The opening day of Lendy Cowes Week delivered a gloriously sunny and tactically challenging day of racing for the 35 classes taking part.
The first start, for the 36-strong J/70 fleet, was on the Royal Yacht Squadron line in a northerly breeze of 10 knots. The fleet bunched towards the favoured northerly end of the line for a reaching start heading towards the east.
Simon Childs’ F’in Majic and Tarra Gill-Taylor of the Royal Thames YC Academy led away from the line. However John and Kate Greenland’s JDog and Peter Harrison’s Sorcha J were first to hoist spinnakers on the short first leg and soon pulled ahead. Once the fleet settled onto their first beat, JDog held the advantage over Paul Ward’s Eat, Sleep, J, Repeat. Greenland was ahead at the finish, with a 48 second advantage on Harrison, while Ali Hall’s Sceptre took third place.
The J/70 class is using Lendy Cowes Week as an event in its 2018 Grand Slam series and has three races per day scheduled over the first four days of the regatta. Greenland won the second, held on a windward-leeward course from a committee boat, with Hall second and Harrison third. JDog took another win in the third race and now leads the series the Grand Slam series by a commanding margin.
“We were absolutely delighted to win all three races in a boat kindly loaned to us by the Royal Thames YC,” says Kate Greenland. “It was really close racing, which made it even more enjoyable. Today was all about good starts and staying in the pressure. To be honest the boys on board made my life as tactician pretty easy today because they all worked really hard in the shifty conditions.”
The SB20 class also has three races per day for a Grand Slam series. John Pollard’s Xcellent hit the line at speed to pull away from the pack at the outer end of the line. However, the advantage went to The Waha Waite McLean Youth Team’s Spongbob, starting on their own several lengths inshore and sailing a slightly hotter angle relative to the wind. This proved to be an important advantage as the consensus in the fleet was not to use spinnakers on this leg.
At the first mark Spongbob led Xcellent by five seconds, with the next pair of boats a further 15 seconds back. Xcellent went on to win, with Spongbob taking second place 45 seconds later and Peter Noe’s 6A Vision Homes third. Xcellent won the second race and took third place in the final one, so has a healthy early lead in the Grand Slam series.
The Etchells fleet also started cleanly, with Andrew Wishart’s Ziggy making a great start, hitting the outer end of the line at speed. Martin Hill and Andrew Palfrey’s Man’s Best Friend also made a great start, further inshore, a strategy that again appeared to pay – they enjoyed a five length lead over Ziggy and Shaun and Emily Frohlich’s Exabyte at the first mark. However, Exabyte pulled out a big lead by the finish, crossing the line almost three minutes ahead of Man’s Best Friend. Tom Abrey’s Jolly Roger took third place just 20 seconds later.
“We had a good race with Man’s Best Friend,” explains Frolich, “…but we worked our way out to the west and were lifted. It was a bit processional, but it was tough nevertheless because we had to keep ahead of the fleet at all times. Any mistake and it would have been difficult to get back.”
Roger Marwood’s Daring Audax also gained a big initial advantage by starting well inshore of the pack. Yet, even after the start line was changed to give less advantage to the outer end for the Sportsboats, J/80s and subsequent starts, surprisingly few boats took advantage of this.
As temperatures on shore soared towards 30 Celsius, the wind softened to seven knots by the time of the XOD start at 1205. This more numerous class was better spaced along the line, although those closest inshore suffered from less breeze. Harry Laurence’s Zoe and J Owen’s Fury were best placed of the boats starting at the outer end of the line.
However, Al Asford’s Foxglove started mid-line and got away very quickly, as did James Meaning’s Gleam, another 10 lengths further inshore. This pair read the start line to perfection and had built an impressive lead on the rest of the fleet by the first mark.
Approaching the finish the waters to the east of Cowes fairway were thick with boats – with XODs mixing with Squibs and J/70s. Foxglove was the first XOD across the line, followed by Colin McKinnon’s Catherine and Gleam. Michael Martell’s Astralita took fourth, just one second behind Gleam.
By far the biggest start of the day was for the 100 Squibs, racing in the practice race for their National Championship, which is being held from Sunday to Friday. The class has attracted a huge amount of talent this week, including eight previous national champions and a host of past Lendy Cowes Week overall class winners. This is the most accessible of classes – it’s possible to buy a Squib for under £1,000 and run it on a budget of half that.
With a strong flood tide sweeping the fleet across the start, most of the front runners were heading away from the line until the final 30 seconds before the gun. Even then, a handful of boats were swept over prematurely and were frustratingly slow in making ground back against the stream to start correctly.
Last year’s Lendy Cowes Week class winner, Steve Warren Smith and Stu Rix’s Aquabat started well placed near the outer end of the line, but were one of two boats to be scored OCS. Bill Currie and Jim Mitchell’s Rhapsody made a good start further inshore, while Graham and Julia Bailey’s Alchemy, Andrew Moore’s Deben-Boys and Bill Daniel’s Halcyon also initially looked well placed.
Newcomers to the class Graham and Julia Bailey took the winner’s gun, more than two minutes ahead of Bryan Riley’s Brimstone. Mike Probert and James Bryer’s Panimunta finished third 40 seconds later.
Among the Black Group yachts, IRC Class 4 promises to be very hotly contested. Entries include David Franks’ J112E Leon, fresh from winning the IRC/ORC world championship in Holland a couple of weeks ago with her previous owner. Another J/112E, Chaz Ivill and Paul Heys’s Davanti Tyres also has an enviable record, as does Ed Fishwick’s Sun Fast 3600 Redshift Reloaded. Another competitor with impressive form, Bruce Huber, has chartered Jellyfish, a local Sun Fast 3600 for the week.
Three minutes after their start, heading east from the Bramble line, Nicky and Tim Octon’s Corby 35 NJO Sails held the lead on the water, just ahead of Redshift, with Leon three lengths back and a little to leeward, followed by Jellyfish and Davanti Tyres. By the time they passed south of Lepe Spit, against the tide en route to their first mark off Newtown Creek, Leon, sailing lower but faster, had pulled out a lead on NJOS, with Redshift a further couple of lengths back. Davanti Tyres went on to take line honours in the three-hour race, and retained the lead on corrected time, just 34 seconds ahead of Leon, with Redshift taking third place.
Although it dipped to only five knots, the north to north-westerly breeze held up in the central Solent and island shore to the east of Cowes, giving great sailing for the White Group dayboats. However, the larger Black Group yachts still racing in the western Solent had to contend with a shut down before a south-westerly sea breeze filled in.
The leading group employed a variety of strategies on the final approach to the finish, with some heading north into the stronger tide, hoping for better wind. James Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX made the best progress by short gybing along the shoreline and led the pack into the line. Even then it was frustratingly slow progress as the wind eased and for several minutes he could barely stem the tide just a quarter of a mile from the finish. However, this still put Neville well behind the leading IRC Class 0 boat, Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator, who took line honours and first place on corrected time ahead of Igor Yakunin’s Ker 46 Lady Mariposa.
“The team is extremely pleased with today’s result – we had a great sail,” says Gladiator’s boat captain Tom Wilson. “It was very up and down, with the sea breeze fighting the gradient wind in the north. It was a very clean race with some good crew work, apart from a slight confusion at the first mark. We rounded the wrong way and in correcting ourselves lost a lot and were overtaken by our closest challenger, Lady Mariposa, but we managed to claw our way back, thanks in a major way to the expertise of our tactician Jules Slater.”
While all the IRC Class 4 boats hoisted spinnakers for their first leg, competitors in the Sunsail Match F40 fleet were more ambivalent about the decision, but eventually a growing number set their symmetric kites, with poles on the forestay. Opihr Gin and Tenzing looked well placed at the start, as was Lendy, with the CEO of the regatta’s title sponsor, Liam Brooke, and team of his corporate guests on board. At the finish Opihr held a two minute lead ahead of Noack Engineers, with Elementa taking third place 20 seconds later.
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