Ronstan

Classic Conditions at Cowes Week

Published on August 8th, 2016

Cowes, UK (August 8, 2016) – The Solent delivered a north-westerly breeze that varied from eight knot lulls to 25 knot gusts, giving varied conditions to challenge the 8,000 sailors at this year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week.

The Black Group yachts starting on the Bramble line first headed to the east on a tight spinnaker reach. With the tide carrying competitors over the line there was much excitement at many of the starts, including a collision near the committee boat in the J/109 fleet.

The wind was down to 10 knots for the start of IRC Class 3, where Jonathan Blanshard’s First 40.7 Space Race was one of the first boats away at the northern end of the line. He was slow in setting the spinnaker and was soon overhauled by Mark Brown’s Prima 38 Assassin, which pulled out an early lead on the water ahead of Dennis Hennevanger’s one-off Peter Bosgraaf designed Saffier Nitro. Mike Birmingham’s Corby 34 Oxygen lll was also well placed at the gun, but lost out in the early stages when they set a Code 0, instead of a spinnaker.

Last year’s class winner – and the overall winner of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week – Adam Gosling had an uncharacteristically slow start in his new JPK10.80 Yes! but moved up to fourth place on the water at the first mark. At the end of a long beat on the third leg they popped out ahead of the fleet and then retained the lead to the finish. Gosling saved his time to take a third consecutive win on corrected time, ahead of Paul McNamara and Tony Lowe’s First 40.7 Incognito, and Peter Morton’s JND35 Salvo.

“We had another fabulous race today, with a good, classic Cowes Week running start in about 12 knots of breeze,” said Gosling. “I believe consistency is the key to success. We have the same crew all the time, plus we have a new boat, which is really performing well. We’ve already done three regattas and as a team we are continually learning about the boat. So far it seems extremely fast in all conditions so we are extremely pleased.”

The 25-strong J/109 class proved it remains capable for producing very close racing, with numerous entries throughout the fleet separated by only a few seconds at the finish. Jamie Sheldon’s Jolene had a good start, pulling away from the pack, with Robert Styles’ Diamond Jem overlapped to leeward and Nick Southward and John Scott’s Jynnan Tonnyx a couple of lengths astern. Diamond Jem slowly pulled further ahead in the early part of the first leg to create a useful lead. However, they had slipped to third place by the finish, crossing the line 17 seconds behind Neil McGrigor’s Boo. Nick Burns’ Team Mandrake won the class, by a margin of only 26 seconds over Boo.

This year IRC Class 4 has again proved hugely competitive, with six different boats now holding at least one podium position. Notable entries include a pair of JPK10.10s – David Franks’ Strait Dealer and Louis-Marie Dussère’s Raging Bee – that between them have won an impressive haul of silverware at the highest levels of both inshore and offshore competition.

One of the lowest-rated boats in the fleet, Tony White’s Sunfast 3200 Mzungu hit the start line a little south of the committee boat ahead of the pack, but was slow to set a spinnaker and was overtaken by a gaggle of higher rated boats to windward. Within a few minutes Oliver Legrain’s Belgian Archambault 35 IBA Sailing Team had pulled out a useful lead ahead of Roger Williams’ J/105 Jos of Hamble and David Franks’ JPK10.10 Strait Dealer. Franks was to windward and gradually pulled ahead into second, but Legrain, continued to pull out an impressive early lead.

The Belgian boat went on to finish with a lead of more than five minutes on the water, winning on corrected time by almost six minutes on Willem Wester’s Grand Soleil 37 Antilope. Philippe Bourgeois’ Archambault 35 Dunkerque-les Dunes de Flandre took third place 22 seconds behind Antilope.

In the Sigma 38 class Chris and Vanessa Choules’ With Alacrity was first to hoist her spinnaker and quickly pulled away to a comfortable lead. Peter Hopps, Hilary Cook and Serena Alexander’s Sam was second over the start line, but was slow to hoist, allowing Andrew Gordon’s Quatrosolutions Pandanova to overtake to leeward. Sam, however, regained second place, finishing almost eight minutes ahead of Quatrosolutions at the end of the three-hour, 20 minute race.

By the time of the start of IRC Class 5 patchy cloud was moving in across the Solent, accompanied by stronger gusts, bigger lulls and a temporary wind shift into the north-northwest. As a result, there were plenty of thrills and spills on the first leg, with a number of boats broaching on their boisterous first leg to East Bramble buoy.

Robin Stevenson’s J/92S Upstart was first away from the line and quickly pulled away from the pack thanks to a slick spinnaker hoist. The winner of yesterday’s race and one of the lower-rated boats in the fleet, Ian Braham’s MG346 Haven K-J Enigma, also had a good start although was soon overtaken to windward by a group of higher rating asymmetric boats.

One of the larger boats in the class, Harry Heijst’s 44-year-old Sparkman and Stephens 41 Winsome, had a mid-fleet start, but slowly overhauled her competition, initially staying a line to windward of the main bulk of the fleet. By the finish Winsome led the fleet over the line, four minutes ahead of Upstart, with Bob and Jon Baker’s J/97 Jaywalker taking third place both on the water and on corrected time.

The White Group dayboats starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron line initially faced a very different challenge, short tacking against the tide along the Island shore. This led to a number of boats, including the winning Sunbeam in the first two races, Roger Wickens’ Danny, grounding on Grantham Rocks. Despite losing many minutes at this crucial stage of the race Wickens carried on round the course, eventually finishing fourth.

Richard Pearson’s Fay sailed his best race of the regatta so far, climbing onto the podium for the first time and taking the winner’s gun nearly three minutes ahead of John Ford’s Melody, while Stewart Reed’s Firefly took third.

The Flying 15 class is one with a larger presence than in recent years. There was plenty of place changing on the early part of the first beat, although Richard Drabble’s Fram Freyr and Rupert and John Mander’s Men Behaving Badly quickly gravitated to the front of the fleet. Drabble had to retire, leaving the Manders to take their third consecutive win, with young skipper Will Heritage’s Freddie Flintoff second, 27 seconds ahead of Nick Clarke’s Black.

“We were pleased with another win today, but there are some good guys at the front of the fleet, so we are not having it all our own way,” John Mander said. “Today we largely won the race on the first leg. We’re certainly happy to be leading overall at this stage of the regatta, although young Will Heritage on Freddie Flintoff will be one to watch – so far he has two seconds.”

The 34-strong Squib fleet saw some of the closest racing of the day, with constant place changing and six of the mid-fleet boats, led by Sally Everitt’s Firestreak, finishing within just 33 seconds. At the start, Chris Rust and James Vineer’s Kachina and Joe Moncrieff’s Crazy Diamond were among a group of four boats reaching down the line and intermittently on the wrong side of it in the 30 seconds before the gun. However, they got away cleanly at the inshore end of the line, with Moncrieff enjoying a windward advantage.

Alex Downer and Jon Evans’ Panther 3 and Martin Harrison’s Hussar were among the best placed of the mid-line boats, while Andrew Porteous and Jerry Westbrook’s Firecracker Too and Nigel Grogan’s Rehydrated led the boats further offshore. This was clearly the place to be – Grogan and Porteous both cleared ahead of those who started inshore when they crossed tacks a few minutes after the start.

However, Harrison stayed inshore for longer before tacking out into the adverse tide towards the windward mark, gaining a useful lead in doing so. Grogan subsequently regained the lead in a new breeze, but Harrison played the shifts on the final beat to perfection to finish with an 88 second advantage on Grogan.

In the Seaview Mermaid class William, Harry and Freddie Edwards’ Annabelle was well placed at the offshore end of the line at the start, but they lacked boat speed and soon fell back in the fleet. This left Hugo Mills’ Rosemary looking well placed mid-line, with Ben Few Brown’s Sheen also looking good a little further inshore. When they came together Few Brown had the advantage, however he lost speed in a quick double tack that allowed Mills to take an early lead. Nevertheless, Few had regained the lead by the finish, while Guy Mattinson’s Adastra moved up to second and Anthony Ward’s Dragonfly took third.

The Victory fleet made a more aggressive approach to the line than earlier starters, with two boats over at the start. Hugh Pringle’s Pelican returned immediately, followed around 40 seconds later by Gareth Penn’s Zircon. After the first few tacks Duncan Evans’ Peregrine led the fleet, ahead of Mark and Joanna Dennington and Jim Downing’s Ziva and Kim and Sally Taylor’s Zest. Geoff and Sarah Dixon and David Price ‘s Zelia held fourth place on the water at this stage, having had a good start but was unable to match the boat speed and pointing of the other leaders. Pelican eventually made her way back up through the fleet to finish third, astern of Ziva and John Scammell and Maxine Reeves’ Zinnia.

The Victory’s approach to the start had nothing on the XOD class, where at least one third of the fleet started prematurely, with some boats more than 10 lengths over the line. A general recall was therefore inevitable.

The next start was held under a black flag, signalling instant disqualification for any boat over the line in the final minute before the start. Despite the prospect of this draconian penalty, in their enthusiasm to get away 19 boats accelerated away into oblivion at the one-minute signal.

Roger Yeoman and Mike Moss’s Xcitation won today’s three-hour race ahead of James Meaning’s Gleam and Neil Payne’s Sirena. Richard Bullock, Jeremy Lear and Ian Andrew’s Lass, which won the first two races, was fifth today, Lass sill retains the overall class lead, one point ahead of Xcitation and five ahead of Gleam.

Today was also UKSA Charity Day, with the activities of the regatta’s official charity, and associated fundraising drive, in the spotlight. The Cowes based organisation is seeking £80,000 to enable more young people to change their lives through its ground-breaking youth development programmes for disadvantaged and disaffected young people and young offenders.

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Report By Rupert Holmes

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