Cats back in Cowes
Against the backdrop of around 1,000 boats on the Solent taking part in Cowes Week, the Extreme 40s are the ‘headline act’ for the first part of Cowes Week. The event has a new location, racing off The Green and The Esplanade with live commentary from Cowes Week Radio, and an all-new public race village and Extreme Bar with top entertainment at Egypt Point. “We have a great spectator set-up, right in front of the race course, which is really the core of the iShares Cup concept to bring sailing as entertainment to the shore-side public,” explained Event Director Gilles Chiorri.
The infamous Solent chop and strong tides will provide the crews with a fresh set of challenges for Round 3. Carolijn Brouwer, skipper of Team Holmatro, commented: “Cowes is probably the only one of the six iShares Cup events where we will be dealing with so much tide... and from my previous experience in Cowes the current can be very strong! This will make the racing even more challenging and exciting than it already is!”
Last year the steep waves combined with strong winds on the northern side of the Solent made for some truly extreme conditions. Brouwer adds: “I remember the iShares Cup in 2007 when we raced in front of The Green in strong winds and current and it was awesome! I’m really looking forward to racing in Cowes again. I missed out last year, but have seen all the photos and pictures on the website - it looks like we might have a bit on, but Team Holmatro is ready for some real action! Bring it on!”
The other female skipper in the iShares Cup fleet, Shirley Robertson of Team iShares, said: “Cowes Week is always spectacular - 1,000 boats on the Solent, who could fail to be impressed?! This year the iShares Cup will be brought to the spectators and I guarantee it’s going to be fast and exciting for those watching, and nerve-wracking for the competitors.”
Robertson lives in Cowes and knows the challenging waters well. She warns: “The class is full of the sport’s rock-stars, but I'm sure even they will find Cowes a handful. For me it’s home waters, and I can't wait! Come and join us, it’s going to be an incredible show!”
After two events, there are just two points separating the top four teams, but current series leaders BMW Oracle Racing are unfortunately unable to compete in the iShares Cup at Cowes Week due to a clash with the team’s testing program for the 33rd America’s Cup in San Diego.
BMW Oracle Racing helmsman James Spithill explained: “Testing with our newly modified BOR 90 trimaran is at an important phase and we need to focus on this right now. With the America’s Cup only six months out, we have much to do to be prepared. We’re really disappointed not to be going to Cowes as we are currently leading the circuit. We hope to rejoin the circuit in Kiel and get back into the iShares Cup action.”
This means the battle will be on between second placed Oman Sail Masirah, which won Round 2 in Hyères (France), and Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild, winners of the 2009 season opener in Venice. Just one point behind them is Oman Sail’s Renaissance, skippered by Loick Peyron, while there is more French multihull talent on board Groupama 40 who are not far behind in fifth.
“The game will be very open because, as we have seen at Round 2 of the iShares Cup in Hyères, nothing is decided until the final race,” commented Chiorri. “ Groupama 40 and Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild are both new teams so they will have learnt lots in Hyères and I think they will be pushing hard in Cowes. But the outcome of the racing will very much depend on the wind conditions.”
Any one of the nine iShares Cup teams could come to the fore in these different conditions - perhaps the ocean racers Nick Moloney ( BT) and Mike Golding ( Ecover) will hold an advantage on the open sea course. The crowded waters will be no problem for Erik Maris of team Luna - he’s a multiple champion in One-Design fleets, where the boats race just inches apart. Or perhaps it’ll be the turn for the girls to come out on top – Carolijn Brewer ( Holmatro) has years of high-performance cat racing experience to draw on, whilst for Shirley Robertson, skipper of Team iShares, local knowledge could prove key.
The iShares Cup action begins daily at 2pm from Saturday, 1 August to Monday, 3 August with up to eight races each afternoon - each race last just 15-20 minutes. There is also an afternoon of practice racing on Friday 31 July, with the first start at 2.30pm from the Royal Yacht Squadron.