Today was a beautifully warm day with a stable east-north-easterly air flow over the Solent area that mostly averaged 9-11 knots, with a few stronger gusts, making for excellent racing conditions.
The day saw the first racing for the five 60-72ft yachts in the IRC Big Boat Class, which had a downwind start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line. They were competing, along with IRC Class 0, for one of the event’s most prestigious trophies, the Britannia Cup, with the winner determined by average speed around the course on corrected time.
The three 72ft Mini Maxis – Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou and Dieter Schoen’s Momo – made a spectacular sight as they approached the downwind start. With 15 seconds to go all three had been pointing away from the line to avoid the strong west going tide sweeping them over the start. The trio then bore away almost in unison – despite their size these yachts are amazingly manoeuvrable – and hit the line with speed moments before the starting cannon.
Another 15 seconds later they each had their asymmetric spinnakers hoisted and filling, with Bella Mente enjoying a marginal advantage to windward that also gave her clean air. By the end of their 23.6 mile course, she had a 15-minute lead on Momo, while Jethou had been forced to retire.
IRC Class 0, which started from the Black Group Committee boat in the western Solent, saw Peter Harrison’s TP52 Sorcha take line honours, more than eight minutes ahead of Piet Vroon’s Ker 51 Tonnerre 4. Both saved their time on the rest of the fleet. However, it was Jonathan Bamberger’s Farr 45 Spitfire that took third place on corrected time, just 10 seconds ahead of Sir Keith Mills’ Ker 40+ Invictus.
As the boat with the fastest average speed on corrected time, Bella Mente was declared winner of the Britannia Cup, with Momo second and Sorcha third. “We had a great day and I am personally delighted as this is the second time I’ve won the cup,” says Adrian Stead, strategist on board Bella Mente. “Today’s win was all about getting a good start. We were able to roll Jethou and Momo at the start, which gave us the first cross downwind. We then led at the first mark, extended a little bit round the second mark and, when we came round and started to beat against the tide, we were able to push and extend our lead further. From there on it was just a case of sailing well and extending the distance on the next boat.”
The Black Group yachts starting on the fixed Bramble line had a windward start against the tide, with the northern end of the line tending to be strongly favoured. The Quarter Ton class saw Tony Hayward’s Black Fun, and Rob Gray and David Chapman’s Cote, best placed at the northern end of the line. However, the overall leader after the first four days of the regatta, Sam Laidlaw’s Aguila had a slow start. She was initially bounced off onto port tack, crossing astern of eight of her competitors before being bounced back on to starboard tack on by Peter ‘Morty’ Morton’s Tiger, which was sailing closer to the wind immediately to leeward of Laidlaw.
Nevertheless, by the finish Laidlaw again led the fleet, having pulled through to the lead on the second beat, which he then retained to the finish, winning his second race of the regatta. Louise Morton’s Bullit was second across the line, 44 seconds ahead of Black Fun, which took third both on the water and on corrected time.
The dayboat classes starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron line had to contend with a building west-going tide, making this the wrong day to risk starting prematurely. In all, only five boats across the 13 fleets were scored as OCS, however a number of others lost many precious minutes returning painfully slowly against the stream before they were able to restart correctly.
In the RS Elite class the line was well clear 30 seconds before the start, with the entire fleet heading away from the line to stem the tide. Fifteen seconds before the gun the fleet bore away and hoisted spinnakers, with all boats in the strong favourable tide near the outer distance mark, Aberdeen Alpha. After the start, the fleet split in two directions, with one group sailing high and fast, while the others were on more of a dead run and taking a shorter route towards their first mark of edigitalresearch, near Newtown Creek on the Island shore.
Ossie Stewart’s More T Vicar was among the boats sailing lower, a factor that helped him to his second race win of the week. Jono Brown’s Aoelus took second place and Mike McIntyre’s Foudafafa third. “It was tricky out there today, particularly the running start,” says Stewart. “We had quite a long first run of about four nautical miles and the wind was up to 13 knots, which made it interesting, but Alice Masterman on spinnaker trim did a brilliant job.”
A minute before the Sonar start Penny Carter’s Fiscal was in a wind hole and going backwards on the wrong side of the start line. The rest of the fleet, however, appeared very wary of the dangers of being down tide of the line in such a strong stream and, like the RS Elites, were well back from the line. At the gun David Peerless’ Discard was closest to the line by a couple of lengths and also first to get the spinnaker drawing efficiently, giving Peerless a useful early advantage.
Peerless finished as the first of the eight Island Sailing Club Sonars, however the other boats in the fleet again rose to the fore. John Robertson, Steve Thomas and Simon Rosier’s Chimera Team GBR took their first win of the regatta, finishing 60 seconds ahead of Alistair Barter’s Bertie, while Craig Wood’s Dolphin took third.
The 26-strong Redwing fleet started as a tightly-knit bunch of boats, with Anne, Joe and Bel Robertson’s Red Guantlet ll getting a two length advantage right next to the outer distance mark. Three boats – Merl and Lucy Benham and Robert Holbrook’s Paroquet; Thomas and Matthew Chetwood and Henrietta Devonshire’s Ladybird; and Thomas Montagu Douglas Scott’s Siskin – were sailing much lower than the rest of the fleet on their first leg towards craftinshore.com, southwest of the Beaulieu River entrance.
Two of these boats – Siskin and Paroquet – led the fleet into the finish, with the former enjoying a lead of more than two minutes. Matt Alexander and John Raymond’s Harlequin finished 45 seconds behind Paroquet and managed to hold onto third place, even after the application of a 1 per cent time penalty for a rule infringement.
The start of the Swallow class coincided with another lull in the wind, which saw the closest boat to the line, Clive Bush’s Spectre, swept over the line some five seconds before the gun. Nevertheless, at the starting signal she bore away and hoisted her spinnaker, before dropping the kite and heading back to start correctly. Five minutes later she was no closer to the line, but perseverance paid off and Sceptre eventually restarted successfully nine minutes after her original attempt.
This left a group of three boats – Charles Fisher and Richard Thompson’s Migrant, Anthony Lunch and Andrew Reid’s Solitude, and Sir Malcolm Green’s Archon – as the best placed boats in the early stages of the first leg. Migrant had pulled out an impressive lead by the finish, crossing the line more than six minutes ahead of John Houghton’s Avocet, while Hugo Sloper’s young team on Marengo took third place. Despite her significant disadvantage at the start, Spectre caught up with the back markers and climbed up the fleet to finish in eighth place.
Today was also International Youth Day at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week. The regatta organisers, as well as many of the local clubs and classes have successful youth programmes, with the result that this year there are 37 crews, all of whom are under 25, competing for the Aberdeen Asset Management Under 25 trophy.
At the end of day five Hugo Sloper’s Swallow Marengo is provisionally the leading boat in contention for the trophy, a large margin ahead of Ben Palmer’s Etchells Ziggy Legend. Jack Davies’ J/70 Jugador is currently lies third in the rankings.
Tomorrow will see the return of the Artemis Challenge at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, which will see a record fleet of 16 large yachts with celebrity crews competing in a charity dash around the Isle of Wight.
Video highlights of today’s racing; http://www.aamcw.co/videos
Live streaming: www.aamcowesweek.co.uk