After two brilliantly sunny days this morning saw increasing cloud over the Solent, accompanied by a band of rain that provided competitors with interesting and challenging wind shifts. While Black Group yachts in the Western Solent saw winds of up to 17 knots, the smaller White Group dayboats that were competing in the eastern Solent had generally lighter winds, including some big lulls.
The XOD class had typically close racing on a predominately windward-leeward 13-mile course that started from a committee boat near the north shore of the eastern Solent. With the rain clouds predominantly over the mainland, the wind on the upwind legs was biased towards this shore and there were plenty of lulls to catch the unwary.
The second beat, from Darling Associates to Williams racing marks, in particular saw lots of place changing, with some of the top teams sliding well back down the fleet. “We found loads of big [wind] holes,” says James Meaning, whose boat Gleam finished fifth overall last year, but was a disappointing 34th today. “If you ever need a hole we can find one for you.”
“It was really, really challenging and we failed to watch the clouds,” adds crewmember Rudy Jurg. “The left-hand side of the course had paid yesterday, but it certainly didn’t today. Despite that I really enjoyed it – there were lots of good lanes [of wind] and lots of opportunity to get back to the front, which made it a very interesting race. It was definitely not a one sided course – everything was in the mix, so you really had to keep your head out of the boat to do well.”
Mike Till’s Delight crossed the line first, but with a one per cent penalty counting against him was scored third, behind Rory, Amanda and Stuart Paton’s XL and Philip Hutchinson’s Condor.
The remainder of the White Group dayboat classes had a running start from the Shrape line off East Cowes. The Flying 15 class started at 1245, with the leading edge of a band of light rain depressing the wind speed to 5-7 knots. Rupert and John Mander’s Men Behaving Badly approached the line two boat lengths ahead of a pack of seven boats that were neck-and-neck at the gun.
After the start the Manders started to slowly grow their lead, however, the second-placed boat after the first two days of racing, 14-year-old Will Heritage’s Freddie Flintoff, was initially slipping uncharacteristically towards the back of the fleet. He recovered to finish second, two minutes ahead of Andrew Rutherford’s Double Trouble, but neither were able to catch the Manders, who took their second win of the week.
Outside of XODs, the 19ft Squib class was long been one of the largest White Group classes and this year is no exception, with 30 entries. It’s an affordable and accessible boat that doesn’t demand a super-high level of skill to sail, but competition at the front of the fleet is resolutely cut-throat.
Today there was much jostling for position among the top crews on the start line. The two leading boats so far, Nigel and Jack Grogan’s Helmut Shoing ll and Malcolm Hutchings and Andy Ramsey’s Lady Penelope, were side by side near the outer distance mark as they hoisted spinnakers 10 seconds before the gun. The Grogan’s kite set first giving them a small advantage, to which Hutchings and Ramsey responded with an immediate gybe offshore into clear air. However, today’s race saw a new name at the head of the fleet – Joe Henry’s Bacchante Vll. He finished more than three minutes ahead of the Grogan team, while Lady Penelope took third.
Unusually, the Black Group yachts scheduled to start on a fixed line did so on the Royal Yacht Squadron line, heading towards the west. IRC Class 3 started cleanly at 1100, with Yuri Fadeev’s Reflex 38 Intuition best placed towards the outer distance mark, Aberdeen Alpha. Pete Newlands’ First 40.7 Anticipation was also well placed, closer to the shore, although another 40.7, Paul McNamara and Tony Lowe’s Incognito, was in a commanding position a little to windward of Newlands. Incognito tacked offshore 80 seconds after the start, followed shortly afterwards by Anticipation, with both crossing astern of Fadeev.
By the end of the first beat Peter Morton’s Joubert Nivelt JND 35 Salvo had pulled out a respectable lead on the water. He retained this to the finish, crossing the line far enough ahead of Incognito to take first place on corrected time. Another First 40.7, Jonathan Blanshard’s Space Race, was third both on the water and on handicap.
Thirty minutes later, at the Contessa 32 start, the wind had become more patchy at around 7-9 knots, with distinct bands of pressure visible on the water from the raised vantage point of the Royal Yacht Squadron’s starting platform. Ray Rouse’s Blanco led the fleet in to the start, but was late to luff onto a close hauled course, giving unnecessary ground away to Eldred Himsworth’s Drumbeat on her windward quarter.
Starting closer to the shore on port tack, Kit and Jessie Rogers’ Assent did well and looked set to cross ahead of Blanco before the latter tacked on to starboard towards the better favourable tide and stronger wind offshore. As they headed past the Gurnard north cardinal mark these two boats had split to the west of the remainder of the fleet, with a useful early advantage.
Nevertheless, it was a close race right round the course that saw the first four boats, led by Drumbeat, finish in just 83 seconds. Blanco crossed the line in second place, just 21 seconds behind Drumbeat, but had accepted a penalty for a minor rule infringement, which pushed her down to fourth place. This left Ray Mitchell and Sarah Gordon’s Conspiracy in second place and Charles Hill’s Nimbus third.
“It was extremely hard going out there today,” says Himsworth. “Although the wind was a bit up and down it wasn’t out of the ordinary. Doing well today was all about concentration and boat speed. We didn’t take the lead until the final five-mile run home and it was here the crew really excelled. We are all looking forward to getting back on the water again tomorrow.”
In IRC Class 6, the Smith, Dallas and Richards team’s Hunter Impala Magic started at the inshore end of the line, tacking immediately onto port. However, the leaders of the main pack, Simon Miller’s Trapper 950 Hooligan and Ed Browne’s First 32 Gravity Boots, the leading boats in the main pack crossed clear ahead of her.
Giovanni Belgrano’s classic 38ft Laurent Giles designed Whooper, the overall class leader after the first two days, was further offshore and in better tide, but did not look to be well placed at this stage of the race. Instead, five minutes after the start it was Ben Meakins’ Polly that looked to be best placed, with a windward advantage on the fleet, followed closely by Gravity Boots and Magic a few lengths to her leeward. By now, all three teams were hiking hard in a strengthening breeze.
By the finish the longest boat in the fleet, Whooper, was ahead on the water with a two and a half minute margin on Simon Cory’s higher rated Cory 290 ICOM Cool Blue. On corrected time Magic split these two boats, to take second place.
In IRC Class 7 Olympic bronze medallist Jo Richards’ H-Boat Woof led into the line, closely followed by Edward Donald’s Folkboat Madelaine and Chris Charlesworth’s immaculate Contessa 26 Meow. Richards had much greater speed off the line and soon pulled ahead into a commanding position. Pat Stables and Nigel Hunter’s Trapper 300 Google-Eye, sailing fully powered up with a big overlapping genoa, quickly pulled into third place on the water a few lengths to leeward of, and astern of, Madelaine.
By the finish Richards held a big enough lead on the water to save his time on Paul Dunstan’s Folkboat Mandarin, which crossed the line second, by 82 seconds on corrected time. Although Google-Eye finished 38 seconds after Mandarin, it was Meow that took third place on corrected time.
The Cruiser Divisions that race under the ISCRS rating system have seen a steadily increasing number of entries over the past few years, with 62 boats competing across the two classes this year. Cruiser Division A encompasses a wide range of boats, from Julian James’s J/100 Thunder Squall up to the Lloyds of London’s X-55 Pioneer Lutine.
Thunder Squall was best-placed at the outer distance mark, with the relatively giant Pioneer Lutine in her lee and travelling much faster. James Stableford’s Mumm 36 Panther was in turn in the big boat’s lee, after having been forced to bear way to burn time on her final approach to the start. Five minutes later these two boats had a clear lead on the water, with both having tacked offshore and with Panther now in clear air to windward of Pioneer Lutine.
The big boat took line honours for the second day running, however, Panther finished just two and a half minutes later to take first on corrected time ahead of Thunder Squall and another of the largest boats in the class, Phil Munday’s Sun Odyssey 52.2 Great Escape.
Cruiser Division B has 30 entries ranging from Ian Cooke’s Hunter Medina 20 Tudor Rose to Gary Parker’s Dufour Classic 39CC Tyche. Today’s race saw an exciting start for many of them at the outer end of the line. By the time the starting cannon fired four boats had started prematurely and only two of these returned. Sadly one of them, Mark Edward’s Jeanneau 36i Nauti 40, failed to clear the line and remained scored as OCS.
However, it was Tudor Rose, the smallest boat in the fleet that made by far the best start – Cooke had noticed a significant windshift towards the south and took advantage of it by starting inshore on port tack. Five minutes after the start he had an impressive lead on the water, ahead of Graham Broomfield’s Dehler 34 Headstrong and Peter Bainbridge’s Rustler 33 Whisper. Meanwhile, the boats that had fought for the outer end of the line were a long way back.
At the finish Headstrong took line honours, just 10 seconds ahead of the higher-rated Whisper, with both saving their time on the rest of the fleet, while Tudor Rose’s low rating lifted her up to third place on corrected time.
Today was also the regatta’s Charity Day, promoting the work UKSA does in changing the lives of disadvantaged young people through sailing. Fund-raising activities are going on all week, including gutter boat racing at the charity’s stand in Cowes Yacht Haven and the famed Boss up the Mast spectacle.
Tomorrow will see a return to dry weather in Cowes, with a weak north-easterly airflow predicted over the Solent. It’s also Liz Earle Ladies’ Day, which will see a number of activities planned through the day to champion the role of women in sailing and celebrate the 150 per cent rise in the number of female competitors at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week over the past decade.
Video highlights of today’s racing: http://www.aamcw.co/videos
Live streaming: www.aamcowesweek.co.uk
Report: Rupert Holmes / CWL
Image: Rick Tomlinson