A devastating choice


The Times' man in Cowes, Ed Gorman, gives a snap shot of today's racing
The hard bit about Skandia Life Cowes Week is knowing what to watch. With over one thousand yachts racing in 35 classes, the choice is mind-blowing. This year has been no exception as the world's biggest regatta got off to a cracking start with two superb days over the opening weekend and with sails spread as far as the eye could see, up and down the Solent. On Sunday - day two of the eight-day festival - the forecast rain held off and blue skies were the order of the day with a punchy southwesterly providing almost ideal racing conditions. Out and about on the official press boat we watched the usual eclectic mix of boats fighting for rights on a crowded Solent - the sort of scenes that have come to typify this extraordinary event. Over on the Hillhead shore, the Farr 40 one-designs were revelling in their own windward-leeward racing. At one point, as two of these tippy-looking thoroughbreds headed at pace for the windward mark on starboard, we suddenly noticed a small dayboat on port crossing in front of them. It looked like the crew of the smaller boat were going to end up in the tide in a classic Cowes Week smash which would have sent their boat to the bottom, until they just made their ground. The dayboaters blithely carried on, looking remarkably cool in the circumstances. Minutes later, over towards the Isle of Wight shore, the most famous 12-Metre of them all, Australia II, was trundling down towards the finish of the Class 0 contest with Skip Lissiman at the wheel. She looked much as she must have done back in Newport in 1983 when she made history with her 4-3 America's Cup victory over Dennis Conner's Liberty. Dangerous as it can be, America's Cup racing does not

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