Contessa 32 points
Two back-to-back races were run on the Saturday in the central Solent. The Race Officer, Tony Lovell, set complex courses where good sail handling and tidal/tactical knowledge counted for as much as pure boat speed. Winds started at 6 knots and increased to 12-13 knots.
Three boats led the first race – Equator, South Haze and finally Blanco. Blanco were as low as fifth at first mark with Equator in the lead but managed to work their way up largely on the beats. Those that went right after the start (including the usually quick Cosantes and Fresh Herring) lost out because of a major wind shift on the first beat. The very first Contessa built, Contessa Catherine, out for the first time this season, showed that Rob Malcolm has not lost his touch by working up to second at the finish. And Elred Himsworth, the US West Coast based owner of Drumbeat, also out for the first time, came in third.
In the second race John Corden and Anne Merryweather on Fresh Herring did not put a foot wrong. Although Chris North’s Andaxi, probably shaded the start, Fresh Herring had established a clear lead by the first mark - which they consolidated and held to the finish. Blanco chased for second and South Haze equalled her best of the season third.
The fleet then adjourned to a pontoon party in the Hamble followed by dinner at the Royal Southern with guest speaker John Kretschmer. John not only sailed a Contessa 32, Gigi, from Lymington to the Great Lakes via the Caribbean, but then took her from New York to San Francisco, doubling the Horn in the smallest yacht ever along the route of the US Clippers. Fortified by a day’s racing on Corafin and Contessa hospitality, John’s account of his voyages was awesome - and rather put round-the-cans racing into perspective.
To make John feel really at home the Solent laid on a show for the Sunday race - bright sunshine and a wind that started at 15 knots but increased to 25 then 30 - 33 knots true, with 35 knots clocked on several boats. True Contessa weather.
Andaxi executed a trademark ODM Port tack start and crossed the fleet with ease before tacking to cover. Those that went left off the line again benefited from a shift and the tide shadow of the Brambles as the fleet worked towards West Bramble. Skirting the bank proved fun for all – Blanco felt her way round with her keel. Cosantes, among others, parked up for rather longer.
Round the first mark the leaders, Drumbeat, Blanco, Fresh Herring and South Haze, all went for full No 1 Spinnakers in what was now a solid Force 7 and shot off at over 8 knots. Some of those following were less successful at holding it all together – Andaxi broached immediately, before reverting to a No 2 genoa, while Geoffery Palmer’s Shardick persevered long enough to Chinese gybe, broach and then blow their No 1 spinnaker to shreds. Seb Gardner’s Polar Star showed how it should be done and picked up three places on the leg.
With Blanco struggling with a lost halyard and the wind now well into No 3 genoa and a reef territory - all over a nice Solent tide - the ride got wetter and wilder until Tony Lovell shortened course at the fourth mark. Results: Drumbeat, Fresh Herring, South Haze and Blanco in that order, followed by Contessa Catherine, Polar Star, Corafin and Andaxi.
Overall Blanco pipped Drumbeat by one point for the regatta - shades of last year’s Cowes Week - but people are beginning to beat the ex-International 14 sailors. Next instalment - Portsmouth 14/15 June with the Royal Albert and Royal Navy.