A combination of light and shifty north-westerly winds of 6-12 knots and strong tides provided a day of close racing and gave navigators plenty of challenging tactical decisions on day six of Lendy Cowes Week.
The White Group dayboats started to the east from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, on a spinnaker reach against a building ebb tide. There was a benefit at the inshore end of the line to gain relief from the stream, but not if this led to sailing in disturbed air downwind of the rest of your fleet.
The Sportsboat class had a close race, with the entire fleet finishing within three minutes of each other. Malcolm Roberts’ Ker 9m Sunshine started closest to the shore, but could not escape from the lee of the pack and was therefore slow to accelerate. Boss Hog’s modified Cork 1720 Spider Pig was first away at the outer end of the line, followed by David and Kirsty Apthorp’s J/88 J-Dream and Tom Richardson’s Cork 1720 Premier Cru. J-Dream took line honours in the 12.5 mile race, but slipped to fourth place after time correction, behind Spider Pig, Paul Lewis’s Rum n Cork, and Sunshine.
Richard Jordan’s Dragon Sankher was the first boat in the class to close the line, but was early and had to slow down, stemming the strong tide. Oliver Morgan’s Christianna made a perfectly timed start at full speed at the inshore end of the line, popping out a length ahead of Eric Williams’ Ecstatic and Martin Payne’s Full Speed. At the end of the two hour race Sankher took the winning gun, 21 seconds ahead of Christianna, with Ecstatic finishing third 27 seconds later.
“We stole in at the last mark really,” says Jeremy Field, the middleman on Sankher. “On the leg to Royal Thames buoy the breeze was going round to the north and people were clearly tacking up to the mark, so we stayed high, which got us back up to third. Then with a huff and a puff of breeze we rolled the boat that was second, then right at the last mark – Williams Shipping – we gybed inside and got an overlap with the lead boat, snuck round there and, for the all important last 20 seconds of the race, we were in the lead and crossed the line first.”
The stream was running hard for the Victory class start just before midday. Carol Evan’s Peregrine was early and had to luff with her spinnaker flogging to avoid a premature start and even then was “living very dangerously” according to the line officer on the RYS platform. Gareth Penn’s Christina led a group of boats away from the outer end of the line, while Russell Mead’s Shearwater ll, followed by Hugh Pringle’s Pelican, were best placed at the inshore end.
Six minutes after the start, as they passed north of East Cowes Christina was leading just ahead of Shearwater ll, with this pair comfortably ahead of the rest of the fleet on their way to a first mark on the Ryde Middle Bank. Christina went on to win, ahead of John Scammell and Maxine Reeves’ Zinnia, with Shearwater ll third.
The XOD class was by far the most numerous fleet to start on the Royal Yacht Squadron line today. There was a big pack of slow-moving boats at the inshore end of the line in the final 30 seconds before the start, while further offshore three of the top 10 overall boats – Catherine, Furyand Clair de Lune – were all early, but none responded to the recall cannon.
Peter Lawrence’s Falconet managed to pull just ahead of the inshore pack and into clean air, while two of the class leaders – James Meaning’s Gleam and John Tremlett’s Lass -languished side by side in disturbed wind. These two boats finished just 11 seconds apart, but in eighth and ninth places respectively. Penny Fulford’s Madeleine notched up her first win of the week, finishing more than four minutes ahead of Rory and Amanda Paton’s XL. Chris Torren’s Madcaptook third place 76 seconds later.
The Squib fleet, racing on a predominately windward-leeward course from a committee boat produced arguably the tightest racing of the day. The leaders – Graham and Julia Bailey’s Alchemy and Micky Wright’s Spoof – crossed the line just three seconds apart. The next two – Chris and Ben Gibson’s Wizard and Joe Henry’s Bacchante Vll – were just two seconds apart. Further down the 100 strong fleet six boats crossed the line in just 14 seconds.
Despite a disappointing 34th place in today’s race, Steve Warren-Smith and Stu Rix’s Aquabatremain at the top of the leaderboard of the class’s 50th National Championship, just one point ahead of Nigel Grogan’s Helmut Shoing ll. Josh Metcalfe and Mark Hogan’s Rico’shea is third overall, four points further back.
“Although we have two events going on [the class nationals and Lendy Cowes Week] I have always been interested in Cowes Week because it is my favourite regatta of all,” says Graham Bailey. “Today was an interesting one with a very long start line and the tide taking the fleet over. The bias was towards the pin end but we elected to be about 20 per cent down from the committee boat, which is the wrong place to be but we figured we were going to avoid the massive pitfall of being swept over the port lay line.
“We got onto port tack quickly. It wasn’t looking great at that point but we just kept the boat tracking and saw the fleet going back onto starboard, looking like they were miles ahead but I knew there was a real danger of them going over the lay line – that is exactly what happened.
“We were on port tack with the tide sweeping us up. With a little right-handed shift we closed up and rounded the top mark in second to Spoof. By the last run we were level pegging. They elected to be on the right-hand side but we gained a bit more tidal relief and picked up the vital puff of wind, allowing us to round the bottom mark ahead and cross the line three seconds ahead.”
The Black Group yachts starting on the Bramble line headed to the west, with the increasing tidal stream tending to carry them over the line. IRC Class 0 was racing for the Triple Crown of some of the sailing world’s most prestigious trophies. Today Peter Morton’s Fast40+ Girls on Film won the King George trophy ahead of Igor Yakunin’s Ker 46 Lady Mariposa and Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator.
In the HP30 class Jacques Blanc’s Swiss Farr 280 Buzz was clearly a couple of lengths over at the gun and had a painfully slow creep back to start correctly. The overall class leader after the first five days of racing, Malcolm Wootton’s Farr 30 Pegasus Dekmarx, started closest to the southern end of the line under spinnaker and also responded to the recall signal.
This left a pair of Farr 280s, Jamie Rankin’s Pandemonium, and Glyn Locke’s Toucan, leading the fleet in the early stages. However, Pegasus climbed back up through the fleet to take line honours ahead of the higher-rated Farr 280s and claim her third seventh win in the 10 races the class has sailed to date.
IRC Class 7 started in a patch of light air, with the fleet holding back from the line to avoid risk of being swept prematurely over. Ursula and Richard Hollis’s X-95 Crackajax was first to hoist a spinnaker and pulled away into an early lead, followed by Ian Handley’s Mustang 30 Gr8 Banter,Kevin Downer and Tim Eccles’ much modified Jeanneau Fun 23 Ziggy, and Mike Jone’s Hunter Impala Fearnought.
When the wind increased as the fleet entered the western Solent Gr8 Banter accelerated past the heavier Crackajax and went on to take line honours by a margin of almost two minutes. However, neither boat could save their time on Fearnought or Ziggy, with the latter winning their third race of the regatta to extend her overall lead.
IRC Class 5 started on the Black Group Committee Boat, stationed off the north shore of the eastern Solent. Phil Plumtree’s Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble took a third win of the week to cement his overall lead in the class ahead of Harry Heijst’s S&S41 Winsome and Andy and Annie Howe’s J/97 Blackjack ll.
“We are pretty well optimised for 8-10 knots of breeze, which is what we had today, so it was perfect conditions for us,” says Plumtree. “The crew is fantastic and our navigation department, headed by Leslie Ryan, does a fantastic job. That really takes all pressure off everyone else, which is key.
“We were a bit worried about Winsome going over to the mainland shore – she had a fantastic lift and came back up into the race again and joined us at the top mark. The last beat was quite an easy cover on the other boats, even given we had to come through Norris Nadgers.”
A change in the weather is expected tomorrow, which will test competitors’ skills in different conditions. A blustery south westerly breeze will bring squally showers and a low risk of thunderstorms mid-afternoon. It will feel cold and gusts well above 24 knots could accompany the squalls. Any rain is expected to clear by evening, when a display by the Red Arrows is scheduled, before the firework display.
Lendy Cowes Week’s official charity, the 1851 Trust is continuing to run a programme of workshops and treasure hunts from its stand on the Parade. Anyone wanting to help give more young people to the opportunity to grow through sailing can donate £10 by texting INSPIRE to 70660. For more info click here: www.1851trust.org.uk/projects/lendy-cowes-week
Report by Rupert Holmes