The second day of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week delivered perfect conditions, with bright sun and decent winds. A west-south westerly breeze built gradually through the day to give gusts approaching 20 knots by early afternoon. With 30-degree wind shifts at times, accompanied by big gusts and lulls, there was plenty to challenge competitors.
For competitors in the early starts on the two fixed lines a strong west-going tide made it imperative not to start early. This was accentuated for White Group dayboats starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron line, as the outer distance mark, Aberdeen Alpha, was two boat lengths on the course side of the line.
The first start was for Sigma 33s, with an unusually early time of 0930. This class is using the first five days of the regatta as its national championship, including a 30-mile coastal race today that took the 14-strong fleet on a 30-mile course out of the Solent and around the Shingles Bank.
The class started cleanly, although David Rolfe’s Shadowfax, normally one of the front-runners in the fleet, misjudged the approach. This left Jeff Worboy’s Workout appearing to be the best placed at the gun, while the most windward boat, Stuart Brand and Emma Gage’s Ephesian, was also looking good. A few minutes into the race Toby Gorman’s Stan the Boat was clearly in contention, while Shadowfax was tacking in clear air further offshore than the rest of the fleet in the hope of recovering some ground. By the time the fleet reached Hurst Castle, at the western end of the Solent, she had pulled into a slender lead.
Despite the length of the race, it proved to be an exceptionally tight one, with the leaders separated by just 43 seconds and the next five boats crossing the line within a minute of each other. By the end Shadowfax had managed to fight up to the top of the fleet, ahead of Stan the Boat in second place and Workout in third.
In White Group, the J/70 class is one of the fastest growing at the regatta, with entries up more than 300 per cent over the past two years. The 27-strong fleet made a clean start in their first race today, which proved to be a closely-fought battle in which the first eight boats finished within 69 seconds. David McLeman’s Offbeat took the winner’s gun 10 seconds ahead of Charlie Esse’s Darwin Property Investment. Third place went to Ben Gratton’s team of youth sailors on Royal Thames 1.
The J/70s’ second race today was started from a committee boat line, with windward-leeward legs before finishing on the Shrape finish line off East Cowes. This time Esse pulled out a three-minute lead on the fleet to take a convincing win ahead of Simon Ling’s Team RAF Benevolent Fund. Young sailor Jack Davies on Jugador took third.
“In the second race we got a big left-hand lift at the start, were in the front row and were the first boat to tack out,” says Esse. “Then it was against us and Spitfire all the way up the first beat. They overtook us at the windward mark, but we pulled ahead on the run, sailing a little bit lower and faster by sailing the boat flat – we just pulled away from there really. We all enjoyed it, it was a fantastic day on the water and as always the team worked exceptionally well.”
The SB20 fleet gathered in the strong favourable tide at the offshore end of the RYS start line, where two boats were pinned out at the outer distance mark. Initially there appeared to be very little to choose between the leading boats, although Syd Mclean’s Sponge Bob and Richard Curran’s Royal Signals had a marginal advantage. After none of their rivals responded to the individual recall signal, these two returned to restart, making painfully slow progress against the ebb tide, even after Sponge Bob hoisted her spinnaker. Nevertheless, the X-ray recall flag remained flying on the RYS flagstaff and four boats were scored OCS.
Dave Atkinson’s Baloo took first place, just five seconds ahead of Adrian Peach’s Uber, while Edward Handasyde Dick’s Edigitalresearch was third. Like the J/70s, the SB20 class also is scheduled to have eight races over the first four days, in this case as part of a series of Grand Slam events that also take place in Torbole, Italy, and Hyeres in the South of France.
Today’s second race saw Charles Sheppard’s Sharc take his first win of the week, 30 seconds ahead of Uber, which was a mere four seconds ahead of Doug Innes’ Phanton Menace.
“It was a cracking day’s sailing. We’ve been orienteering around the Solent, we’ve seen every bit of it, but you don’t get racing any closer than that,” says John Outhwaite who was sailing on Baloo. “It was absolutely brilliant, one-design racing at its best. These boats are so equal. There were some good opportunities for place changing – good tactics, choices and options out there. It was classic asymmetric planning boat conditions. It’s a very good standard of fleet here. Especially when you’ve got choices to make with tides and winds –everyone’s in with a chance.”
In the Daring class Christopher Hill and Justin Reynold’s Division Belle, Andrew Norton’s Decoy and John Hackman’s Double Knot looked well placed at the outer end of the line. A few minutes after the start, once the fleet had settled on the offshore port tack, it was Decoy and Charles Perry’s Defiant that appeared to be enjoying an advantage, closer inshore than the rest of the fleet, but with a large favourable wind shift.
However, it was yesterday’s winner, Giles Peckham’s Dauntless, that once again rose to the fore in today’s race, finishing a comfortable 80 seconds ahead of Decoy. Magnus Wheatley’s Destroyer took third place. “We didn’t start so well, we were a bit too conservative,” says Peckham. “Our philosophy at a regatta is to avoid being anywhere near OCS but we took it a bit too far today. Consequently we had a bit of a fight on our hands but finally took the lead as the result of a navigational advantage on the run – we spotted the mark while the others were still struggling.”
The Etchells fleet made a more cautious approach to the start than the SB20s, with the leaders luffing up with sails flogging on the final approach, although they were still making quick progress over the ground thanks to the tide. The fleet started cleanly, with Ben Palmer’s Ziggy Legend looking best placed to windward of Andrew Green’s Pensive Temptress and Doug Flynn’s Strait Dealer, the latter crewed by the father and son team of Steve and Seve Jarvin. Shaun and Emily Frohlich’s Exabyte V was also clearly doing well, although a little further to leeward at this stage.
The Etchells fleet is renowned for tight racing and today proved no exception, with all but the final three boats finishing within 180 seconds. Exabyte V was first across the line, just six seconds ahead of Mark and Jo Downer’s Moonlight, while Andrew Coopers Ice followed 11 seconds later in third place.
Today was Family Day at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week. Like many other classes, the Etchells has many members of the same family spread through the fleet. Mark’s brother Kevin is helming another Etchells, Ray of Light, and between them the Downer brothers have nine children, half of whom have regularly sailed in the Cowes fleet.
Tomorrow promises a generally stronger and more consistent wind, although there will be more cloud cover. It is also UKSA day, in which attention will be focused on the regatta’s official charity, which uses sailing and watersports as a catalyst to transform young people’s lives.
Video highlights of today’s racing; http://www.aamcw.co/videos
Live streaming: www.aamcowesweek.co.uk
Image: Copyright Rick Tomlinson