The second day of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week saw plenty of sun and a southwesterly breeze that built to give perfect sailing conditions in 14-17 knots of wind for the event’s Family Day.
An erratically moving trough that brought a line of showers and light winds to Cowes just before racing was scheduled to get underway presented a headache for race officials. With the trough forecast to leave a 50-60° windshift in its wake, the ideal was to wait for it to pass, but it had earlier stalled for 90 minutes and threatened to do the same over Cowes. To everyone’s relief it moved away just in time to allow the starting sequences to get underway with minimal delays.
The first start was for the 18-strong First 40.7s at 1030, with the fleet contending with the combination of a strong west-going tidal stream sweeping boats over the line and a light southwesterly wind of only 5-8 knots. Mike Hobby’s French boat Pktmmy looked best placed at the start gun, although local boat Anticipation, sailed by Chris Jago and 1984 Olympic 470 sailor Pete Newlands, was ahead when they tacked onto port three minutes after the start.
Calvin Reed’s Elandra, with 2007 US Sailing Yachtsman of the Year Jeff Linton as tactician, was another of the first boats to tack onto port. By 10 minutes after the start she was already looking in a strong position and extended into a commanding lead, finishing more than two and a half minutes ahead of Andy Jackson’s Genie. Despite taking a time penalty, Stuart and James Wilkie’s Mitchellson Interceptor took third, 38 seconds ahead of Anticipation on corrected time.
Locked in battle
The J/109 class enjoyed the closest of racing today, with tightly fought battles right round the 19.6-mile course and a number of protests. At the start, the pack was bunched at the northern end of the line near the committee boat, with Christopher Sharples and Richard Acland’s Jolene ll looking best placed.
Jolene ll quickly tacked onto port, with Alex Ohlsson and Neil Maclachlan’s Jai Ho following close behind and Dutch entry Arjen van Leeuwen’s Joule just astern, but to windward. When they passed to the south of Lepe Spit on their way to Cowes Radio buoy, Jolene ll still looked best placed at the head of the fleet, but it was clear many boats were locked in tight battles.
As they ran past Egypt Point under asymmetric spinnakers on the way to the finish, the leading group was still neck and neck, with each boat surging back and forward by half a length as they alternately picked up speed in a gust, or on top of a wave.
In the most adrenaline-filled finish of the day, Jet, sailed by the Stanley, Walker and Williams team, extended into a marginal lead three boat lengths from the line. Two seconds after she took the winner’s cannon, another resounding bang signaled Jonathan Calascione and Jonny Goodwin’s Harlequin crossing the line.
The podium appeared complete when Jamie Sheldon’s Jigsaw finished eight seconds later. With Jolene ll crossing the line 16 seconds afterwards, the first four boats finished within 26 seconds of each other. However, both leading boats were the subject of protests. Harlequin had accepted a time penalty, leaving her fourth and Jolene ll third. But Jet lost her protest and was disqualified, leaving Jigsaw as winner of the Royal Thames Danish Dish, with Jolene ll second.
There was still more drama to come in this fleet – the next two boats in the class – Joule and Tony Dickin’s Jubilee – finished, just six seconds apart. Less than two minutes after that, the line was thick with J/109s, with seven boats finishing in only 38 seconds.
“The finish was great,” says Ross Walker of Jet, the first boat across the line. “It’s what one-design racing is all about – it was fantastic to have four boats finishing in line abreast at the end of the race. Even though we lost the protest we’re still very happy because it was such as great race – the course setters did a grand job and the lead changed several times.
‘The class this year is still very competitive, but it has more of a family and friends feel than in the past. Most of my crew are teenagers, who are having the time of their lives – we have two of the children of the crew of Basic Instinct [another J/109] on board, as well as my goddaughter, while my daughter is racing on Jigsaw.”
Perfect dayboat conditions
White group classes starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron line were postponed for 10 minutes to allow the trough and its associated windshift to clear the start area. The Etchells fleet was first away at 1045 in a light, but gradually building, south-westerly air flow.
Bleddyn Mon’s Darling S, a contender for the Young Skipper’s trophy. was nicely placed in the middle of the line with good speed. Yesterday’s winner, James Howells’ Gelert, attempted a port tack start, heading out towards the stronger favourable tide, but was forced into a slow tack moments before the gun by Darling S.
Shortly after the start, Robert Elliott’s Esprit put a hitch inshore, passing between Darling S and Gelert. Although disadvantaged by the weaker tide inshore Esprit was first to hook into up a significant favourable wind shift three minutes into the race, leaving her looking well placed as the fleet continued up wind towards Citymain buoy in Gurnard Bay.
As they approached the end of the 2.5-hour race, Gelert again had the advantage, crossing the Shrape finish line off East Cowes 27 seconds before Darling S. Esprit took third 41 seconds later.
In the J/80 class, Gillian Ross’s Rock&Roll started closest to the outer distance mark, nicely powered up and close to the line, and was first to tack offshore. Doug Neville-Jones’s Jasmine started towards the inshore end and was similarly well placed close to the line.
A few minutes into the race, Jamie Diamond’s Rascal, the most inshore of the fleet, appeared to hook into a favourable wind shift. Aqua-J, sailed by the Stuart, Evans and Simonds syndicate, also clearly liked the look of the left-hand side of the course, tacking onto starboard and passing ahead of Rascal. The rest of the fleet at this stage, however, opted to stay offshore in the stronger tide.
By the finish Simon Ling’s RAFBF Spitfire held a big lead, almost three minutes ahead of another Young Skipper’s trophy contender, William Goldsmith’s Exess, which in turn enjoyed a three and a half minute advantage over Jasmine in third place.
By the time of the Sportsboat start at 1125, the sun was streaming through ever-larger gaps between clouds with increasing intensity and frequency. The majority of the fleet, which is racing under IRC, opted to start at the outer end of the line, with Royal 4, one of the modified J/80s owned by the RYS and Royal Thames YC, and Richard Lilley’s Beneteau 25 Reach Round emerging to gain an initial advantage, with Faye Coyle’s Hunter 707 Artificer also looking good.
On corrected time the lower-rated boats came out towards the top of the fleet, with yesterday’s winner, Paul and Natalie French’s Hunter 707 Turbulence, notching up another first place. Charlie Esse, Anthony Esse and Jason Sivyer’s modified J/80 Darwin Property Investment Management was second and Artificer third.
Photos from Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com