Summer returns

Despite fine conditions, elusive laid mark G causes problems on day two of Cowes Week

Sunday August 2nd 2009, Author: Rupert Holmes, Location: United Kingdom
Clear skies, plenty of sun and westerly Force 3-4, building to 5 during the mid afternoon provided stellar conditions for day two of Cowes Week.

Commenting about the forecast before the first start, Stuart Quarrie, CEO of Cowes Week Ltd, said: "It's going to be a lovely sunny day but again the wind is giving the course-setters a tough task - it will gradually back through 90 degrees, but it's impossible for the forecasters to pinpoint the exact timing of the changes in direction."

A royal audience

Shortly after 10am the Laser SB3s started, heading east with the 60-strong fleet making a spectacular sight with their asymmetric spinnakers set. Among the onlookers was HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and his entourage on board the Trinity House flagship Galatea, moored in Cowes Roads.

The remainder of classes again started heading west, from Line 2, giving a good beat for the first leg, in a much more solid wind for the start than the previous day's southerly. Surprisingly few boats in any classes recognised the bias on the start line, which local navigator and author of Winning Tides Graham Sunderland measured at 15 degrees in favour of the inshore end.

By the time of the Sonar start at 11:35, the west-going tide had gained strength, so despite the steadier winds, competitors were again finding it harder to stay the right side of the line. Peter Dudgeon's Disco was two lengths in front of the rest of the fleet at the start and scored OCS. Richard Bailey's We're Here, started right close in to the shore, tacking on to port and almost immediately cleared ahead of the entire fleet.

Surprisingly few Sunbeams in the next start followed Bailey's lead, but Julian Money's Penny took the advantage and cleared ahead of the fleet on port tack to take an early lead in after the start.

Victory in battle

The Victory class may be 75 years old, but competition in this 20-strong fleet is as tight as in any at Cowes and crews had clearly been analysing earlier starts. A tightly-packed group of boats started near the shore, but they failed to find enough clear air to cross those who started a little offshore and so were pinned close to the island, out of the strong tide, allowing others to get ahead. Five minutes into the race, Clive Cokayne's Zara was in a clear lead, ahead of a bunched pack whose places were shuffling each time they crossed tacks.

Cokayne held this position at the first windward mark in Gurnard Bay, with Kim Taylor's Zest and Gareth Penn's Zircon following close behind. Zara lost her lead for a while on the long spinnaker leg to Royal Thames, but regained it by the finish. John Tremlett and Jeremy Lear's Zinnia was second, and Hugh Pringle's Zephyr third.

In the Squib class, David Coombes' Firecracker Too initially looked well-placed at the middle of the start line, while Richard Bowtell's Vanessa took the inshore advantage, but Bob Cheeks's Bucanneer soon popped out a few lengths ahead. Yesterday's class winner, 13-year-old Fred-Warren Smith's Aquabat, was just to leeward of Cheek, pointing a few degrees lower, but with lightening speed. Five minutes after the start Warren-Smith tacked inshore to stay in the fast tide directly to the north of Gurnard north cardinal mark, comfortably crossing ahead of the fleet on starboard.

Where's that mark?

Approaching the Squib's third mark, Hill Head, Warren-Smith rounded neck and neck with Christopher Gear's Osprey, but then a degree of confusion became apparent Gear hardened up to a close-hauled course, but Warren-Smith headed off on a fetch towards the Ryde Middle Bank. After a short while Osprey bore away to shadow Aquabat, but boats astern were in conflict as to which direction to sail, although eventually all followed the first pair, some even setting spinnakers as the leaders bore away in a vain search for the mark.

Eventually, more and more of the fleet started to head upwind, leaving the former front-runners languishing at the back of the fleet. It was clear that something was amiss, but what?

Similar problems were repeated across the rest of White Group, where every class had ‘laid mark g' in the course, the location of which was changed in an amendment to the Sailing Instructions issued before the start of the regatta.

As competitors came off the water a growing number of protests were lodged, affecting dozens of competitors. By late afternoon the list included eDigital Research vs 44 Laser SB3s, Richard Clay's Finn M'Coul against the entire 1720 fleet, Jevan vs many J/80s and Graham Bailey's Arbitrator vs the entire Etchells fleet.

Commenting on the situation, Stuart Quarrie, Cowes Week CEO, said: "I'm sorry for people who didn't go to the right position, but I really wish that all competitors would read the SIs and the amendments."

At the start of class IRC3 John Howell's Dehler 36 Alaris recognised the gains to be made by starting at the inshore end of the line. Howell started on port at the inshore end of the line, clearing ahead of all but two boats on starboard, but to no avail as a general recall was ordered.

In Class IRC1 Rio again had another great day, with owner Charles Dunstone helming for the entire 38-mile course, to take line honours and win on corrected time for the second day running. Chatting after the race navigator Mark Chisnell said the course was more straightforward than yesterday. "We headed straight off to the other end of the Solent, did a windward/leeward tucked up beyond Lymington and then had a good race back with the chute up in 15-20kts of wind."

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