GBR Red hoping to repeat their 2008 victory
With the announcement of Great Britain's four team line-up for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, then force of numbers, at the very least, will be on the side of Team GBR when racing starts on the Solent on 22 July.
Run by the Royal Yachting Association, the British trials this year were based on two events, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Morgan Cup offshore race followed by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club's Vice Admiral's Cup inshore series and proved to be one of the most competitive ever with 17 boats gunning for the 12 available slots. The 12 boats were chosen and then divided into their four teams by a selection panel comprising RYA Chairman and Head of the Selectors, Stacey Clark, Yachting Secretary of the Royal Yacht Squadron, Chris Mason and Cowes Week CEO, Stuart Quarrie.
Selections and the subsequent team divisions were determined on a straight points calculation following the two events, the only exception being the two Ker 40s, Jonathan Goring's Keronimo and Andrew Pearce's Magnum III, which were unable both to make the top team, GBR Red, as only one 'big' boat (ie with a Time Correction Coefficient of 1.150-1.230) per team is permitted.
So GBR Red this year will comprise Jonathan Goring's Ker 40, Keronimo, Andrew Williams' Mills 39, Dignity, and Mike West's Archambault 35, Eaujet - and they will be hoping to repeat the success of their forebears in 2008 when GBR Red last won the Commodores' Cup.
Proudest of all to get a spot in GBR Red is Andrew Williams and his all-Corinthian crew from Plymouth aboard Dignity.
"It is a fantastic honour to be selected and the big thing is that there has never been a boat from Plymouth or the West Country in the Commodores' Cup before," said Williams. "I am hoping the clubs in Plymouth will get behind the boat and cheer us on."
Williams previously owned the successful Prima 38 Max 'Ed Out! and after this was sold last year, in August he acquired the Mills 39 which as marinerscove.ie was part of Ireland's winning Commodores' Cup team in 2010.
Williams admits that he and the crew have taken a while to get to grips with their new water-borne Ferrari. "Obviously these types of boats are fairly specialised in the way they handle - they have a fast groove and slow groove, whereas production boats tend to be easier all round."
Yet get to grips with it they clearly have done as they won not only the selection trials overall but at the Vice Admiral's Cup also had Class 0 victory secured with a day to spare ahead of the two Ker 40s. At present Williams says they are attempting to track down some sponsorship to assist them in getting some new sails for July's big event.
The smallest boat in the GBR line-up is Peter Morton's Salvo, the Corby 33 that won the Scottish Series two years ago as Salamander XX. She will be competing in July in GBR Black alongside the British Keelboat Academy on David Aisher's J/109 Yeoman of Wight and Cobra, the King 40 campaigned by Commodores' Cup first timers, the father and son team of Mike and Seb Blair.
The trials didn't go entirely according to plan for Salvo. "We had an appalling final selection weekend," admits Morton. "We got hit and we were black flagged and for some reason we were sailing very badly. We did score a second in the offshore behind Eaujet."
Morton co-owned the First 40 La Réponse with ex-Commodore of the RORC Andrew McIrvine when they competed in the 2010 Commodores' Cup and all Salvo crew have competed in the event before. He only acquired Salvo in December and says that they are still getting to grips with the boat's nuances.
Morton is hopeful that this year could be one for the small boats. "The points are skewed towards the offshore and the around the island race and both of those events could turn out to be small boat races. It is quite possible, if everything rafts up, that the small boats could do very well."
As to his team's chances, Morton says GBR Black could, appropriately, be considered the dark horse. "We have a good little unit, because we have Yeoman of Wight which has done very well in Commodores' Cups and a King 40, so it is a good combination."
To assist the GBR teams the RYA has appointed Nigel King to be Team Manager, a role also involving King's long experience as a coach, that has in the past ranged from Dee Caffari's Vendee Globe campaign to the Volvo/RYA keelboat program to, in recent years, Chris Bake's RC44 campaign, Team Aqua.
While there is a GBR squad, King has to effectively manage four separate three boat teams and is meeting with each in early June to assist them with their programs in the run up to the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, and during the event itself.
"A lot of them have got programs in places, so it is now a case of seeing how much of that is going to be beneficial and if there is anything extra I can do and to try and do some on the water coaching. I think they all recognise they should be training together up to the event to maximise their opportunities, because on their own they probably won't achieve much. Also you have you remember that they have got jobs, so we can't just put in place a three week long training program."
King points out that many new to the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup will also be unfamiliar with its 'team' aspect: "Although there are strict limitations on what they can do from a team racing point of view, it is still nice to know there are two other boats on the water that are supposed to be on your side, so there is support there and are people you can talk to after who are hopefully working for the same aim as you, which is to get a team victory."
Team GBR Red: Dignity (Mills 39), Eaujet (Archambault 35), Keronimo (Ker 40).
Team GBR White: Joopster (J/122), Magnum III (Ker 40), Philosophie (Beneteau First 40.7)
Team GBR Blue: Incognito (Beneteau 40.7), La Réponse (First 40), Premier Flair (Elan 410).
Team GBR Black: Cobra (King 40), Salvo (Corby 33), Yeoman of Wight (J/109)