Italia v Wings
Despite forecasts of rain showers and light winds, the weather gods smiled once again today on the crews competing at the British Classic Yacht Club Panerai Cowes Regatta on day four, allowing two fantastic races to be completed for all classes. As the classic fleet arrived at the starting area this morning, right on cue the skies cleared and a pleasant eight to ten knot breeze sprang up, enabling racing to get underway on schedule at 1100.
At this stage in the regatta the top slots in almost all the classes were too close to call and any crews with aspirations of a class win were painfully aware that their two results today could make or break their regatta. In Class 1 the Spirit 54 Sloop Soufriere and the One-Off Timber Sloop Meteor were tied on points at the top.
In Class 2 the 1957-built, 49ft Sloop Cetewayo held a three-point lead over the 1963 yawl Stiren. The Class 3 leader Mikado, a 1904 Clyde 30 Linear, had the benefit of a seven point cushion between her and the second placed 1974 41ft S&S Bermudan sloop Golden Fleece. It could not have been much closer in Class 4 with the 1897 Cork Harbour One Design Gaff Cutter Jap holding a single point lead over the 1937, 30 Square Metre Erida.
With so much at stake throughout the entire regatta fleet, it is perhaps no surprise that the start lines for both of the day’s races were noticeably more competitive than on previous days. That said, more than a few of the crews also looked to be suffering the after effects of having over extended themselves on the dance floor at the spectacular Caribbean Crew Party on the previous evening. Happily for them the best-known hangover cure in Cowes is two bracing races around the Solent and that is exactly what the regatta delivered. Principal Race Officer Tony Lovell wisely set his courses primarily in the Western Solent giving the classic racing yachts a relatively uncluttered race track for almost the entire day. Racing was characteristically tight in both races with close one-on-one struggles witnessed in all fleets and no quarter appearing to be given on port and starboard crosses, or at the often crowded mark roundings.
Although in separate classes, the two 12 Metres, Italia (1985) and Wings (1937), took advantage of a combined start for Class 1 & 2, to indulge in thier own personal match races. Given the age difference, these two boats were surprisingly evenly matched, with Italia holding the advantage upwind, but Wings appearing to have a distinct edge downwind. Tony Langley, who had chartered Italia for the event in order to give the classic regatta scene a try, clearly loved his 12 Metre experience and was full of praise for the crew of Wings. "It’s amazing how similarly the boats perform over these sorts of courses. The Wings guys have a beautiful boat and they know just exactly how to get the best out of her. We have to give her several minutes per hour and on some legs we just can’t shake her off." Asked if his experience at his first classic regatta has given him a taste for more, he replied: "Definitely. We have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves this week and I’m sure this won’t be our last appearance at this regatta."
Today’s races have done little to separate the top contenders, leaving tomorrow’s single final race as a critical decider in each of the fleets. In the first race Italia romped away to a comprehensive Class 1 win over Soufriere, with Meteor keeping their challenge alive with a third. Class two saw Wings edge out Cetewayo in the first race and in Class 3 the Bermudan masthead sloop, A Day At The Races, claimed victory. Meanwhile in Class 4 the first race of the day went to the 1938 Shoreham 10-Tonner Cereste.
In this afternoon’s race Cereste had to settle for second place behind the 1958 Bermudan sloop Danegeld which took the Class 4 win. Class 3 went to the 1971 Auxiliary Sloop Opposition, by the narrowest of margins; just nine seconds on corrected time separate her from the 1963 Sloop Clarion of Wight in second. Cetewayo reversed the results of the Class 2 morning race by claiming victory over Wings and in Class 1 Italia took her second win of the day with Meteor in second gaining precious points on their rival Soufriere, which could only manage a fourth.
Racing at the British Classic Yacht Club Panerai Cowes Regatta 2010 concludes tomorrow with a single race to decide the trophies.