Perfect racing conditions on Day 6 of Cowes Week.
Winds averaging 15 knots, with some stronger gusts, provided ideal conditions for competitors at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and for a record-breaking circuit of the Isle of Wight.
Images: Island Pulse Cowes Week Photo Galleries click here: Isle of Wight Photo Agency.
The start for the SB20 (formerly SB3) class was in relatively light winds, but the fleet encountered big gusts and lulls only a few hundred metres to the west. After the start it was the overall leader, Jerry Hill’s sportsboatworld.com, and Mark Devereux’s Tobias that emerged from the pack first, with the boats closest to shore – S’Boysterous of Wembley and Paul Wood’s Ausis One – also looking well placed.
Hill, a length ahead of the fleet, was the first to sail into the stronger pressure, accelerating a useful few lengths clear. However, it was Colin Simonds’ Doolalli, sailing with a family crew, that played the gusts and lulls to perfection. Four minutes after the start he was in a commanding position, a nose ahead and two or three lengths to windward of Hill.
With the wind increasing during the day, the class enjoyed some super-fast downwind legs, planing at speeds into the mid to upper teens. With Simonds having been forced to retire, on the long final run to the finish, the contest at the front of the fleet was between sportsboatworld.com and Space Docker, the second-placed boat overall.
The lead changed several times as the pair gybed downwind, staying as close to the shore as possible to escape the strongest of the adverse tide and delighting spectators on the Green. At the finish they were only nine seconds apart, with Sportsboatworld.com taking the winning cannon, nine seconds ahead. It was to be another eight minutes before the next boat, Dave and Zorana Bull’s Australian entry Jester 3, finished.
The Artemis Challenge at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week started heading west from the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) line, with two IMOCA 60 monohulls and two giant MOD70 one-design trimarans racing anti-clockwise around the Isle of Wight.
Michel Desjoyeaux’s Foncia and Mike Golding’s Gamesa were side by side at the gun, with both boats in the other team, Artemis Ocean Racing and Oman Sail, four to five lengths behind. The two IMOCA 60s had reefed mainsails, looking very under powered in the lee of the hill behind the RYS, but well heeled as they emerged into clearer wind and the stronger gusts.
Just before 1220 the giant rig of Foncia appeared from behind the headland at East Cowes and came storming past the RYS, flying two hulls, on the completion of her circuit of the Isle of Wight. Oman Sail was about one-third of a mile behind and finished 88 seconds later. Despite having to tack several times on the first leg to the Needles, both were more than 10 minutes inside the record time set by Playstation 11 years ago. Foncia’s new record stands at 2 hours, 21 minutes, 25 seconds.
Playing it safe
By the time of the later White Group starts, the ebb tide was running fast, with many competitors struggling to stay the correct side of the line. Tom Holbrook, Ed Glanville and Angus Mayhew’s Mermaid Naomi was one such casualty, but Chris Cotterell and Will Caws’ Adastra approached from behind with speed to make the best start at outer end of the line. However, it was the boats inshore – Anthony Eaton’s Dragonfly and Kate Broxham’s Miranda that came out ahead, with Dragonfly to windward and with more speed building a big early lead.
Eaton retained this at the finish, but by the tightest of margins – three further boats finished within the following 36 seconds. Next was Terry and Matthew Kavanagh’s Scuttle, just one second ahead of Charles Glanville’s Rosemary. A few lengths later John Edwards’ Zara crossed the line to take fourth.
The next start was for the Victory class, with everyone staying well back from the line and almost every boat still pointing away from the first mark with only 20 seconds to go. Delphine Freeman and Andrew Terry’s Minx appeared to be best placed at the gun, but again it was the boats closest inshore – Mark Dennington’s Ziva and Graham Stone’s Unity – that came to the fore a few minutes after the start.
Unity sailed low and fast to come out just ahead of the main pack, while Ziva stayed high, building a considerable windward advantage. At the finish she was five and a half minutes ahead of Geoff and Sarah Dixon, Maxine Reeves and Hugh Winter’s Zelia, giving Dennington an unbroken run of first places this week. Kim and Sally Taylor’s Zest finished third, only six seconds behind Zelia.
A big win
The 83-strong XOD fleet started on a longer line than the other classes, with a bias that favoured the offshore end a little more strongly than the fixed line used for earlier classes. As with the Victorys, every skipper took a very conservative approach to the start – with one minute to go all but a handful of boats were still pointing away from the line, with many as much as 200-300 metres away. When the line was called all clear at the start, a cheer went up on the RYS platform.
Jeremy Lear, John Tremlett, Richard Bullock and Richard Jord’s Lass started mid-line on starboard, tacking offshore onto port at the start, two and a half lengths astern of Alastair and Jackie Ashford and Richard Neall’s Foxglove, but ahead and to windward of Ado Jardine’s Lucrezia. Jardine’s brother Stuart’s Lone Star also looked good further inshore, while closest to shore were the two boats leading the fleet after the first four races: Steve & Peter Lawrence and Paddy Smart’s Catherine and Andy Shaw’s Phoenix, the latter a little to windward but two lengths further back.
After a couple of minutes, Foxglove emerged at the head of the fleet, but gradually fell back, with the advantage passing to Lass. There were many sharp gusts at this stage, with boats only a few lengths apart alternately heeling sharply and depowering in gusts at the same time as their neighbours were standing upright in a lull.
The inshore boats that had the benefit of relatively flat water, even though they were in a weaker tidal stream, again did well. Paul Kelsey’s Anitra was the first of the leaders to tack on to starboard, off Egypt Point, passing astern of Lass and Phoenix, but forcing Catherine into an expensive short tack inshore. Lass was able to continue to extend her lead, keeping out of the many close tussles between the boats in her wake, finishing more than three and a half minutes clear of the rest of the fleet. Fraser Graham and Tim Copsey’s Astralita just secured second place, three seconds ahead of Willy McNeill and Ted Tredrea’s Lara.
Catherine finished twenty seconds later to take fourth, a sufficiently good result to retain her place at the top of the leaderboard, three points ahead of Lass. With only four points separating the top three boats in this big fleet, the final two days of the regatta promises the most exciting racing to be found in any fleet.
Black Group yachts starting off the RYS headed to the east, with many boats hoisting spinnakers. Pavlova lll was first to go for the spinnaker at the start of the Sigma 38 class, with a very smooth hoist. However, Kevin Sussmilch’s Mefisto came out well and went on to win today’s race by a margin of more than four minutes over Pavlova lll.
Having now notched up three firsts and three second places, Sussmilch wins the class overall with a day to spare. Similarly, a fourth place today for Chris and Vanessa Choules’ With Alacrity was enough to secure second place overall, with total of 19 points. However, there’s still a tight battle for third place overall, with six boats in contention and separated by only a handful of points once the discard is applied.
Two other Black Group classes now have both first and second places sewn up. In the Contessa 32, where Ray Rouse’s Blanco has a total of eight points and Eldred Himsworth’s Drumbeat 11. A fifth win for Jonathan Calascione and Jonny Goodwin’s J/109 Harlequin puts them in an unassailable position at the head of the class’s overall standings, while a fifth place for Christopher Sharples and Richard Acland’s Jolene ll was sufficient to secure second overall. However, half a dozen boats are still in contention for third.
In IRC Class 0 a first place today for Peter Cunningham’s TP52 Powerplay – his fourth of the week – seals his overall victory. In the normally very competitive First 40.7 fleet, Calvin Reed’s Elandra won a sixth successive race, to win the class with a day to spare. There is, however, still intense competition for second and third places overall.
In IRC Class 3 Bernard Olesinski’s X-40 Xinska won her fifth race of the week to secure class victory with a day spare, while a third place did the same for Grant Gordon’s J/97 Fever Glenfiddich in IRC Class 5.
Today was also the regatta’s Ladies Day, with the trophy this year awarded to Annie O’Sullivan of Girls for Sail in recognition of her selfless contribution to women in sailing.
Report by Rupert Holmes
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