20 knot Tuesday
On the White Group start line the Laser SB3 class got away cleanly after a 10-minute postponement. The adverse tide favoured the inner end of the line, but in light wind there were big holes close inshore. 10 minutes later it was very soft for the Longtze class, with only one boat on the line and the back-markers were barely clear a couple of minutes before the scheduled Etchells start time.
The wind increased during the final minute before the Etchells got away, with two boats accelerating over the line early. However, it faded again as the Darings started 10 minutes later - two minutes after the gun, one-third of the fleet was sliding sideways on the tide away from the line.
Division Belle initially looked to have a great start, quickly popping out a couple of lengths ahead of the pack, but with the wind light along the entire line, on this occasion starting at the inshore end paid off. This enabled Hamish Janson and Malcolm Lofts's Streak to get well ahead in the initial stages of the race and they continued to pull out an impressive lead as they tacked west along the Green.
However, Janson and Lofts weren't able to hold this lead through the race - at the finish they had slipped three minutes behind Jamie Clark's Decanter, to finish sixth. Jeremy Preston and Scott Macleod's Defender was second, just two seconds behind Clark, and Division Belle third.
The inshore end of the line also worked for the J/80 start. Simon Ling's Spitfire expertly snaked through from behind the slower-moving boats on the line to pop out ahead of the pack. Within five minutes he'd caught up with the back markers in the Daring fleet that had started 10 minutes earlier. Ling crossed the finish first, two minutes 20 seconds ahead of Robin Fielder's Warp Factor lX, in his third win of the regatta. Sebastian Ripard's AgainstMalaria.com was third.
In Black Group, tidal planning called for starting at the north end of the line with a long port tack into the relief from the adverse tide. Five minutes into their race, the first four Sigma 38s - Andy Budgen and Fred Schwyn's The Project, Dave Cooke's Monet, Chris and Vanessa Choules' With Alacrity, and Susan and John Rainer's Light - were separated by only three lengths, with The Project in a commanding position marginally to windward.
15 minutes later, as they tacked along the mainland shore towards Stansore Point, The Project had a lead of a couple of lengths on Light, this pair having pulled well ahead of the fleet. At the end of the four-and-a-half hour race, The Project was almost three minutes ahead of Kevin Sussmilch's Mefisto in second place, with Max Walker and Pavlova lll just 19 seconds behind in third.
In the Quarter Ton class only two boats were on the line at the start - Lincoln Redding's Whiskers at the northern end and Roger Swinney's Innuendo as the southern-most boat - with the rest of the fleet being uncharacteristically cautious. However, Louise Morton's Espada was already moving forward, with noticeably more speed than the boats around her, and within a few minutes had sailed through the lee of Innuendo.
At the finish, however, Howard Sellars' Bullet had sneaked 20 seconds ahead of Morton, while Rob Gray's Aguilla was snapping at her heels, just seven seconds behind. The finishing order was also reflected in the corrected times.
The inshore end of the White Group line again looked favoured for the Dragon start, with MD Issaias' Fanfare executing an impressive wriggle to get into clean air inshore of the inner distance mark (which was a length and a half behind the line) but the wind then filled in for the offshore boats, benefiting the top two boats in the fleet Eric Williams' Ecstatic and yesterday's winner, Julia Bailey's Aimee.
A building breeze
By this time the southwesterly wind had built to a consistent 10-12 knots, with bright sun promising a further thermal enhancement later in the day. The leading SB3s were now running along the north shore past Calshot, with the fleet well spread out. The front runners in the Etchells fleet were among the mid-fleet SB3s, led by two Illusion sailors Graham Bailey, who won yesterday by a whopping 17 minutes, and Mark Downer. Downer, however, was one of the boats OCS at the start.
Although most Black Group starts are for handicap fleets, the bulk of White Group starts are for one designs. The Mixed Dayboat start, however, is an exception - the 29 boats in this start encompass Sonatas, 707s, 1720s, and the Sportsboat class. A high degree of skill is therefore required to manoeuvre among the different boats, with their varying speeds, acceleration and tacking angles. With the wind still increasing, the combined fleets misjudged the speed at which they were approaching the line, prompting the call: 'standby for a general recall' to come from the RYS Platform a full 20 seconds before the start.
The second start was X-flagged, automatically disqualifying any boat over the line in the final minute before the start. Only one boat fell foul of this - Richard Powell and Andrew Sutherland's 1720 Rogan Josh. Harry Hall's This is Jeff was the first 707 off the line, with Jon Powell and Sarah Norbury's Betty hanging safely back not wanting to risk a second and able to rely on superior boat speed to give them a win.
The RS Elite fleet may be small, but it has built a reputation for impressively close racing. Today was no exception - at the start it was impossible to identify a boat with an advantage. This task was little easier as they approached the finish three hours later - only 30 seconds separated the first four boats, Steve Powell's E'tu, Martin and Amanda Wadhams' Joyce, Mike Tong's Ciao Bella, and Jono Brown's Aeolus.
The wind in the central Solent rose to a solid southwesterly of 15-20 knots for the Sonar start at 1215, giving an increased tempo and energy to the short tacking and progressively more anxious calls for water. The Mixed Dayboats were now heading downwind, fully on the plane on a fast broad reach, but no match for an Extreme 40 that flew past at 25 knots. However, at this time the all-star cast racing around the Island on the six IMOCA 60s in the Artemis Challenge were still struggling for wind off Bembridge.
After the Redwing start, White Group changed to a five-minute sequence, starting with the combined start for the Swallow and Flying Fifteen classes. Jeremy Buckwell and Peter Bond's Swallow Boomerang looked perfectly placed until a moment before the start, when she luffed to close-hauled, taking her a nose over the line with a second to go. This left Anthony Lunch's Solitude, currently placed second overall, to win the start by what appeared to be a comfortable margin, although within a couple of tacks Tony Glover's Darter was marginally ahead on her lee bow.
By the end of the 16-mile race Harry Roome's Skua was ahead of second-placed Solitude, with Darter third, a little over two minutes behind Skua.
The Flying Fifteen start was tighter than that of the Swallows, with Rupert and John Mander's Men Behaving Badly - the most successful boat at Cowes Week over the past decade - closely pursued by Nick Clarke's Black and Sam Chan's Ffreefire 20. With the Manders hiking hard in the gusty conditions, they held the boat noticeably flatter in the gusty conditions than their rivals, and pulled slowly ahead, to win by a margin of almost four minutes ahead of Clarke.
In the Squib class, young Fred Warren-Smith, who has won two races so far this week, made an uncharacteristically mid-fleet start. Chris Gear and Andy Foulks' Osprey was best placed on the start, with David Longford's Kestrel looking good just to leeward. Warren-Smith was one of the first boats to tack offshore, gaining clean air in doing so, but when she tacked inshore there were still eight boats in front. Ten minutes into the race Ted Reilly's Squiblissitude had taken a lead of several lengths.
At the finish, however, Roly Wilson's Incognito had a 44-second advantage over Stephen Porter's Polyphagus, with Reilly in third place two minutes behind.
In the Mermaids, Archie Ward, Jack Haigh and Harry Edwards' Dragonfly had a fine, though slightly slow start, allowing Anthony Eaton's Miranda to quickly make up some distance. The order of these two boats was unchanged at the finish, but Richard Prest's Halluf had sailed through to take the winning gun, 61 seconds ahead of Dragonfly.
Jeremy Lear and John Tremlett's Zinnia has dominated the Victory class at Cowes for many years. There was frequent place-changing after the start of this competitive class today, with Zest, Ziva and Zircon all having moments of glory. However, it was not long before Zinnia re-asserted her place at the front of the fleet and she went on to win by nearly three minutes from Geoff and Sarah Dixon's Zelia, with Janet Dee's Variety in third place.
Full results here
More images from Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com