An action packed opening day of Cowes Week delivered lots of extremes in a shifty westerly wind. This averaged 10-15 knots, punctuated by occasional showers bringing gusts well over 20 knots that tested competitors’ skills across a wide range of conditions.
Twenty one of the 30 classes, including the largest IRC rated yachts, started from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, heading west against a strong adverse tidal stream.
The 36-strong J/70 fleet was first away in a light westerly breeze. They enjoyed three tight races that saw seven boats notch up podium finishes. The final race was particularly close, with only 39 seconds separating the first five boats.
Charles Thompson’s Brutus ll, racing with a Corinthian crew led by Marshall King, started the first race prematurely, but followed with two wins. “It was very good racing, with really good courses, lots of shifts and interesting tides, plus rain squalls,” he says. “A cracking day on the water.”
IRC Class 1 raced today for one of the most prestigious trophies in the sailing world. The magnificent gold Queen’s Cup was presented to the Royal Southampton Yacht Club in 1897 by Queen Victoria to mark her Silver Jubilee. Michael Blair’s King 40 Cobra was second on the water, but took victory on corrected time.
The Queen’s Cup will be presented to the winning team at the new format daily prize giving that will take place at the Regatta Village on the Parade at 1700 tomorrow. “I’m delighted that the Cowes Week daily prize givings are being made on Cowes Parade this year where the winning crews can share their celebration with the wider public,” says Royal Southampton YC Commodore Bob Trimble.
Today’s mix of conditions tested competitors in moderate breezes, patches of light airs and strong gusts. Not everyone succeeded in changing gear fast enough to suit the changing conditions. Plenty of boats, for instance, could be seen struggling to depower in the strongest gusts. Equally, others kept mainsheets bar tight in the lulls, with the leech of the sail taut and their helms doubtless struggling to gain a positive feel.
Even though wind and tide were carrying boats away from the line, many fleets saw premature starters. The Grantham Rocks, a few hundred metres to the west of the RYS start line caught out competitors in many fleets who attempted to push their luck too far when seeking shallow water for relief from the tide.
In inshore racing in the IRC fleets the trend away from heavy cruiser-racers and towards smaller lightweight high performance designs appears to be accelerating and to date 17 ultra fast Cape 31s have been sold in the UK and Ireland. Today they enjoyed a close race from the outset, with the fleet turning almost inside out between the first leg and the finish of their 19-mile race.
Today saw the class stacked up neatly on the start line, with Simon Perry’s Jiraffe at the offshore end and William Edwards’ Sardonyx leading in at the inshore end. Edwards made a small dip 10 seconds before the gun to burn off a couple of seconds and start to perfection.
After tacking offshore on to port tack Sardonyx crossed ahead of the entire fleet, although for a short time it looked to observers she might be standing too far offshore into the stronger tide. However, she crossed ahead of the fleet again on the next tack, thus consolidating an advantaged position inshore. After crossing to the mainland shore, en route to the first mark off the Beaulieu River, there was only a few lengths between the core of the fleet as they short tacked around Lepe Spit.
At the finish Lance Adam’s Katabatic took his first winner’s cannon of the week, ahead of Russell Peters’ Squirt and Ashley Bower’s Nifty.
IRC Class 1 saw plenty of action just after the start. The fleet was all clear at the gun, with Tony Mack’s J/111 McFly leading in at the inshore end of the line and tacking offshore almost immediately. However, Bertie Bicket’s IC37 Fargo had made a better start mid-line and cleared ahead. Then Michael Blair’s King 40 Cobra, on starboard tack, forced McFly to tack back towards the shore. The latter carried on too long, grounding on Grantham Rocks as she tacked, turning a potential advantage into an early loss.
However, Cowes Week courses offer plenty of passing opportunities. Ian Atkins’ IC37 Icy took line honours by an impressive margin of almost nine minutes, but wasn’t able to save his time on Michael Blair’s King 40 Cobra, who took victory on corrected time by a similar margin. McFlyrecovered to take second place on corrected time, 26 seconds ahead of James Howell’s Corby 36 Gelert.
The J/70s started in a light westerly breeze and strong adverse tide. Most competitors held back from the line before the gun, but a few accelerated too early and Marshall King, sailing Charles Thompson’s Brutus ll was a fraction over the line at the start.
Their first leg, short tacking along the shore saw plenty of place changing as the fleet played the gusts and 40 degree wind shifts, with the boats able to maximise the time spent in the weaker stream inshore gaining a big advantage. It was a thorough test of tactics, rules and the skills needed to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.
Nick Philips’ Chaotic took victory in the first race, 58 seconds ahead of Doug Struth’s DSP and CER – Ville de Geneve. However, the next race saw a different trio of boats on the podium. The final, very close race of the day saw Brutus ll and DSP climb onto the podium today, where they were joined by Martin Dent’s Jelvis in second place.
Image: Paul Wyeth/CWL (CRACKLIN’ ROSIE, MERCURY, IRC 1)