Wolf won the highly competitive IRC Class Zero by a comfortable eight minutes, almost all of which was put on the clock on the last hour-long leg. Very light breezes prevented the big maxis escaping the grasp of the pack on handicap. Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo only used her water ballast in the first few minutes of the race as they headed off from the startline towards the east. With Alfa unable to stretch her legs in a weak northeasterly breeze even with an enormous Code Zero up, it was to be a day for the smaller and more nimble yachts.
It was Jo Richards, owner Stephen Fein and the crew on Full Pelt, the radical 36 footer, that was to be the big loser of day, after looking good for the New York Yacht Club Trophy until the final leg. With a pack of Euro Prix 45s rounding shortly after Full Pelt it was the quick reactions and ultimately the right decisions taken on Wolf that brought the win.
Tactician on Wolf is the wily Kevin Sproul from Sobstad Sails and much of the final decision came down to playing the same card as he did five years ago on a Melges 24. "We did exactly what we did in the Melges that time," said Sproul "Came round the mark, put the spinnaker up, went to leeward, got out of the tide near one of the Ryde marks. You could sail straight to the mark on the wind, the finish mark, or you could hoist your spinnaker, go 40 degrees below it, and get out of the tide and get more wind and that’s what we did."
It was all close at the last leeward mark as Sproul explains: "We were in quite good shape, we were behind Bounder, amongst the Euro Prix 45s, the big boats looked like they had stopped and I thought we were probably doing alright. I expected if it went light then we might have a chance and it did and we sailed right round everybody."
Despite Full Pelt rounding ahead of Wolf, and playing the same tactical card the Wolf team came out on top: "I said there’s no way I’m hoisting the spinnaker until I see him gaining bearing and as soon as he starts gaining bearing we’re off with him," continued Sproul. "We had an eye on him, he’s going backwards, backwards, levels up, 2 degrees gain, spinnaker up, job done, let's go."
For others on the race course gains and losses were easy to find in the light conditions.
Carole Davies, sailing with husband Steve on a new Laser SB3 SportBilly, felt that overall they gained. "On the third leg we managed to find the breeze, from right close into the shore by Lee on Solent, and caught up six boats," she said. "The other boats stayed out and didn’t get much breeze and so we kicked in and managed to hold our position. The wind died on the last leg and we lost out to one other and probably finished about eighth."
For everyone it was a case of putting up with the heat, for Carole Davies on the SB3, there wasn't much choice, "We didn’t really keep cool - it was boiling!"
Working from a Press Office at Cowes which peaked at 34 degrees today, The Daily Sail team escaped to the beer tent to feign sympathy with those lucky, lucky sailors…
The overall picture can be expressed in a few words. Millpond, anchor, sunscreen and cold lager. Ian Perell, crewing on Peter Harrison's Farr 52 Chernikeef 2, seemed sickeningly cheerful; "It's absolutely roasting hot. Can you not see the puddle at the bottom of me trousers?" His discomfort had been furthered by watching Kevin Sproul and the Euro Prix 45s catch the breeze while they were still sweating it out in strong tides.
Greg Paine, on Serendip, a Prima 38, set a diligent example by refraining from swimming while kedged but explained the perils of that tempting idea: "We saw people going in the water, from Mustigo, a Sigma 38. They got caught out, because the wind came back and they had five people still in the water. Everyone else was sailing away and they had to get themselves back - not such a wise move I would say."