Fine day for Jethou
The first Black Group start was for the big boats competing for the New York YC Challenge Cup in IRC Class Zero. In the first four days of the regatta this class has seen three different race winners. Sir Peter Ogden's all-black Mini Maxi Jethou, lying third overall at the beginning of the day, asserted dominance from the start, significantly ahead and to windward of her competitors. Next were two TP52s, Johnny Vincent's Pace and Charles Dunstone's Rio, the latter making an uncharacteristically mediocre start.
In IRC Class 1, a huge mêlée of assorted boats, from J/133s to 12-Metres, tussled at the inshore end of the line. With the boats to leeward forcing those above them to luff over the line, a general recall was inevitable.
The fleet was much more cautious for the second start, giving Michael Bartholomew's King 40 Tokoloshe and Andy Middleton's First 47.7 EH01 ample space to make a great start at the inner end of the line. Richard Rankin's 12-Metre Italia was right behind them, creating a huge wind shadow for the fleet to leeward as she tacked onto port 20 seconds after the start. However, she was unable to maintain height on the fleet, allowing many of her rivals to climb to windward above her.
Ten minutes into the race Tokoloshe was ahead and to windward of everyone else - she was one of only a relatively small number of boats in the fleet to clear Stansore Point without tacking, conferring a useful advantage on the long beat to EchoPilot, off Hurst Spit at the very western end of the Solent. By this stage Richard Loftus' Swan 65 Desperado had powered through the fleet, her mizzen furled in the fresh breeze, with another First 47.7, Javelin Sailing Promotion's Moana, a little to leeward. Richard Matthew's 12-Metre Crusader had also joined the front-runners, having climbed well to windward of Italia.
Class 2 got off to a clean start, with Brian Thompson and Lloyd Hamilton on the Archambault 40 Toe in the Water Too closest to the southern end of the line. A few lengths to the north, Rudi Floridor's Sydney 39 Allard Natural Stone was sufficiently far ahead to tack onto port in front of the pack. Off Stansore point Peter Morton and Andrew McIrvine's First 40 La Response crossed ahead of the fleet on starboard, with Allard Natural Stone sitting just on their weather quarter.
Four First 40.7s were OCS and failed to return at the start, including yesterday's winner Nicolas Gaumont-Prat's Tradition Philosophie lV. In contrast to the earlier classes, in which competitors had all tacked onto port to head to the north shore within a minute or two of the start, the 40.7s were soon spread across the entire width of the Solent, with Reter Robson's Playing Around and Herbert Smith's Interceptor both passing south of Gurnard north cardinal buoy.
Taking a flyer
In IRC Class 3, Dirk and Dianne van Beek's Bavaria Match 42 Sabriel went for a port tack flyer at the southern end of the line. With no starboard tack boats in the way, this would have worked perfectly had they not been OCS. With the second-placed boat overall, Michael Brough's Match 38 Steady Barker also OCS, Phil Farrands' lovely one-off Humphreys Old Mother Gun was best placed on the line.
The next start, for J/109s, was postponed due to an in-bound bulk carrier, the 44,000 tonne Panama-registered Luminous Orange, due to pass through the line a couple of minutes after scheduled start time. However, despite VHF announcements, few competitors noticed the postponement, leaving the line boat, Running Bear, to round up competitors, as the ship sailed through the middle of the fleet.
A number of boats did not return in time for the restart, and of the boats that were on the line, Henry Kevill's Howden Insurance Brokers was OCS, leaving Pete Walker's British Police on Stalker best placed on a sparsely-populated line. David McLeman's Offbeat, a few lengths astern and to windward, was also looking good, and James Arnell's Jeez Louise was also quickly on the pace.
With the young east-going flood tide gaining strength, the IRC Class 4 fleet opted for the northern end of the line, with Richard Allen's First 35 Ancasta Boat Sales closest to the line at the gun, and Tom Snowball's First 34.7 Mongoose also looking well placed.
The wind continued to increase through the morning, with gusts of over 25 knots, giving all classes plenty of excitement on their downwind legs. A weak warm front passing over the Solent just after lunch gave competitors an additional challenge, as the mean wind immediately in its wake dropped to 10 knots, but it soon recovered to its previous levels.
The first of the Black Group finishers were crossing the line just after 1500, with True Look, Carl Hennix's Seacart 30 trimaran the first multihull to finish, blasting across the line at 1513. Phil Cotton's Buzz, another Seacart, was second at 1526.
By now impressive rain clouds were building and a thundery shower scattered on-shore spectators at 1532, just as the first Sigma 33, Richard Puddifoot's Whippa Snappa crossed the line. This cold front was much more active than any of the forecasters predicted at the start of the day, a five minute band of driving rain heralding a sharp spike in the wind speed. In IRC Class 7 Madelaine and Isobella Donald's Folkboat Madelaine executed a spectacular broach 200m from the finish line, but recovered quickly to win their race.
At the same time, the wind veered by more than 90 degrees, from WSW to north-east, and dropped to just 8-10 knots. As the sun returned to the Solent spectators were treated to the sight of Black Group competitors heading east towards their finish lowering spinnakers, while White Group classes, heading in the opposite direction, hoisted theirs.
After the storm
Finishers were now crossing both lines thick and fast, with the RYS cannons firing in rapid succession. Jethou finished at 1549, with no other boats in Class Zero in sight, yet she was unable to save her time on Charles Dunstone's Rio, who won by an impressive eight minutes on corrected time, despite her unspectacular start.
Tonnerre de Breskens was the first Class One boat to finish at 1622, three minutes ahead of the Richard Matthews' Crusader, giving Matthews an advantage of more than five minutes on corrected time. Tokoloshe took second in this class on corrected time.
La Response maintained her lead in class two, taking honours in IRC Class 2 just before 1640, with a big enough margin to win her race by six minutes over Jim Macgregor's Elan 410 Premier Flair. Peter Robson's Playing Around crossed the line at 1642, to win the 40.7 class from Guy Prest's Tarka and Pete Newland's Anticipation.
Four minutes later Bernard Olesinski's X-40 Xinska took line honours in IRC Class 3, although Lance Adam's Corby 33 Banshee, and Iain Kirkpatrick's X-37 FatJax were ahead on corrected time.
Full results here