lead changes."
While the eleven FAST40+ boats will be hogging the limelight, the SB20 one design will be providing its normal delicious recipe of high performance bang for buck. For the eight SB20s competing, the Vice Admiral's Cup will be their first competitive outing in what will be a big season with the World Championship set to be held on the Solent at the end of August with 100+ boats from 16-18 countries competing.
According Jerry Hill of Sportsboatworld, who have been marketing the SB20 since 2012, there are likely to be three stand-out boats competing at Vice Admirals Cup: Richard Powell's Marvel on which Ben Vines sails, Export Roo, an Australian boat campaigned by pro David Chapman and his own Sportsboatworld.com - Hill was World Champion in 2010. The Vice Admiral's Cup will provide an opportunity for UK crew to get some much needed practice in if they are to go up against the powerful, French, Russian and Aussie teams later in the year.
In the mix will be Charlie Whelan on Here Comes Bod. Whelan has been in the class, on and off for a decade but describes his level of competition in football terms as "Championship, not Premiership." Whelan rates Hill for Vice Admiral's Cup victory but acknowledges Export Roo as the dark horse.
As to the SB20 he says: "It still puts a massive smile on my face. We last sailed at the Nationals in Torquay in October. We didn't do particularly well, but we had a blast. In big waves and lot of wind - the boats are just a hoot. They are so easy to sail that you can just step in and out of them and if you know roughly what you're going you can compete moderately well."
The Vice Admiral's Cup will comprise up to eight races on a mix of windward-leeward or round the cans courses.