White Group last blast
After a week of predominately moderate to fresh winds, competitors were tested by lighter airs today at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week. The thin cloud over the Solent started to break up at midday and the Solent was soon bathed in bright sun, although the wind became patchy for a while in the mid-afternoon, especially in the eastern Solent.
With the overall winners in Black Group already decided, a relatively small number of classes raced for individual trophies today. Most of the day’s action was therefore focussed on White Group, where many classes saw intensely-fought battles to decide the final results. All fleets started towards the west from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, with the inshore end favoured for some of the early starts, although a building west-going tide moved the advantage towards the outer end as the start sequence progressed.
In the Etchells class, James Howells’ Gelert started the day on seven points, with both the Downer family’s Moonlight and Bleddyn Mon’s Darling S tied on 11 points. Gelert was invincible as overall winner, having scored only first or second places all week, but a win for the Downers today saw them secure second overall, with a two-point margin over Darling S in third.
In the Daring class Giles Peckham’s Dauntless started with a nine-point advantage over Jeremy Preston and Mark Fear’s Defender, with David Christie and John Mulcahy’s Finesse a further eight points behind in third. Dauntless was first across the finish today, but had been OCS at the start, as were Defender and Finesse.
This left the way open for three boats from lower down the overall rankings to take podium positions today, with David Gower’s Dolphin winning ahead of Brian Hardy and Charlie Platt’s Destroyer and Andrew Norton’s Decoy. However, this success did not lift them far enough the leaderboard to change the overall order at the top of the fleet.
In the Dragon fleet Eric Williams’ Ecstatic started the day on 13 points, Gavia Wilkinson-Cox’s Jerboa on 17 and Graham and Julia Bailey’s Aimee on 19. Aimee won today’s race ahead of Ecstatic and Chris Brittain’s Bear, with Jerboa pushed into fourth by just 12 seconds. With the discard applied only after today’s race, the overall results see Ecstatic win overall, with Aimee second, two points ahead of Jerboa.
Three Flying 15s started the day in contention for first place: Nick Clarke’s Black, Mike Boll and Gil McCutcheon’s Ffuraha, and Andrew Millband and Tony Hastings’ Fifty Fifty. In addition Alex and Mike Tatlow’s Affore the Weak was also in a position to take second.
Affore the Weak looked best placed of the boats starting close inshore, while Black and Sam Chan’s Ffreefire 20 chose the outer end of the line. But the finish saw a tight contest between Black and Ffuraha, with the former leading by six seconds as they crossed the line. Black therefore won the class overall, six points ahead of Ffuraha, with Fifty Fifty two points behind in third.
Charles Glanville’s Rosemary won today’s Mermaid race by more than three minutes from Anthony Eaton’s Dragonfly. The two boats had started the day at the top of the class leader board, tied on 17 points. However, despite Glanville’s victory today, with six races now completed the worst result of each boat can be discarded. With Eaton able to discard his disappointing ninth place on the opening day, he won the class with 10 points, ahead of Glanville on 14. Terry and Matthew Kavanagh’s Scuttle was similarly able to discard an uncharacteristic last place today to take third overall on 21 points.
This week John Raymond and Matt Alexander’s Harlequin has dominated the Redwing class. At the start of the day she was already confirmed as class winner and was also favourite for winning White Group overall. Today she led the fleet home to win by 31 seconds from Colin & Becky Samuelson and Peter Harvey’s Toucan. This confirmed Harlequin as White Group winner and Toucan as second overall in the Redwing class. Michael and Rupert MacInnes’ Avocet started the day with a sufficiently large points cushion in third to retain that position overall, despite a seventh place today.
Simon Barter’s Sonar Bertie won the class overall for the fourth time in the past six years. In today’s race he was quick to react when an individual recall was made at the start, returning as soon as the second cannon was fired. Despite this disadvantage, he worked back up the fleet to finish first, almost two minutes ahead of Kerry Gruson’s Blew Bayou 2. Finishing just one second after Gruson, Andy Cassell’s Jenny took third place, confirming his second place overall, nine points ahead of Shoreham Youth Team’s Spare Part.
East coast Squib sailors Malcolm Hutchings and Andy Ramsey’s Lady Penelope won the opening race and dominated the class to win overall with a day spare, scoring only podium finishes. Martin and Anne Harrison’s Hussar, the other boat that scored 1 point on the opening day, having received redress for standing by another Squib that was awaiting rescue, started the final day in second place on 10 points, with double Young Skipper Trophy winner Fred Warren-Smith’s Aquabat in third on 11 points. Today, Aquabat finished two seconds ahead of Hussar, leaving them on equal points, with the tie break resolved in Hussar’s favour.
In the Swallow class Mike Wigmore and Mark Struckett’s Gwaihir started the final race assured of an overall class win. Harry Roome, Prue Roome and David Lees’ Skua won today’s race, almost two minutes ahead of Skua, to take second overall and close the gap to just three points. A disappointing eighth place for Paul Ward’s Cockersootie today saw her finish the week on 23 points, but she retained third overall, a comfortable 14 points clear of Sir Malcolm Green’s Archon.
In the 83-strong XOD class the top four boats were separated by only seven points at the start of the day, with Andy Shaw’s Phoenix on 18 points, Steve Lawrence’s Catherine on 20, Jeremy Lear, John Tremlett and Richard Bullock’s Lass on 23, and Stuart Jardine’s Lone Star on 25. Today’s start was the subject of a general recall, but with a Z-flag used for the second start the fleet was much more cautious.
When the leaders first crossed tacks off Egypt Point, Lass was just ahead of Catherine at the head of the fleet. However, there seemed to be no consensus as to which side of the course was favoured, with the leading boats splitting into inshore and offshore groups. Catherine led the inshore boats, with Lone Star on her hip, while Lass was at the head of those offshore.
When they crossed again off Gurnard Sailing Club, Lass was still just a couple of lengths ahead of Catherine. Lass retained her lead at Baxters, the first mark, with Catherine second and Willy McNeill and Ted Tredrea’s Lara third, just ahead of Phoenix.
When the course was shortened at Air Canada buoy, with the wind dropping to little more than 5 knots, Lass and Phoenix had slipped to fifth and 11th respectively, while Lone Star was 14th. Catherine, however, won by more than two and a half minutes, to take her third win of the week and the overall title with 21 points. Just three points, however, separated the next three places. Phoenix, who was able to discard today’s result, was second overall, while a third place today for Lara elevated her just above Lass to third overall.
The racing throughout this class, which celebrated its 100th anniversary at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week last year, remains extremely close, with many battles even closer than those enjoyed by the leading boats. Only six points, for instance, separated the six places from 18th to 23rd.
Today’s races rounded off a week of lively competition that saw both long-standing Cowes Week stalwarts and a new generation of talented young sailors enjoying racing at its best.