The J Class Ranger crew maintained their excellent record at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez when they clinched overall victory in the 27 boat premier IRC Class A today by achieving a podium position in the third and final race of the prestigious Mediterranean regatta.
In mainly light conditions which were less than favourable for the heavier, powerful steel hulled Ranger, they won the very competitive J Class last year. In moderate 12-16kts NE'ly breezes, under cloudy Autumn skies and with rain never far away, the Ranger afterguard under skipper-helm Erle Williams, tactician Murray Jones and navigator Mike Quilter, put prudence ahead of pushing the start too much.
With huge numbers of smaller IRC class boats in and around the start area, Ranger made sure of safety but then sailed a solid first beat to get themselves immediately into contention. From there on the 22 miles course they worked hard to stay with their closest competition on the water, again proving able to recover or extend slightly upwind and hang in there on the preponderance of reaching legs.
The result, another solid performance of a programme which was reduced to just three races because of strong winds Tuesday and Wednesday, kindled an air of déja vu for jubilant skipper Williams and his longstanding friend and First Lieutenant, Quilter. Both found themselves taking the enforced celebratory swim in Saint Tropez harbour, just as per one year ago.
The celebration is an appropriate swansong for veteran Kiwi Quilter who bows out of navigating Grand Prix racing yachts today. "It was another good race for the Ranger today. We managed to hang in there on the reaches and did pretty well." Said a dripping wet Williams, "There was a lot of congestion at the start with the smaller boats which is really difficult and again at the top of the second beat, but we kept our time on those boats in contention overall. On the final run into the finish we did well, closing in a bit."
Of the decade long contribution made by Quilter to Ranger's successes and the decision of the navigator everyone knows as 'Low Life' to opt for an Easy Life, Williams said: "He's been just great. In my eyes he is always my first pick, he has been a joy to sail with and it's a sad time for us. But it is his decision. He is only giving up navigating, we'd have him back as a sailor anytime!"
Quilter grinned: "It feels like the right time. There is no fool like an old fool. And I want to stop before I become an old fool."
It was a good race too for Shamrock which finished in 10th position today. Mike Toppa summarised: "Our race was great. It was a bit wild at the start at the weather end of the line but we got away OK. On the second beat we got a nice shift on the left and that let us get back into it. We sailed a good, clean race. We were closer to Ranger than we expected to be, and I think, closer than they expected us to be. So whoever won between the two of us deserved it. We are all proud of our regatta. We sailed well."
Ranger's victory in this very mixed handicap fleet continues a long line of successes in IRC for the J Class, proving that they can provide exciting racing either in their own class or a mixed fleet regatta, coupled with their capacity for world wide cruising makes them such great boats and the fleet continues to grow.