Return of the sun
By this morning the weather front that brought rain and light airs to the race area over the previous couple of days had moved further east, bringing a north-westerly airflow that started as a promising 10-13 knots. The situation remained complex, however, with the possibility of further showers that could mess with the wind as on the two previous days. An additional complication was the possibility of a thermal influence, with a swing to a south-westerly direction later in the day.
Although somewhat shifty and gusty, the north-westerly held good in the central Solent for most of the day, with 8-11 knots at the Bramble until almost 15:00. After this the strength became more erratic, ranging from 5-10 knots. Close to the mainland shore the wind eased a little earlier in the western Solent, with only 2 knots reported at Lepe Spit at 14:30 and the later Black Group finishers had a slow return leg against the tide to the finish line when the wind off Gurnard eased around 16:30.
Today was the final day in which Black Group results count for the overall series, and 11 classes already had winners confirmed with a race to spare. However, even in these fleets there were still close battles to be had further down the order.
Paul and Marie-Claude Heys put in a stellar performance with their new J/97 Jenga V to take the overall Black Group title with a race to spare, and win Class 5 overall.
Charles Dunstone's team on the TP52 Rio won IRC Class 1, winning all but one race. In Class 4 the overall winner is Adam Gosling and team on the Corby 30 Yes! after a tough battle with Peter Morton's Beneteau First 34.7 Salvo.
Former International 14 Prince of Wales Cup winner Ray Rouse's Contessa 32 Blanco regained the class win from Eldred Himsworth's Drumbeat. In the Multihull fleet, Ben Goodlad's Raider 302 cleaned up with four wins and two second places.
After four races Neville Upton and his Listening Company team, aboard one of the 45 entries in the Sunsail charter fleet, were leading Black Group overall. They failed to retain their overall Black Group winning position at the end of the series but did gain a well-deserved overall class win, and took second overall in Black Group.
Richard Puddifoot's Whippa Snappa has dominated the front of the Sigma 33 class this year, counting just seven points, giving a comfortable margin over the two boats battling for second and third places - Jeff Worboys' Workout (on 13 points) and last year's overall class winner, Andy Johns and David Rolfe's Shadowfax (14pts).
Going into the final race there was an equally tight battle for fourth place, with James Brown's Attila the Nun, Mark Allerston's Alexa and Allan Fraser's Prospero of Hamble all separated by just three points.
Michael von Bertele's Countdown led the fleet into the line, but was followed closely by Alexa, who had better speed and was soon overhauling her competitor. At this stage Whippa Snappa was back to fourth in the fleet, but finished with a clear lead of almost seven minutes on Attila the Nun, with Shadowfax third. This left Shadowfax and Workout tied on points in the overall standings, with the former taking second place on count back thanks to her win in Thursday's race.
The larger Sigma 38 class, which celebrates its 21st anniversary this year, also had a clear overall winner going into the final race. Andrew Budgen and Fred Schwyn's The Project has won the class in three of the last five years. This time she was the only boat in Black Group to win every race.
Second place was subject to a close squabble between Chris and Vanessa Choules ' With Alacrity and Kevin Sussmilch's Mefisto for second place, with both boats on 15 points. Places four, five and six were just as close, with Dave Cooke's Monet and Nigel Goodhew's Persephone of London on equal points, and John Rainger's Light close behind.
In today's race, starting to the west from the RYS Line 2, Project took the windward-most position close to committee boat, but Mefisto hit the line with more speed to take a narrow early lead. At the finish With Alacrity took the winner's gun a minute ahead of Mefisto, to clinch second overall. A third place for Monet today earned her fourth overall.
A fine margin
The Quarter Ton class went into the final day with just one point separating the top three boats - Louise Morton's Espada, Linton / McDowell's Diamond and Howard Sellars / Mike Till's Bullet. At the end of an incredibly close three and a half hour race Diamond and Espada crossed the line simultaneously. In the overall results the margin between the three boats remained just as tight at the end of the race, but the order was reversed, giving the winning title to Bullet.
The front of the Sonata class has also been dominated by one boat - Jack Grogan and Jessica Grozzett's The Apprentice. Grogan and Grozzett took a clear lead from the start of the week and went into the final day with unassailable lead that also secured them the Young Skipper Trophy.
However, the next three places were totally open, with just four points separating three boats - Simon Farren's G-String, Martin Perry's Buster and Michael Tennant's Xantz. Barracuda led into the start, with Figaro just to windward and Apprentice in third place in a close start.
The final leg to the finish of this race took competitors across an increasing contrary tide from Champagne Mumm to the RYS line, as the wind in the western Solent died. It proved increasingly frustrating and favoured the early finishers. Again The Apprentice won by 15 minutes from Steven Rolland's Figaro, with Xantz third, more than an hour behind.
Carveth reigns supreme
In White Group, two classes - Laser SB3s and RS Elites - concluded their series today. Geoff Carveth's Pro-vela.com led the fleet going into the final race with an advantage of nine points over the South African team on board Spirit of Cape Town, and Chris Darling's Darling Associates. In some classes that would be plenty to secure a comfortable win, but before going afloat Carveth was realistic about the possibility of a poor result today spoiling his chances of a win. His seventh today was the worst result he had to count in the series, but secured his overall class win over Darling Associates, who took second, with Spirit of Cape Town taking third overall.
Before the start of racing, White Group course setters had noticed a windshift to the west-south-west, using this observation to set windward-leeward courses. Regrettably they failed to notice the breeze soon returned to its old direction, and it was not until a number of classes had started that the problem was rectified.
In the RS Elite fleet only eight points separated the top five boats going into the last race, leaving the final podium positions wide open. When the fleet passed north of the Black Group start line 40 minutes into the race, it was Mike Dawe's Duel, who started the day in seventh overall, that appeared to have a narrow lead on the fleet and she went on to take her first win of the week.
A second place for Mike Tong's Ciao Bella was just enough to secure first overall by one point from Jono Brown's Aeolus. Paul Woodman and Ray Mitchell's Fuzzy Duck Vll finished fourth today, taking the final place on the podium by one point from Neil McGrigor's White Water.
The top of the Seaview Mermaid class was also tight at the start of the day, with John Sandiford Haigh's Sirena holding a lead of just three points on Ben Few Brown's Rosemary. These two boats both had their worst results of the week today, with neither making the top 10, although they held on to their respective first and second places overall allowing for discard.
The most intense of mid-fleet battles has been raging in this class, with one-third of the fleet separated by just three points going into the final race tomorrow - watch this space!
Overall results here