A tricky day on the Solent threw up challenges of a different kind on the third day of Cowes Week. As showers moved across the race area winds from every point of the compass were experienced at some point during the day, while wind speed varied from less than 5 knots to up to 15.
Nevertheless, the day produced some tantalisingly close racing. In the Etchells class, for instance, the first four boats – Rob Goddard’s Rocketman, Eddie Warden Owen and Andrew Cooper’s Colin, Tom Abrey’s Jolly Roger, and Shaun and Emily Frohlich’s Exabyte – all crossed the line in just 21 seconds.
When the first starts were scheduled to get underway heavy showers, had stalled to the east of the Isle of Wight, temporarily blocking the light gradient north-westerly breeze. After a postponement of just over two hours, the first start was for the 70ft yachts competing over three days for the prestigious Triple Crown trophies.
Sir Peter Ogden’s Mini Maxi Jethou led away from the line, heading eastwards under Code 0 and rapidly opening up a big lead on Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 E1. Jethou continued to extend around the course, finishing the 20-mile race in a little under two and a half hours.
The leaders in the 35-strong J/70 class showed no caution in approaching the start line for the first of their three scheduled races, despite a strong stream carrying the fleet onto the course side of the line. Their exuberance was less extreme than many spectators onshore assumed, as the outer distance mark was a couple of boat lengths behind the line. Nevertheless, there was little response to the individual recall and three boats were scored OCS.
By the time of the Daring class start at 1255 the breeze had increased to 13-15 knots. The first three boats having to bear away on the final approach to the line to avoid being premature. There was also much excitement, with many competitors approaching the outer distance mark simultaneously. James Sumsion’s Debutante bailed out to the north of the buoy, but Roger Marwood and Helen Bulbeck’s Audax and John and James Hackman’s Double Knot collided and became briefly tangled together.
Jeremy Preston’s Defender appeared to be best placed at the gun, just to windward of Giles and Jane Peckham’s Dauntless, with Dynamite further to leeward, but a little ahead. Charles Perry’s Defiant was not far astern at this stage and chasing hard.
Dauntless won with a commanding lead, finishing three and a half minutes ahead of Defender, while Dynamite took third place nearly two minutes later. “It wasn’t easy today because it was so changeable out there,” says Giles Peckam. “A right-hand shift and brisk wind off the line changed our approach to the start line and some were caught out. We managed to get a front row seat then it was a case of working through the changeable conditions. The wind then dropped and shifted to the left, so it became more about boatspeed and less tactical, so the crew took over and we slotted into the lead.”
A shower was passing through the race area at the time of the Sportsboat start. One boat started prematurely, leaving Alastair Ley and Thomas Reed’s J/80 Jackaroo leading the fleet away a few lengths ahead of Rob Mclean’s modified Cork 1720 Spider Pig and Malcolm Thorpe’s J/80 King Louie.
Spider Pig pulled away into an eight minute plus lead on the water. However the corrected time results tell a different story – she won by a margin of only six seconds ahead of Richard, Robert and John Puddifoot’s J/80 Jibba Jabba. King Louie took third, 78 seconds later.
The Dragon fleet was next away from the Royal Yacht Squadron line. This normally fiercely competitive class was uncharacteristically line shy in the building west-going tide, with the closest boat five lengths behind the line at the gun. Dave Ross’s Sanka and Graham and Julia Bailey’s Aimee were first away, a couple of lengths ahead of the next group of three boats, with the leaders quick to tack offshore onto port tack.
At the finish Aimee had pulled ahead into a comfortable win 96 seconds ahead of Richard Davies’ Flotation. Both these boats were well ahead of third placed Gavia Wilkinson-Cox’s Jerboa, but the closest completion in the fleet was between the next three boats – Andrew Millband’s Glaurung, Simon Barter’s Bertie and Sanka – which finished only 10 seconds apart after three hours of racing.
By the time of the RS Elite start the wind had dropped back to 6-7 knots. Paul Fisk’s Legs Eleven, Cam Stewart’s More T’Vicar and Charlie and Julia Egerton-Warburton’s Soak Therapywere first away, with Legs Eleven pulling ahead thanks to what appeared to be impressive height and speed soon after the fleet tacked onto port. Nevertheless More T’Vicar had the upper hand at the finish, crossing the line more than five minutes ahead of Legs Eleven, while Roger Holbrook’s Centurion took third.
As the Sunbeams prepared for their start the skies were clearing to the west. Julian Hawe’s Melody and Julian Money’s Penny led into the outer end of the line, but Gayle Palmer’s Little Lady, starting on port at the inshore end, gained a useful early advantage, before markedly extending her lead. However, Palmer later retired and Money took victory, 23 seconds ahead of Stewart Reed’s Firefly.
The wind was very soft for the XOD class start. Jo Field’s Partnership looked best placed at the outer end of the line, just to windward of William McNeil and Andrew Tredrae’s Lara, and Peter Lawrence’s Zephyr. By contrast, Rory and Amanda Paton’s XL, starting alone towards the inshore end of the line was also well positioned, passing ahead of an inshore group still on starboard tack when she tacked onto port.
John Tremlett’s Lass was among this group and continued to press further inshore, despite the light airs there. Of the boats at the outer end of the line Zephyr was first to tack offshore and was the first to reach a noticeably stronger band of wind. However, she soon encountered an unfavourable wind shift, while the group furthest inshore, now led by Lass and Simon Russell’s Swallow, hooked into a significant lift.
With the wind having swung towards the south-west, by the time they approached Gurnard north cardinal buoy, these two boats appeared to have a significant advantage on the fleet, with Swallow having also edged significantly to windward, gaining a useful early lead.
“We were closer to the island shore than we wanted, as the tide was changing, but we could see more wind off Gurnard,” says Russell, who’s sailing with newly crowned 505 European champion Ben McGrane. “John (Tremlett) put his bow down and reached away offshore, while we kept high towards that new wind. We were definitely lucky, but once round we stayed ahead in a stable and building breeze.”
Swallow then led around the course, finishing an impressive four minutes ahead of Zephyr, while Lass took third place just 12 seconds later.
Multihulls returned to Cowes Week this year after a hiatus of a few seasons. Theirs was also a slow-motion start, with Phil Cotton’s Diam 24 Buzz initially leading the fleet, before another Diam, French entry Hugo Vallerie’s Sofia 3, picked up a gust and quickly opened up a 5-6 length advantage that she continued to extend over the next few minutes in the progressively stronger winds further offshore. Sofia 3 went on to take a decisive win by more than two minutes, but competition for second place remained intense, with William Sunnucks’ Adh Inotec finishing just nine seconds ahead of Buzz.
1851 Trust – Cowes Week official charity
There was also focus today on the regatta’s official charity, the 1851 Trust, which uses sailing – including the America’s Cup – to inspire young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The charity also provides sailing opportunities for disadvantaged children.
“It is a real pleasure to be the Official Charity of Cowes Week for the second year running,” says CEO Ben Cartledge “It is fantastic to be able to bring the excitement of INEOS TEAM UK’s Challenge for the America’s Cup to young people, families and crews at this world famous regatta.
“Cowes Week is a really important chance for us to raise funds to give sailing and education opportunities to 800 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds living around the Solent.”
The Trust’s activities in Cowes will continue for the rest of the regatta, with the ultimate aim of raising £30,000 for disadvantaged young people in the Solent area to sail with the organisation’s Go Sail programme over the next year. To raise funds crews are encouraging to take 1851 Trust fine/swear boxes on their boats, or in their crew houses.
Family oriented activities from the 1851 Trust stand on Cowes Parade include a sailing inspired treasure hunt around Cowes and a grinding challenge. In addition the trust has young people racing on a Sunsail F40 and on trustee Louise Makin’s J/111 Journey Maker ll.
Image: Paul Wyeth