Would they, wouldn’t they go racing this morning? There was anticipation as winds and sea state were still looking strong in the morning, following yesterday’s cancellation at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Bicentenary International Regatta. But the call was made and racing was on, and it turned out to be a good decision.
“I applaud the race committee for their decision yesterday and I applaud them for the decision again today.” Those were the words of tactician Terry Hutchinson, multiple world champion and winning America’s Cup tactician, who was on board Bella Mente Hap Fauth’s powerful 72-foot Judel/Vrolijk Mini Maxi which won IRC Class 1 today. On a breezy start line where early gusts of 30 knots were still being recorded, the starters powered the Royal Yacht Squadron line on a downwind start with startling acceleration. “We crossed the start line doing 24 knots’ boat speed,” observed Hutchinson. “We had a great race, and it was all down to how the guys handled the boat. We have some great talent on board including Ado Stead and Ian Moore. The Solent is a challenging place to sail.”
Despite Bella Mente’s immense speeds at the start, Rambler overshadowed the entire fleet off the line with even greater speed powering through the entire fleet in seconds, to take the lead on the water in the first leg eastwards beyond the two forts which marks the entrance to the eastern Solent. Rambler made mincemeat of the 22 mile course which took in seven turning marks, and was back on her Cowes mooring just one and a half hours after the start.
In contrast to the speeds on the grand prix race track a more sedate race, but only relatively speaking, was experienced by IRC Class 3’s pedigree classic yachts. “It was not too windy for us,” said Argyll’s captain Alexis Bordessoule, who sails with owner Griff Rhys Jones on board the immaculate 57′ Sparkman and Stephens yawl which was launched in 1948. “We were rolling a bit downwind as were most of the others around us, but we set our asymetric kite to get us down to the forts and managed to stretch a lead on the water, as well as winning overall, which we are very pleased about.”
“We had to use all the wind shifts coming up the beat to the finish line around Norris Castle to get ourselves a reasonable finish,” said owner of Cetawayo David Murrin. Co-owner Robert Elliott added “There was a lot of spray about, and a bit of downwind rolling but we were pleased to come through the fleet and settle for third place.”
Another classic Mikado from IRC Class 4 described the experience as ‘very wet’. Owner Michael Briggs commented “This is about the roughest race we have ever done, but we had a great time. There were some challenges along the way, we got a lot of dirty air at the start, and had to avoid Kelpie while we watched Whooper, the eventual winner, getting quickly away. We saw some great competition”. Whooper’s win was no surprise. This year’s Round the Island Race champion is expertly handled by her crew and owner Giovanni Belgrano who restored the 1939-built yacht in 2001 and has been winning on the race circuit ever since.
The small fast boats were having a particularly wet time. “On the first run we were doing 20 knots under water!” said Andy Greenwood, boat captain of Rebellion a high performance Carkeek 40.
There was plenty of action elsewhere on the race course. The 8 metre class, not known for their heavy weather sailing capability, took a look at the start line them made the decision to abandon racing, but the J70 team racing fleet enjoyed some lively racing in the shelter of Osborne Bay, with Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, captained by Jacopo Pasini, Kieran Chung’s St Francis Yacht Club and Erik Storck’s New York Yacht Club all scoring straight wins, no losses.
The Level Rating class too enjoyed good racing on the mainland shore opposite Cowes to the east of Southampton Water. The fleet of identical Beneteau First 40s raced separately to the rest of the fleet, on windward leeward courses, achieving two races today with a win going to an all-star team from Hong Kong, including Laurence and Lauren Mead and Nick Burns. The other winner today was the St Francis Yacht Club including Chris Raab and Russ Silvestri.
Tomorrow the majority of the fleet will get a chance to stretch its legs in the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Race Around the Island (RATI). It is hoped that the J-Class yachts, which decided not to race in today’s stiff breeze will join the IRC class for the early start at 0800 going east around the Island.
The IRC’s Principal Race Officer John Grandy said “Thank goodness it will be a bit lighter tomorrow, but then we did say that yesterday about today.” The fleet will start on the last of an east-going flood so should have a fair tide at Bembridge Ledge to help them around the south of the IOW until about 3.30 and a fair tide at the Needles to bring the yachts to the finish.”
A number of additional yachts will join the main fleet just to do the RATI including a fast MOD70 Concise 10. John Grandy points out “I don’t think anyone is going to fail to miss the boat. It will go smoking away over the horizon pretty quickly I think.” Ned Collier-Wakefield, Concise 10’s skipper, said “It is brilliant that we are competing in the RYS BIC. It is a prestigious event.”
The Team Racing and Level Rating fleets will continue racing in the Solent tomorrow.
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Results and further information on the website: http://www.bic2015.org.uk/
Image: Action on board Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com