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France and Britain on the charge

After two more inshore races at the Rolex Commodores' Cup

Monday August 16th 2010, Author: Sailing Intelligence, Location: United Kingdom

Ireland remains the runaway leader after day two of the 2010 Rolex Commodores’ Cup. Those chasing, led by 2008 winners GBR Red, with strong competition for second from France Blue in third and the potent Hong Kong team in fourth, did a good job to minimise the damage inflicted today: the Irish managing to extend the gap over the second-placed team, but only by 2.5 points.

Conditions were perfect for today’s two races with brilliant sunshine and more breeze – 14-17 knots from the northwest for the first, dropping off to 10-15 for the second. First up was an inshore race around the length and breadth of the eastern Solent, followed by a shorter windward-leeward course set off Hill Head closer to the mainland shore.

In the big boat class race one saw a rare corrected time tie between Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 39 Antix (IRL), maintaining her perfect scoreline for the Irish team, and Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43 Codiam in France Blue. While Antix remains the one to beat among the big boats, it was Codiam that scored two bullets today.

“I think the conditions were ideal for our boat, which is a bit heavy and ideally needs about 15 knots,” commented Nicolas Loday, racing his fourth Rolex Commodores’ Cup, but his first in the Grand Soleil 43. “It is a boat that goes very well with flat water. It is not at all a boat that goes fast in the big waves or the choppy seas you get in the Channel. So today the conditions were perfect for this boat – like yesterday, but yesterday we made wrong tactical decisions. Today we kept close to the other boats and this paid off very well.”

Perhaps it was coincidence, but in Class 2 another Grand Soleil 43 shone today with former RORC Commodore Peter Rutter’s Quokka 8 (GBR Red) scoring two bullets ahead of UNCL Commodore Marc de Saint Denis and Géry Trentesaux’s Coup de Coeur (FRA Blue) and Ireland’s marinerscove.ie, belonging to David Dwyer. Quokka 8 rates at 1.103 under IRC compared to Codiam’s 1.110 as the French boat has a larger sail plan.

“We didn’t feel on fire yesterday losing one race by 6 seconds and another one by less than a minute,” explained Peter Rutter. “We needed to sit down and think - we did that last night and it’s come out fantastic. We have a different way of trimming the main and we are also making sure that people only stop hiking out when given permission to. So, a bit more dictatorial, but it worked really well and the crew felt really happy.”

Rutter felt their performance today was to down the change in crew work rather than having the ideal boat for the conditions. “It wasn’t that different from yesterday, a little more wind. We stopped being stupid really.”

In the flat water and moderate conditions, the smaller higher-rated boats did seem to suffer today. Marinerscove.ie, the Class 2 boat from the all-powerful Irish team struggled to post a 4-2. “We are in a 39-foot boat racing against 43-foot boats which rate significantly lower than us - it is very hard for us especially in the medium to upper wind ranges,” commented her tactician, former America’s Cup helmsman Andy Beadsworth. “After the first race we said ‘we sailed well, for sure we could have done some things cleaner and smarter, but we were never going to beat those guys’. That was the reality.”

In the second race Beadsworth was particularly pleased when his call to go left up the first beat came good, despite dissenters on board. They ended up reaching the weather mark a minute ahead of the competition.

The South African team is still trying to get out of its own way, lying seventh equal with GBR White after day two. Their mid-sized boat, Mike Bartholomew’s King 40 Tokoloshe has been based in the Solent for two years, but Bartholomew says they have been struggling to get off the line cleanly. “It is essential in this type of racing. The races are being won and lost in the first 30 seconds. We have had four races where we haven’t done that and we are paying the price. It has been very tight racing. We are disappointed we haven’t done better than we have. We know what we are doing wrong and it is a case of trying to correct it.”

In Class 3 Marc Alperovitch and Jerome Huillard’s A-35 Prime Time won today’s first race for France Yellow, while Robert Davies’ Roxy 6 took the second for the Irish. But once again it was France Blue that came to form with Samuel Prietz’ X-40 Goa claiming second in both today’s races.

“Yesterday we had some minor difficulties with boat handling,” admitted Prietz, a past Codiam crewman, for whom this is his fourth Rolex Commodores’ Cup. “We haven’t sailed together since June, so yesterday we didn’t do so well. We missed a couple of opportunities in tactics, also we were not able to point high enough comparing to some other boats - so not really promising. Today we sailed much more relaxed, with a much better mood inside the team.”

Tomorrow, the complexion of the Rolex Commodores’ Cup changes with the start at 10.30 BST of the 24-36-hour offshore race. The weather is also expected to take a turn for the worse with the passage of a front tomorrow afternoon. According to meteorologist Mike Broughton, working with the Irish team, this will bring with it 20-plus knot southwesterly winds, before conditions lighten on Wednesday night, and then fill in again on Thursday. “It means it won’t be a complete lottery. There will be no thermal switch off,” he advises.

Offshore in waves with a mix of wind conditions, along with the rigours of racing at night, maintaining focus with little or no sleep, the crew perpetually on the rail, after up to 36 hours of racing – will a new group of boats come to the fore? Past experience indicates that the French and British teams have proved strongest in the Rolex Commodores’ Cup two-and-a-half points scoring offshore race. And, if there are stronger gradient winds - will the Irish continue to be the class act?

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