The first gun fired at 1055, exactly as scheduled, catching out three boats who had sailed rather too leisurely to the start line, one of whom managed to drop the chute, round up onto port at the pin and cross the fleet. Either Dennis Conner-esq timing, or pure luck (it was the latter!). Thereafter, in the 8 knot SW breeze, Laurence Mead, Keith Tippell and Pete Tindale chose the keep right of the race track and held a tenuous lead at the top mark, sailing a boat borrowed from Jamie Clark, as Mead’s own boat was held up in customs on the way back from the worlds in Melbourne. Rob Goddard was 2nd round after a nice start and a right-hand first beat.
Down the first run the breeze lightened as the leaders approached the gate at the bottom, and a group of three boats (Mead/Razmilovic and Graham Bailey - who chose the right hand gate mark) were overlapped as they rounded. The tide was building against the fleet on the beats so a right hand bias and shelter under the Bramble Bank was the order of the day, but it wasn’t an overwhelming advantage, and Ante Razmilovic used a small left shift at the top of the leg to lead at the 2nd windward mark. Down the second run the game was to avoid getting caught too far right (looking downwind) as the building tide made the run somewhat port pole biased. Razmilovic went too far and ended up having to go pole forward to try and keep clear air as Graham Bailey and Sam Carter sailed down over his line, having gybed earlier than Razmilovic. Laurence Mead was right behind Razmilovic and heated it up further to force the leader under Baileys wind shadow, and the top four were all very close as the downwind finish approached. A gybe and 90 seconds of starboard-pole lay between the leaders and the finish, and as the layline approached Graham Bailey got a small puff to slide round the front of Razmilovic and Mead. A smooth gybe followed, and Bailey led towards the finish line. Mead gybed on top of him and momentarily took Baileys wind, with Razmilovic dropped into 3rd. Bailey managed to get just enough clear air behind Mead’s sail plan to win by 2 seconds, with Mead about 5 seconds ahead of Razmilovic and Carter only 8 seconds or so behind the top 3. An incredibly close race, with the winner, who hadn’t led the race before then, emerging only in the last minute of the race.
For race 2 the fleet was all on the line early and with the tide under the fleet as they headed towards the pin end there was always the possibility of being early. Mead made a hash of his time on distance and despite the lack of boats around him got there early, tried to shoot the pin and ended up fouling Razmilovic who had his time on distance nailed. Mead won “Cowboy Trophy” points and took his penalty. The fleet streamed off with the right theoretically tidally advantaged, but perhaps with more wind to the left. The sea breeze was building, it had been 6 to 10 knots in the first race and was destined to get to about 12 to 14 knots for race 2. Coming in from the left Razmilovic blew the fleet away for pace up the first beat but wasn’t able to convert his lead into a huge advantage as the right hand side was still better for tide. He held a small lead at the top from Graham Bailey but as he turned round the top mark and had the tide under him his lead extended.
David Franks had made it cleanly off the start line (and they weren’t OCS despite their fears expressed on the dock later) and was in the mix as well. Sam Carter on “Evelina” was just behind the leading pack and whilst the front 2 slowly extended the next 3 were in a dog fight for the last podium place. Mead had managed to get back in touch with the race and was 5th.
Down the run Razmilovic sailed cleanly and extended, Bailey locked up 2nd and Mead closed down the boats fighting for 3rd place. Up the next beat Mead got to 4th but couldn’t catch David Franks team (including single-handed ace Nigel King) who out gybed Meads team to hold 3rd as they rounded the last leeward mark. Sam Carter had dropped back a bit on the run but up the last beat he made a move and coming in from the right he was only feet behind Mead, who gave up trying to get 3rd and tacked over to protect 4th. Carter came back on port and Mead tacked in front of him to lead Carter back towards the slacker tide under the Bramble Bank. Franks was bow forward on port and tacked for the line, Mead was half a boat length behind, with Carter also on port another half length back. Mead went a boat length past Franks, tacked on his hip and the three boats sailed hard towards the line on starboard. A tiny right shift and a well timed shoot at the finish line got Mead 3rd , no more than a few feet ahead of Franks with Carter not able to convert his distance gain into a place advantage.
With 2 of 6 races sailed Razmilovic leads by one point from Graham Bailey, who is one point ahead of Laurence Mead. The forecast is for more Antiguan conditions on Sunday….bring it on!