Which is faster? A Moth sailed by a Laser Olympic Gold medallist, a double Olympic windsurfer, an extreme kitesurfer or an IMOCA 60? The Volvo Sailing Speed Challenge at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week was held this afternoon and in a surprising twist it was Hugo Boss, sailed by Alex Thomson who won the challenge to claim £1,000 for Sir Keith Mills' charity, Sported, the top sporting legacy charity from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.
However it wasn’t easy for Thomson, as he fought off strong competition from Olympic windsurfing medallist, Nick Dempsey and the foiling Moth, sailed by Paul Goodison. Sam Lutman-Pauc, more comfortable in extreme kitesurfing conditions and long distance speed challenges, struggled with the short racecourse and ripping tide.
“That was great fun!" said Thomson, who finished third in this year's Vendee Globe. "Paul Goodison is officially a lunatic on the race course, was not giving even an inch of any boat. I didn’t expect to win, but really I owe it to the two guys onboard with me, grinding away, so they can take all the glory not me. But, it was great to win the £1,000 prize money for Sported, looking forward to handing it over to them.”
The race was delayed due to the light wind, but the four sailors finally got going at around 18.00. The conditions in the Solent were challenging and tricky, the wind varied from 10 to 15 knots, with two to three knots of current and a strong tide that went in the same direction as the wind.
Second placed Nick Dempsey enjoyed the battle: “All day there’s been no wind and we really didn’t know if we would actually be able to do [the race], so after all the preparation and excitement, when the wind came in it was amazing. It was close. Goody (Paul Goodison) and I had a brilliant first reach, we were neck and neck, but when we gybed and headed up for the second lap, the wind had shifted a bit and we couldn’t get back up to the next mark in one tack, so we had to double-tack.
"Everything I Iost there meant that Alex was just getting further and further ahead, but it was still so close! There was a lot of current out there today, it wasn’t easy. It was a really good race, very exciting – amazing to race next to Alex in Hugo Boss.”
Paul Goodison, best known for his prowess in the Laser, reached 18 knots once up foiling on his Moth: “It was a great race, really good fun to be out there with all the other guys burning around at different speeds. I thought I won the start, had a nice lead going down the first leg. Nick was a little bit faster and started reeling me in, and then just before the gybe mark I got quite a lot of weed on the foils. Had a bit of a nightmare gybe and then really struggled to get on the foils coming back. I had to stop, capsize the boat on it's side and clear the weed off, which is never fast.
"Watching Nick sail away from me was pretty disappointed. Alex obviously did well but I want a rematch in the flat water so we can have some real action! Classic race though, and all for charity as well!”