Competitors had an easier second day at Cowes Week, with shorter courses and predominately wind with tide conditions giving a dry ride.
Tidal conditions for those starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron line provided an interesting tactical challenge, balancing the last of the ebb tide and early flood stream. The day started with a westerly breeze of 6-8 knots that increased to 14-18 knots by late morning, giving perfect racing conditions. Long sunny spells also contributed to a warmer feel than the opening day, although late finishers were caught in a heavy shower.
Today’s stand out performances include Bluebottle in the Dragon class. HRH the Duke of Edinburgh’s old boat, owned by the Edinburgh based Royal Yacht Britannia Trust, has been fully restored and updated in Cowes by David Heritage, who is racing on board this week with Graham and Julia Bailey.
After 60 years as a museum piece, Bluebottle has notched up consecutive wins in her first two races. “It’s been great fun – there’s a different quality about being on the Duke of Edinburgh’s favourite yacht,” says Bailey. “It’s a real privilege to be in his seat.”
The Quarter Ton class also enjoyed extremely close racing: just five seconds separated three of the first four boats on the water. In all, half the fleet finished within 100 seconds on corrected time, despite the passage of a ship transiting the Solent via the Needles splitting the fleet.
The Cruiser classes that are often raced by family crews, and have somewhat simplified courses compared to the grand prix fleets, are increasingly popular at Cowes Week. This year there are three Performance Cruiser divisions, plus a Club Cruiser class, encompassing a total of 60 boats.
Chris Cecil-Wright’s Nicholson 55 Eager won Performance Cruiser A, while Adam Ridett and Phil Moore’s First 40.7 Challenger took a second victory in Division B, and Jonathan Gardiner’s X-34 Minx 4 prevailed in Division C. Mark Attrill’s 35-year-old Dehler 101 Optima Aqua won the Club Cruiser class.
Tomorrow promises a lighter easterly to south-easterly breeze that may necessitate changes to the start sequences, including some classes moving to different start lines, to create the best possible courses.
The SB20 class started its fourth race of the regatta heading west on the Royal Yacht Squadron line. The fleet gathered near outer end of the line, with several boats jumping the gun. A number turned back to restart correctly, but five boats were scored OCS at the finish.
John Pollard’s Xcellent won today’s first race, his third of the regatta so far. Charlie Whelan’s Breaking Bod took second place 27 seconds later. Phil Tilley’s Herbie was third over the line, but his was one of the boats that started prematurely, leaving Nil Razmilovic’s Glasgow Kiss to take third.
Whelan’s son Patrick and daughter Annabel are racing in the class having won selection to the new IAKA Youth Team, made possible by the generosity of Ian Atkins and supported by by the John Merricks Sailing Trust, the UK SB20 Class and SportsBoatWorld.
“I have raced 29ers and we are always talking to each other, but racing with four people is a bit different,” Annabel said after today’s race. “We were constantly talking about adjustments to the boat and those little changes add up to a big difference. At the moment we are not as quick as other teams upwind, but we are watching what they are doing and learning how to improve. Our Dad tacked on us today. I don’t think he did it on purpose, and at least it showed that we were on the right part of the racecourse, but I am very competitive, so it was a bit annoying!”
Xcellent, Breaking Bod and Glasgow Kiss rose to the fore again in both races 5 and 6. Half way through their Grand Slam series Xcellent leads the fleet counting six points, ahead of Glasgow Kiss on 10 and Breaking Bod on 12.
The Daring class was next away, with Roger Marwood and Helen Bullbeck’s Audax looking well placed in the final seconds before the start, sailing down the line in a clear space. However, she dipped back just before the start and lost out to a group of boats approaching hard on the wind and already moving faster.
Giles Peckham’s Dauntless and Sir Richard Ottaway’s Debutante looked well placed mid line, with Lavinia Perry and Duncan Byatt’s Dreamer also nicely positioned. Dauntless continued on the inshore tack for longer than most, before tacking on a favourable wind shift and pulling ahead into a useful early lead.
Peckham extended this to 70 seconds by the time the leaders were passing the RYS under spinnaker on the first downwind leg, just over 20 minutes after the start. Peckham went on to notch up a second successive victory, ahead of Debutante and Malcolm Loft’s Streak.
As usual the Dragon class includes several world-class teams this year. Gavia Wilkinson Cox’s Jerboa was keen to head offshore at the start, tacking onto port at the outer end of the line just before the gun. However, she was a fraction early, leaving Simon Barker’s Bertie well placed inshore and Eric Williams’ Ecstatic looking good among the boats at the outer end. Bertie split from the fleet, working close to the shore, while others headed out into deeper water.
Graham and Julia Bailey, sailing the newly restored Bluebottle, were uncharacteristically a few lengths back at the start. However, they were soon among the front-runners. “Then it was nip and tuck with Eric Williams and Tom Vernon (Badger) – we were swapping places up to the first mark,” says Graham. “We approached the buoy on a thick layline – that often seems to work there – but the other two boats had to tack again.”
Bluebottle rounded with a comfortable lead that they held to the finish. “It was easier for us than yesterday’s race, where we didn’t get in front until three-quarters of the way through,” he added. Jerboa recovered to take second place, while Williams’ remained in third.
The mix of entries in Performance Cruiser A includes two X4^3s, an X-55, Shipman 50, the beautifully restored 73ft Van de Stadt classic Stormvogel, and a diminutive Mumm 36.
The fleet was mostly slower to approach the line than earlier classes, though an individual recall saw yesterday’s winner, James Stableford’s Mumm 36 Panther return to restart. However, she went further back than necessary, costing valuable time.
Charles Esse’s X4^3 Baby X had a decent start at the outer end of the line, tacking offshore shortly after the gun. However, the X-55 Lutine continued inshore for longer after the start, then hooked into a vein of stronger lifted wind after tacking, climbing a long way to windward of the smaller boats.
She went on to take line honours by a margin of nearly four minutes. However, this was not enough to secure victory on corrected time and she slipped to fourth in the rankings. Chris Cecil-Wright’s immaculately restored Nicholson 55 Eager took victory on corrected time, ahead of Baby X and Panther.
The Quarter Ton class remains one of the most competitive at Cowes Week, with top class teams sailing very competitive boats. At the start today the fleet was tightly bunched in the favoured part of the line, fully powered up and moving fast at the gun.
Ed White’s distinctive orange Joker led a group of boats mid-line, including Sam Laidlaw’s BLT, and consolidated this advantage after tacking onto port. Yesterday’s winner, Julian Metherell’s Bullit, sailing with father and son Paul and Harry Blowers on board, was also well placed on the line.
However the best placed boat at the start appeared to be Cote, sailed by a team of students from Greig City Academy with Cowes Week’s official charity, the Scaramouche Sailing Trust. Led by skipper Kai Hockley, they swiftly tacked offshore after the start.
The finish was characteristically close, with the first five boats separated by only 100 seconds on corrected time. BLT, one of the highest rated boats in the fleet, took line honours, by a sufficient margin to retain first place on corrected time.
Bullit was next across the line, but only five seconds ahead of both Cote and Louise Morton’s Bullet. Cote scored an impressive second place on corrected time, just 37 seconds behind, and Bullit third.
IRC Class 6 also started cleanly, but was more spaced out than the Quarter Tonners and few boats had accelerated to full speed at the gun. This led to some onlookers speculating about how many teams were nursing sore heads after over indulging at last night’s Cuvée 450 opening party, which featured music from Olympic silver medallist turned DJ Mark Covell.
Peter and Alison Morton’s Swan 36 Scherzo of Cowes was among those on the ball at the start, well placed mid line and popping out ahead of the boats nearby with more speed. However, the smallest boat in the fleet, Kevin Downer and Tim Eccles’ modified Jeanneau Fun 23 Ziggycrossed ahead after Scherzo tacked offshore. Yesterday’s winner, the Handley and James families’ Mustang 30 Banter also emerged from the start well placed, just to windward of Ziggy.
One of the five Sigma 33s in the class, Toby Gorman’s Stan the Boat, took line honours exactly two minutes ahead of Scherzo. It was enough of a margin to retain victory on corrected time ahead of Scherzo by 31 seconds. Another Sigma 33, Garry Bowers’ Kerry Jeanne, took third place.
Report by Rupert Holmes