Light and shifty
By 9am, a gentle southeasterly was starting to cover the Solent. White Group managed to get the Mumm 30s away, and indeed their first race completed, before a 90 degree wind shift. On the Black Group line there was a brief postponement, allowing the wind to veer and build to 10 knots. The course gave initial windward marks south of the Brambles Bank with a run back to the north shore followed by a cascade of legs leading to a laid finish mark south of Hill Head buoy. In IRC1 Chris Brown's DK46 Fidessa Fastwave established an early lead and took line honours. Behind her, the other big boats in the class were involved in their own battle. Ancasta Sales' Marten 49 Okasama finished in second place, just ahead of the IMX-45 Exabyte 3, followed by the Farr 40 Farrfalina Cadhireuk and the second DK46 Shockwave. All four finished within a minute, but the handicap winner was a smaller boat, Leo Gifford's Beneteau 44.7 Vespucci's Black Sheep.
A new winner emerged in IRC2 as Andrew Webster's Seaquest 36 Circus gained the necessary 24 seconds over Mostly Harmless. IRC3 series leader Quokka uncharacteristically had a bad first beat and rounded well down the fleet. Although skipper Peter Rutter worked his way up to fourth place, this week's honours went to Peter Jackson's J/39 Assassin.
IRC4's first race was shortened at Marinetrack.com buoy and Malcolm Goodall sailing his Mills 32 Aztec was able to raise his position in the overall table. The class managed another good race in the afternoon when, with slightly more wind, Martin Banfield's C362 Tearaway was able to record her first victory. With five races now completed, one discard is allowed and only four points separate first to fourth boats in this class. In IRC5 Mike Fawcett's Mustang Hobby Horse has opened up a small lead over sistership Erik the Red (Bernard Fyans).
The final two weekends of the series also incorporate the Spring Championships for six of the sportsboat classes. With up to 12 races to be completed in total, consistency is most important and at this stage it is impossible to see who will triumph. The outcome of each class could go to the final race next Sunday, but perhaps the surest favourite is Kevin Sproul, whose boat has won five of the six races so far completed in the J/80 class.
In the broader sphere of the Spring Series, ten races have been completed and one discard is now allowed. Mark Gillett in Pocket Battleship has moved up the Hunter 707 standings to second overall and providing that both races are sailed next Sunday, could give the current leader Patrick Hamilton a run for his money.
The Laser SB3 class now has 45 boats entered, achieving the largest fleet in the history of the Spring Series. The three leading contenders for the title have only won one race between them, but have rarely recorded scores outside the top ten. In a fleet with so many potential winners, there could be some surprises over the final weekend.