And so it comes to a close
"We don't see any point in starting races today in the dying northwesterly," Stuart Quarrie, CEO of Cowes Week explained after the race team's early-morning briefing. "But we are hopeful that the sea breeze will fill in before 13:00, enabling us to get racing in during the best winds of the day." By mid morning the northwesterly wind at the Bramble was down to less than four knots, making the decision not to start classes in the dying breeze look like a good call.
At 12:30 race officials were still hanging onto the hope of the sea breeze appearing in time for racing to start. By the final decision time of 13:00 the direction at the Bramble swung to south-west and started to climb from two knots to four-five knots. This gave race officials the confidence to go for a start sequence commencing at 14:00.
The starts got away in just four to six knots of wind, and a building west-going tide. However, after 1500 the sea breeze gradually built from the west to give 8-10 knots. With the larger Black Group yachts racing in the western Solent they enjoyed champagne sailing conditions in almost unbroken sun. However, some White Group courses had to be shortened to ensure at least one boat finished before the 17:00 time limit.
A classic finale
Black Group was given a classic finish along The Green, with the light winds and strong tide encouraging competitors to get close inshore. In the run-up to 16:00, a huge mass of boats across all Black Group classes approached the line, giving the finishing teams a tough challenge and photographers big grins as competitors gybed repeatedly within a stone's throw of the shore.
Two Farr 45s finished at the top of IRC Class 1, with Ange Neilson's Fortis Excel beating Tony Langley's Atomic by just 61 seconds. Finishing between them was one of the smallest boats in Black Group - Philip Williams' Folkboat Tattarat, winner of today's IRC Class 6 race. Bob Metherell's Hunter Pilot 27 won the ISC Rating System class, with a very different boat, Colin Hall's Oyster 53 taking second.
All but two of the White Group classes were scheduled to race on the final day of the regatta, and in many of these there were still tight battles at the top of the leaderboard. Race officers opted for a five-minute starting sequence in order to get the fleets away as quickly as possible. However, two minutes before the scheduled Daring start many were still on moorings, so another postponement was called to give them time to get to the line, delaying the sequence by 10 minutes.
Defender on the attack
The top of the Daring class has seen a tight battle between Giles Peckham/Milo Carver's Dauntless and Scott Macleod's Defender all week. With only two points separating these boats, a win in today's race could still have seen Macleod take the overall title.
Peckham and Carver led the fleet at the start gun, opting for the offshore end of the line, nearest Beta. Almost every boat in the fleet had spinnakers up before the start, but all were making slow progress against the tide - even Dauntless didn't reach Beta until 20 seconds after the gun.
Starting closer to shore, James Tew's Darius was also well-placed on the line. She took a different strategy to most of the fleet, heading inshore out of the strongest tide. This also kept her wind clear and 10 minutes into the race she had a sizeable lead on the next boat in this part of the fleet, Brian Hardy's Destroyer.
A larger group, however, was heading further offshore, taking an early hit in the west-going tide, but hoping to reach the slower stream near the Bramble Bank quickly, as well as chasing the better wind in the mid Solent.
When the course was shortened at Hamble Yacht Services, Dauntless was again out in front, with Defender second and Audax third. The overall podium ranking was unchanged by today's result, with this trio of boats taking the top places.
A close shave
The fiercest battle of the day was at the front of the J/80 class, where the top seven boats went into the final race separated by just six points.
Sam Atkins' Exwuss and Neil Stevenson's J Caramba were the closest boats to the line, but started at opposite ends, with Atkins near Beta, and Stevenson closest to the shore. Stevenson, who was gybing through big angles inshore, looked to be making best progress in the initial stages of the race. Meanwhile, Atkins was suffering in the stronger stream and was passed by first by Tim French's Jabberwocky and then by Gordon Craigen's Juicy.
At this stage in the race the top three boats overall - Hoolingkazan, Team Baltic and Jane - weren't making great progress, leaving their narrow lead vulnerable.
Today's finishing order was Juicy, followed by Rob and Jon Fox's Jevan, then Brian Charlesworth's Alamara B. Hoolingkazan finished fourth to retain the overall lead by two points. However, Juicy and Jevan's podium finishes in the final race moved both two places up the overall leaderboard, to take second and third places respectively.
The overall result in the Swallow class also depended on today's result, with Charles Fisher and Richard Thompson's Migrant leading Anthony Lunch's Solitude by one point. Harry Roome's Skua was lying third, just three points behind Lunch. Migrant and Paul Ward's Cockersootie looked best placed as they headed away from today's start, but by the finish Skua had a comfortable lead over Solitude and Migrant, with the latter retaining her overall class lead by one point.
13-year-old Fred Warren-Smith, the second-youngest skipper in the regatta, made a solid start in the Squib class and held the lead when the course was shortened at Hill Head. Andy Hough's Halycon was second and Stephen Porter's Polyphagus third, a result that left him tied on points at the top of the overall results list with Bob Cheek's Buccaneer. Cheek won the class overall on countback, with Christopher Gear's Osprey third.
Warren-Smith took fourth place overall, just one point behind Gear. With four first places in eight races, this young skipper is certainly one to keep an eye on next year.
It's a wrap
As the 183rd year of Cowes Week comes to a close, the organisers report another classic year. “It’s been a great week,” say Stuart Quarrie, CEO of Cowes Week Ltd. “In the first half of the week we had ideal conditions and great sailing; the second part of the week saw sunshine and light breezes which made for more challenging racing. Whatever the weather, the 890 plus entrants into Cowes Week 2009 enjoyed their time on the water creating an eye-catching spectacle for visitors on the shore.”
World renowned sailor, Sam Davies, won the Cowes Week 2009 Ladies Day Trophy. Sam won this prestigious award for her outstanding achievements as one of the world's most talented female offshore sailors.
Meanwhile, from men in pink dresses to girls in designer t-shirts, the Solent was awash with colour as male and female crews dressed up to try to win a bottle of Champagne G.H. Mumm delivered to their boats by a stylish James Bond-inspired water butler in a sleek speed boat.
Now in its fourth year, Ladies Day celebrates the achievements of women in sailing; one of very few sports where men and women compete on equal terms.
There was an action-packed programme of displays in the run up to the famous Cowes Week fireworks including performances from Sea Vixen, the Red Arrows and a full rescue demonstration by the RNLI (supported by HM Coastguard).
Some of the many notable performances this year came from RIO in IRC Class 1 who won six out of seven races during the week, The Listening Company onboard Sunsail # 1 which was sailed by a number of experienced and novice sailors, and Jenga V which was the overall winner of IRC Class 5 and also of Black Group as a whole.
Cowes Week also welcomed back a number of young sailors this year, with the youngest skipper, Fred Warren-Smith at 13 years-old, racing his Squib Aquabat. By contrast, a number of veteran Cowes Week racers have also enjoyed some great racing, including 75 year-old ex-Olympian Stuart Jardine racing his XOD, Lonestar; overall class winner of the largest class racing at Cowes Week this year.
As Cowes Week draws to a close for another year Cowes Week Limited invites competitors to ‘opt-in’ to become part of an exclusive online community and provide detailed feedback on this year’s regatta - interacting with Cowes Week CEO and sailing veteran, Stuart Quarrie, via a live web chat. Gaining perspectives from competitors in this way will aid general improvements to the Cowes Week experience. Those wishing to participate should log on to www.cowesweek.co.uk and go to the post-regatta survey.
Daily results here , overall results here