Southworth ahead by a point
With a record 35 teams competing the opening day of the 2010 Coutts Quarter Ton Cup, hosted by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Cowes, brought thrills, spills, a spot of giant killing and two close races. Just four points now separate the top four teams.
The Joubert Nivelt-designed Whiskers, helmed by Ian Southworth and crewed by John Santy, Lincoln Redding, Nigel Smith and Mike Kite, is leading the regatta overall on six points, one point ahead of Howard Sellars and Mike Till's Bullet, crewed by Henry Bagnall, Roshan Vurgose and George Wavell. In third place on eight points is Cote, the newly restored 1990 Gonzalez design owned by Darren Marston and Olly Ophaus, with Darren on the helm, Olly on the bow and crew members David Lenz, Rob Dyer and Chris Cooper, while in fourth place is Peter Morton's Farr-designed Anchor Challenge crewed by Kelvin Rawlings, John Newnham, Jason Carrington and Stuart Childerley.
Speaking after racing John Santy, trimmer aboard overall leader Whiskers commented: "It was fantastic, the racing was really full on. It was nip and tuck all the way round. There were some great boats out there so for us to be there in our 31 year old ship we're pretty pleased. We got off the line really well and hung in there with our lanes and managed to keep on the up elevator rather than the down. We've still got a lot to learn but to be leading overall today is fantastic."
It was a very tough day even by Solent standards with a shifty and variable wind clocking from NE round to southerly and a turning spring tide to contend with. The starts of races one and two, both windward/leeward races, were incredibly tight with two general recalls and a number of individual recalls. The race committee did start a third race, but no sooner were the boats underway on a round the cans course than the wind began to die. Before long the boats were struggling to make way over the tide and kedge anchors began appearing on deck. The race committee were forced to abandon the race to the satisfaction of the vast majority of competitors. The one man not very happy with the decision was Willy McNeil helming Illegal Immigrant - the only boat to make it around the first mark.
Race one proved that in the right conditions the older, smaller boats, built to the earlier iterations of the Quarter Ton Rule, are more than capable of giving the big boys a run for their money. Off the line Olivia Anne VI, the lovely little Nortin-designed Scampi helmed by Jan Thirkettle, got a fantastic start and did a magnificent job of holding onto it despite numerous challenges from the larger boats. Ultimately they won the race by 31 seconds from Bullet with Whiskers third and Tony Dodd's David Thomas-designed Purple Haze fourth.
Jan Thirkettle was delighted with their race win: "We had a general recall on the first start, then picked ourselves up and had a good second start. At that point the wind was better than we expected, for Olly we need 14 or 15 knots so that was working well for us and it held up. We had a good first beat, but I think what really helped for us was the first downwind leg, we had a really nice downwind leg, we managed to keep the breeze when the puffs came through and didn't mess anything up on the drops which was good as we had a couple of new guys on the boat...... The main thing for us was that the wind was what we needed and we were really chuffed to win."
Race two brought another general recall and plenty of close boat on boat action. Sergeant Pepper, Richard Thomas's Bolero designed by his father David Thomas, got off to a flying start and took advantage of a huge right hander on the first beat to lead round the weather mark, closely followed by Anchor Challenge. They managed to hold off Anchor Challenge most of the way down the run, but as the wind speed dropped off the bigger boats ground their way past leaving them to finish the race in sixth place. By the final beat it was Rob Gray's Aguila, designed by Rolf Vrolijk and helmed by John Greenwood and crewed by David Howlett, Andy McClelland, Brett Aarons and Dan Gottz; and Cote, who were battling it out for first place with Aquila getting the advantage in the final stages to take the race by 17 seconds. Third place went to Whiskers with Anchor Challenge fourth.
The Quarter Tonners can always be guaranteed to throw up some entertaining stories and today was no different. Two boats, who shall remain nameless, came round a weather mark so close that the windward boat's loose spinnaker halyard caught on the weather spreader of the leeward boat. Neither boat appeared aware of the problem and as the two boats separated ready to hoist everyone in the press RIB held his or her breath in anticipation of a nasty incident. Fortunately the halyard pinged off unaided at the moment critique and the two boats carried on blissfully unaware.
Overall leader Whiskers had been late arriving at the regatta thanks to the need to rebuild one of the stringers in the back of the boat to stop the transom falling off and she certainly had her fair share of gear failure today with the toolkit making a number of appearances on deck. By the end of the day both primary winches had seized completely and back ashore trimmer John Santy took charge of a full strip down and service to ensure he wasn't left trimming without mechanical assistance tomorrow.
Another boat working hard on a repair tonight is Mike Webb and Tom Bailey's Dubois-designed Flashheart. Mike and Tom bought the boat this past winter and they and their young crew have spent many hours working on her to get her ready for this regatta. They sailed her for the first time on Sunday afternoon on the way over to Cowes and were really enjoying today's racing until the second race when they noticed that the deck was splitting apart around the mast gate. They managed to complete race two and were sailing home somewhat despondently to commence repairs when the news came over the radio that race three had been abandoned. "We were really relieved that race three was canned." said Tom Bailey on the dock after racing. "Mike is down at the chandlery right now buying some parts so we can get the gate repaired and we'll be back out again tomorrow."
The award for most embarrassing manoeuvre of the day goes without doubt to Bullet which managed to achieve a truly impressive broach in a mere ten to 14 knots in race one. Mike Till explained that they have recently added a much larger new kite to their inventory and this, combined with their technique of rolling the boat to weather downwind plus an unexpected wind shift and increase in velocity caught them unawares and before they knew where they were the boat had slipped out from under them. Mike nearly went over the side, but remarkably they were able to recover control within a matter of seconds and lost only a couple of boats lengths. Mike was somewhat rueful about the error as they came second in the race by 29 seconds and without the broach may well have won.
Tomorrow racing is scheduled to start at 10.30 am with three further races planned. The forecast is for good wind and plenty of sunshine so we look forward to another great day of Coutts Quarter Ton Cup Racing. The regatta concludes on Wednesday.
Provisional Overall Top Five After Two Races
1. GBR902R - Whiskers - Ian Southworth/Led Pritchard - 3, 3 = 6
2. GBR7775 - Bullet - Howard Sellars/Mike Till - 2, 5 = 7
3. ESP3090 - Cote - Darren Marsto/Olly Ophaus - 6, 2 = 8
4. GBR506$ - Anchor Challenge - Peter Morton - 5, 4 = 9
5. GBR50R - Espada - Louise Morton - 8, 8 = 16
Full results here
Photos from Fiona Brown:
....and from Ingrid Abery/www.hotcapers.com