A thrilling finish for the Grand Prix yachts competing for the New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup, one of sailing’s most coveted prizes, saw Christian Zugel’s GP42 Tschuss lead three boats across the Royal Yacht Squadron line just 30 seconds apart. Places four and five on the water were also very tightly fought, with two IC37s, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua and Bertie Bicket’s Fargo, only 19 seconds apart after almost three hours of racing.
However, with the prize award to the boat with the best corrected time, the early leaders had a tantalising wait before Guy Gillon’s and Christian Hamilton’s Fast 40 Khumbu could be confirmed as winner, 22 seconds ahead of Tschuss.
Racing took place today in a 10-15 knot west-southwesterly sea breeze, with big shifts and some wind holes. The start times on the Royal Yacht Squadron line also coincided with the beginning of an inshore west-going tidal eddy between the start line and Egypt point almost half a mile to the west. This resulted in a number of boats misjudging their starts and two of the nine classes starting here were subject to general recalls.
There was disappointment for the overall leader at the start of the day in the Daring class, Graham Wilkinson and John Corby’s and Doublet, which started prematurely and had a big deficit to recover from once she had returned to the correct side of the line. Doublet recovered to finish third, but a win for Milo Carver, Richard Romer-Lee, Jane Peckham and Joshua Peckham on Dauntless lifted her to the head of the leaderboard.
The pattern repeated for the second start, where a couple of Dragons were premature, and overall class leader, Eric Williams’ Ecstatic, returned even though she had been just behind the line at the gun. Williams was able to discard today’s seventh place, but a win for Gavia Wilkinson-Cox’s Jerboa lifted her into first overall, one point ahead of Ecstatic.
“We had the most extraordinary day,” says Wilkinson-Cox. “After the windward mark in Gurnard Bay we headed to a mark on the north shore, but before we got there the wind dropped and went round in circles. We rounded that mark third, then pulled up to second place, but at the finish we had no idea that the boat ahead had been OCS at the start.
“It’s now very tight at the top of the class for the final race tomorrow,” she added. “If Eric wins he wins overall, otherwise there has to be a boat between Ecstatic and us for him to get victory.”
By contrast, the XOD class goes into final day with the leaderboard wide open. Max and Mike Crowe’s Clair de Lune heads the fleet on 17 points, but further three boats are tied on 19 points: Richard Faulkner’s Swallow, Jonathan Clark’s Tortoise and John Tremlett’s Astralita.
The fleet today approached the start bunched towards the outer distance mark, but remarkably early with several rows of boats luffing prematurely over the line before the start, resulting in a general recall. The restart coincided with a big lull in the wind, but the fleet nevertheless got away cleanly under a U flag, with Tortoise, Ken Williamson’s La Mouette and Thom D’Arcy, Neil Payne and Tim Watson’s Sirena looking best placed.
Initially, Barry Dunning’s Crumpet also looked to have a useful advantage inshore, but was in less wind and less favourable tide, so this proved short-lived. Five minutes into the race, having spent more time slightly further out from the shore in the stronger breeze and stream, Tortoise pulled into what appeared to be a narrow, but useful, early lead.
Swallow won today, ahead of James Meaning’s Gleam, with Tortoise third and Clair de Lune fourth. Astralita was able to discard an uncharacteristic 14th place today, but can’t afford any mistakes in the final race tomorrow.
The primary aim at Cowes Week is to maximise the number of starts on the Royal Yacht Squadron line. However, today three committee boats were also used, to reduce the start sequence from the usual couple of hours to only 40 minutes, which allowed all classes to get racing in despite the light conditions.
Several Seaview Mermaids misjudged the strengthening stream at their start and crossed the line prematurely. This left Oliver Dobbs’ Rosemary, plus Amma Cockell, Robin Maccaw and Simon Edwards’ Amethyst looking well placed, as was John Sandiford Haigh’s Sirena, somewhat further offshore.
At this early stage it paid to remain a little offshore, in stronger stream and a more consistent breeze and as they crossed tacks approaching Egypt Point Sirena held the lead ahead of Amethyst and Charles Glanville’s Zara. The latter went on to take her first win of the regatta, with a commanding two and a half minute lead. However, the race for second place couldn’t have been closer, with nine boats, led by Anthony Eaton’s Adastra and Kate Broxham’s Miranda, all crossing the line within 80 seconds.
The Victory class started in a tight bunch in the tidally favoured mid-line area, stacked up impressively close to the line, but a couple of boats slipped over the wrong side of the line moments before the gun. Team Scammell’s Zinnia, along with Jim Page’s Seagull, plus Jim Downing, Stephen Fry and Zoe Whittaker’s Ziva, both a little further offshore, powering away from the competition immediately after the gun. However, Nick Benham, Ian Perryman and Clive Good’s Zilch made big gains by maximising time spent in the stronger favourable stream, and more consistent wind, slightly further offshore than the others. She went on to take victory, 63 seconds ahead of Ziva, while Geoff Dixon’s Zelia took third place, just six seconds ahead of Russell Mead, Darren Ballard and Adrian Edwards’ Shearwater ll.
Report by Rupert Holmes
Image: Paul Wyeth