Pace claims honours
Three days of outstanding Solent racing ensured that this year's Vice Admiral's Cup, run by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes, was a roaring success. Johnny Vincent, winner of Class 0 at the helm of his TP52 Pace, summed the weekend up perfectly when he said: "It's been an amazing weekend - I feel more like a 25 year old than a 45 year old."
The race management team, headed by PRO's Robert Lamb and George Chapman, were universally praised by the competitors who enjoyed nine great races over the three-day series. Conditions ranged from light airs up to ten knots on Friday, through the mid range at 15 knots on Saturday and finally a heavier airs day on the Sunday building to around 20 knots. With nine races completed it was a tight series for all four classes competing.
Class 0 (50-52 footers) featured three TP52s and although it was the smallest class it was none-the-less perfectly formed with many of the UK's top big boat sailors crewing and competition so close that at times it looked more like match than fleet racing. Race seven clearly demonstrated just how close the racing was when a dead heat was declared between Johnny Vincent's Pace and Charles Dunstone's Rio. All three boats took race wins during the weekend and the result went right down to the final race with Pace just pipping Rio to the post by two points with Rob Gray's new acquisition Bob just four points back in third.
Speaking after racing Johnny Vincent said, "It's been very competitive, hard work, and Friday seems like a long time ago now. By the close of the day Friday all three boats were on eight points so really it was like starting from scratch again Saturday morning. There was more breeze than expected on Saturday and we got lucky and got some great starts. Rio obviously had a difficult day when they got fouled up on the mark which was bad luck, but obviously paid to our favour, but then the final race which was a longer race at an hour and fifty was absolutely nip and tuck at the line and we ended up having a dead heat which was absolutely extraordinary and very exciting. We didn't have a very good first race today and then second race I think the chaps on the committee boat, probably after the end of yesterday's racing and at the start of the second race today, were getting a little bit nervous as they were right where the action was, but it came right down to the wire and was just the most fantastic sport and terrific fun, really, really exciting racing so what more can one ask for."
The Farr 45s made up the majority of Class 1 (44-46 footers) and were joined by Nemo, the Swan 45. Such an equally matched fleet meant that the gloves were off from the get-go and the boats were closely packed with the last mark rounding of each race just as closely fought as the first. By the end of the regatta six of the eight boats had taken a race win and first and second place could only be separated on count-back. Despite being unable to finish race 7 due to gear failure Simon and Mike Henning's Alice, with Mike on the helm and a crew of relative youngsters from Southampton University, ultimately scraped victory by the skin of their teeth from Tony Langley's Atomic with Jerry Otter's Werewolf two points behind them in third and Stewart Whitehead's Rebel fourth.
Class 3 (the J/109s) was dominated by Adam Wright's Velvet Elvis which was in the enviable position of discarding a second place to win the regatta by ten points. With Velvet Elvis placing their stamp on the regatta from the outset the big battle in this class was to be for second place. Going into the final day David & Kirsty Apthorp's J Dream had already begun to get the upper hand and a pair of second places were more than enough to secure them the second podium position. The fight for the final podium spot went all the way and was only decided on the finish line of the final race where Matthew Boyle in Shiva just managed to slip into third place on the water ahead of Gill Ross and Richard Sainsbury's Jambhala and Richard Griffith's Outrajeous. Once the points had been tallied Shiva had claimed third place by just one point from Outrajeous with Jambhala in fifth. A delighted Adam Wright commented: "We've had a bit of a build up to this weekend, over the last two or three weekends we've got some reasonable results and the crew have been pretty well prepped so this is a bit of a culmination for us before the J-Cup in two weeks time. We've had a great result and we're very pleased."
In a regatta featuring the crème de la crème of British big boat sailors it was great to see that the revived Quarter Ton fleet was still able to deliver some of the most exciting racing of all. On the leaderboard Louise Morton's 1978 Bruce Farr-designed Espada looked to have dominated the regatta with seven wins and two second places, but closer examination of the individual race results reveals that the leading boats in virtually every race were separated by just a few seconds on corrected time. However, in the end all the hours practice that Louise and her crew have done this year made the difference.
Giving Espada the toughest time on the water was the visiting Swedish team of Rickard Melander aboard Phil Morrison's 1990 design Alice II (not to be confused with her namesake racing in Class 1) which has recently completed a full refit and took second place overall. Proving that age and experience count for a lot in these tricky little boats it was great to see Tony Dodd's evergreen Purple Haze, designed by David Thomas in 1977 as the prototype to the Bolero class, revelling in the mixed conditions to take third place overall.
After racing Rickard Melander explained that he and his team will be keeping their boat in Cowes this summer and commuting from Sweden so that they can enjoy the very best Quarter Ton competition. "We sailed the same boat in the 06 and 07 Quarter Ton Cup, but she's been completely rebuilt now. She had a new rig, new rudder, new deck layout, everything. It was the first time we've sailed the boat and we were very pleased with how everything went."
With the Coutts Quarter Ton Cup only a month away the fleet was also thrilled to welcome several new boats including father and son Mark and Paul Lees aboard Panic, a 1984 Peter Gimpel design. Paul and Mark are no strangers to the class as they also own Echo, a 1971 Van de Stadt, one of the oldest boats in the class. Another familiar team racing a new boat was the Boxall/Byham/Swinney syndicate who've supported the revival since day one in the much-loved Ayanami, the first of the production Boleros and are now racing the newly acquired Innuendo, ex-Senator Incatatus - designed by McIlraith in 1988. Putting in a special guest appearance on Saturday only was the beautifully restored Cote belonging to Ollie Ophanus and Darren Marston, a Pepe Gonzalex 1990 boat found in a sorry state in Spain last year. Still undergoing refit work the boat wasn't really ready to race but the boys couldn't resist joining in on the Saturday for the sheer fun of it, although they seemed to spend as much of their day screwing on fittings as racing.
At the final prizegiving Louise Morton paid special tribute to the Race Management team for their excellent work and thanked the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club for once again ensuring that the Vice Admiral's Cup combined top level racing with wonderful inter-fleet camaraderie and an excellent social programme. Notable though was the heckling for Rio, who hooked the leeward mark on the final rounding of race six so successfully that they actually managed to tow it across the finish line, and Pace, who took the opportunity on day one to ensure that the bottom of their keel was definitely clear of barnacles by scraping it across the top of the Bramble Bank.
Special thanks go to Musto who provided fantastic prizes and to North Sails who distributed bottles of Mount Gay in North Sails holders to all the boats represented at the prize giving. Both organisers and competitors very much appreciates their support, which is integral to the success of the Vice Admiral's Cup.
Full results here