Pen Azen victorious in Madeira

A report from the RORC's Cowes-Madeira Race

Wednesday August 20th 2008, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom
Course: Casquets (P), Ushant (P), Ponta de Sâo Lourenço (S), Quinta do Lorde. Approximately 1,480 miles.

The route from Cowes to Madeira is a fantastic race track and the weather played a starring role in the drama that was to unfold.

Line honours for the 1,480 mile race, went to the elated crew on Norddeutsche Vermoegen Hamburg, taking the gun at 21:25:33 on 18 August after more than eight days of hard racing, into the wind, nearly the whole way bar the last few miles under spinnaker.

“It was a great race and we are delighted to be the first yacht to Madeira,” commented skipper George Christiansen. “Special thanks should go to the Royal Ocean Racing Club for providing a well run event, the conditions were hard all the way to Cape Finisterre and we didn’t really come off the wind until Gibraltar. Today all the crew want to do is catch up on some sleep but it is great to be in Madeira enjoying the sunny weather and tomorrow, I think we will find a nice bar and have a long lunch with some large beers.”

Just about all of the dockside banter centered around the conditions off Ushant in the early part of the race, the pit was open and the beast was awake, as wind speeds of up to 40 knots, conspired with ocean currents, to produce some massive conditions at the notorious gateway to the Atlantic.

“I have done a lot of offshore yachting and I have only ever seen seas as bad as that once before,” commented British Soldier helmsman, Paul Anderson. “To be honest with you, you would not have wanted to be there but after a long hard race, we are glad to have stuck it out. We have got a few bumps and bruises for our troubles and we are all very tired but we will all live to fight another day and as a crew we have come out of this race stronger than when we went into it.”

Only five yachts made it around Ushant but the yacht race was still to have one final twist to decide the overall winner.

“We had a very good battle with British Soldier they are very clever,” said Pen Azen’s Skipper, Philippe Delaporte. “We were just behind them for the first six days of racing.They were about 8 to ten miles ahead of us at Cape Finesterre but later there was a surprise; a small low pressure system that was supposed  to have gone about level with Lisbon, about 100 miles offshore. We managed to get to the right side of the system and the breeze was 15-20 knots at an angle of 140-150 so it was excellent for us, very good surfing by the time we got off the coast of Gibraltar we were 20 miles ahead of British Soldier.”

Pen Azen’s decision to go offshore paid off and may well have been the defining moment in the race as Philippe Delaporte’s J/122, Pen Azen was declared overall winner of the RORC Cowes Madeira Yacht Race, on corrected time. The win also puts the French boat on top of the RORC Season Points Championship for 2008.

Congratulations should also go to the crews of Clipper Venture’s, Jamaica Clipper and Sailing Logic’s, Puma Logic, on completing the 1,480 mile race.

With all of the competitors accounted for in the Cowes-Madeira Yacht Race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Racing Manager, Ian Loffhagen, looked back on a memorable inaugural race to the beautiful Atlantic Island of Madeira: “The RORC Committee wanted to do something new for 2008 and decided that we should do a longer race than usual  Various destinations were considered and Madeira was chosen because it offered a good trade wind course, is less prone to be influenced by the Azores high, and it was also noted that the food was good!  A downwind race with the weather getting warmer as one went south was the idea.

"The actuality was looking somewhat different as the weather models came together to give a convincing scenario of a rough and windy first part of the race. We knew that some of the fleet would not survive the punishing 45 knot winds and 5 metre seas to get round Ushant but were confident that those who made it would finish. I take my hat off to all those who finished, the race was every bit as tough and challenging as expected, and to manage to keep racing to the finish was a real feat of endurance.

Congratulations to all those who finished and our condolences to those forced to retire.”

The RORC fleet now have about a week to recover and prepare their yachts in the sun soaked island of Madeira before setting off on the race back to Cowes with starts on offer each day up to 26 August.

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