Beau Geste makes her debut
Rob Gray, owner of the Quarter Tonner Aguila said, "Today was some of the best racing I've ever had - and the first time I've sailed a Quarter Tonner in 30 knots! It was an absolute blast. Gybing was a bit like a roulette wheel, but we did get lucky occasionally."
The big boats in IRC Class 1 raced for one of the regatta's biggest trophies - the Britannia Cup, first presented by King George Vl in 1951. The fleet started from the committee boat line off Browndown near the north shore just to the west of Gilkicker Point, on a 34.4 mile course that took them out the Solent and into Hayling Bay. The early stages of the race saw winds of 14-15 knots, but when the fleet returned to the central Solent area this increased, with gusts in the mid to upper 20s.
This class has been dominated so far by Charles Dunstone's TP52 Rio, which won the first three races. Duran Duran front man Simon le Bon joined her crew today, working the grinders and backstays. "We had a fantastic and very exciting race today, with a great course, great wind and everyone onboard working together really well," he said.
Rio led off the start line, gradually pulling out a comfortable lead on Johnny Vincent's Pace, the other TP in the class. Talking after the race Rio's strategist Peter Morton said: "We really didn't put a foot wrong all day - we had a great start, nailed all the laylines and made no mistakes."
The final leg, from Gurnard Ledge to the RYS finish line, saw Dunstone's boat clocking speeds of up to 20 knots, as her crew skilfully picked their way through throngs of smaller competitors. Rio took line honours by an impressive 20 minutes to win the Cup with a six-minute margin on corrected time from Piet Vroon's new Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens, with David Aisher's Rogers 46 Yeoman XXXll third.
Off the record
The four large yachts in IRC Class Zero - Niklas Zennstrom's mini maxi Ran 2, Karl Kwok's 80ft Beau Geste, and the two STP 65s - Luna Rossa with Flavio Flavini at the helm and American Roger Sturgeon's Rosebud/Team DYT - raced in a round the island challenge today. At the start Ran was a nose ahead and to leeward of Luna Rossa and Rosebud, and soon pulled clear ahead as the fleet headed towards the Needles.
As the fleet powered back up the eastern Solent, however, Beau Geste was well ahead of her rivals and tantalisingly close to the record time set by Mike Slade's 100ft supermaxi ICAP Leopard last year. Finishing just before 14:30 she was just 2 minutes 10 seconds outside the record, but also failed to save her time on the smaller Luna Rossa and Ran.
Hiring a winner
At the Royal Yacht Squadron, Black and White Group classes were, unusually, starting in opposite directions and on different lines, with the larger Black Group yachts heading west from Line 1.
Sunsail's fleet of Sunfast 37 charter yachts are always one of the most numerous classes in Black Group, but they have never before produced an overall winner of the Group. This, however, could change this year, with Neville Upton and his Listening Company team having an unbroken run of first places in the initial three races. Sailing with a mix of clients and friends the crew so far has included people who've never raced a yacht.
Talking before today's race, Upton said: "The key point [for us] is the team playing - everyone plays a big part. You can't win purely by having a couple of good people on board, everyone needs to gel and it's more important to have a cohesive unit rather than a few good individuals."
Today his team consolidated their position, with another win, finishing a very comfortable three minutes ahead of Cazenove Diversity. Further down the fleet there was very tight racing, with four boats tying in photo finishes and barely more than three minutes separating places 13 to 28.
The gusty conditions suited the multihull fleet, with Phil Cotton's Seacart 30 Buzz completing her 27.8 mile course in just two hours and 14 minutes - more than one-third faster than predicted by the course setters. This performance, however, was not sufficient to take a win on corrected time - an accolade that went to Ben Goodland's Roo, with Messrs Haynes, Bliss, Harvey and Preston's F33r Carbon Tiger 2 taking second.
In White Group Robert Walters' J/80 Wild Wally was the first J/80 off the line, followed by Tom Cload's JellyBean and yesterday's class winner, the injured servicemen sailing Toe in the Water Too.
Starting near the middle of the main pack, Neil Stevenson's J Caramba was the only boat to set her asymmetric spinnaker at the start, but she broached almost immediately and was in last place when she dropped it three and a half minutes into the race.
Gordon Craigen's Juicy took a different strategy to the majority of the fleet, sailing much higher and closer inshore after the start, to gain relief from the strong adverse tide, before bearing away and hoisting her kite to reach across the tide to the first mark. Craigen had a good day, finishing second to Sam Sam Atkins' Exwuss, and seven seconds in front of Steve Sault's Hoolingkazan.
The Swallow class enjoyed the closest competition of the day in White Group, with the strong winds giving this 60-year-old design ideal planing conditions. The entire fleet finished in 5 minutes 43 seconds, after a tight battle among the top five boats. "It was a great course with plenty of beating and excellent downwind legs," according to Anthony Lunch, owner of Solitude.
"The starting conditions were very difficult, trying to judge whether to go inshore out of the tide, at the risk of losing the wind, or staying out in good wind but the strong [adverse] tide," he continued.
Migrant, Skua, Blue Phantom, Cockersootie and Solitude all reached West Ryde Middle - the first mark - at the same time. Initially last year's winner, Harry Roome's Skua, took the lead but was overhauled first by Charles Fisher and Richard Thompson's Migrant and then Solitude. Lunch held onto his lead by a margin of nearly one minute despite the very shifty and gusty conditions around Gales HSB on the way to the finish.
In the Dragon fleet Julia Bailey's Aimee was the only boat to set a spinnaker before the start. As soon as it was clear that she was holding it comfortably, half a dozen others, including Len Jones' Rumours, hoisted. The fleet quickly split into two, with those carrying spinnakers staying in deep water, making a direct line for the first mark. A second group, including Eric Williams' Ecstatic and Richard Cullen's Supremacy, worked towards the island shore before bearing away for the mark.
At the finish Aimee led Rumours by a margin of almost one minute, with Owen Pay's Njord third. Ecstatic's sixth position cost her the overall lead of the class, which now goes to Rumours, with Aimee just a single point behind.
More photos on the following pages...
Full results here