From elegant classics, to a face off between four of the world’s fastest vessels, Monday had a hint of the unusual for some
By the end of the second tight kite reach my arms were starting to feel like they had been removed from their sockets in my shoulders, such is the weight of a Daring’s kite sheet when fully pressed. It was also apparent that my legs were bordering on too short to span the gap across the cockpit to brace myself securely. With each haul of the kite sheet I risked launching myself into the bottom of the boat as I jettisoned myself off the windward sidedeck. Fortunately I managed to avoid the ignominy of plunging into the bilges, but kite trimming on tip toes while having my upper body stretched was an unusual experience compared to the relative ease of a downwind sizzle aboard a J70 the day before.
Despite having sailed a Daring for the first time a few weeks ago on a windward leeward course, the task of trimming an oversized symmetrical spinnaker was also something that I have not done for some time. The result was I’d forgotten how hard you can press a well mannered and elegant, long waterline, displacement yacht. I’d also forgotten how little of the kite you can see once the pole is pressed onto the forestay. Fortunately my skipper Robin Aisher hadn’t. Indeed, the Daring class was created around his Olympic campaign in the 1960s in order to provide some home grown competition and training partners in the 5.5m class. So if anybody knew how to push a Daring on a tight reach it was him.
Robin and our forward crew member Jeremy also knew how to limbo under a boom that sweeps just inches above the deck through the tacks and gybes, something that took a little getting used to for me. Once again, once through these seemingly simple manoeuvres, short legs put you at a disadvantage when trying to clamber back up onto the sidedecks but I was determined not to ask for a leg up.
The odd thing is that the Daring’s reputation is for being seriously wet, which, when the breeze pipes up and the sea state builds it undoubtedly is, but no one warns you about the loads and the assault course that the cockpit layout can present.
But for all of this, I thoroughly enjoyed my day and the racing. In a world where light and quick often means big gaps between boats, these classic looking lead mines provide fantastically close and evenly matched racing. Surfing your way ahead of a competitor because you’ve read a wave better and trimmed at the right time is not going to happen. Instead, you’ll have to work for every inch and be prepared to lose it all if you fail to work a shift. Racing a Daring is more about tactics than raw boat speed, but it is also about being aboard one of the most elegant classes in Cowes.
At the other end of the performance scale and after the main racing in Cowes had finished and the biblical rain had swept through, the Volvo Speed Sailing Challenge drew plenty of spectators off Cowes Green.
Pitching a sailboard, foiling moth, kitesurfer and Open 60 against each other to see who would be the fastest was a novel and intriguing idea.
Alex Thomson, who was the sailor least expected to win ahead of the race, nailed it taking the speed title and £1,000 for ‘Sported’ – the UK’s leading sporting legacy charity of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.
However it wasn’t easy for Alex, as he fought off strong competition from Olympic windsurfing medallist, Nick Dempsey and the Moth, raced by Olympic gold medallist, 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! Paul Goodison is officially a lunatic on the racecourse, was not giving even an inch of any boat, said Thomson. “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.”
The race was delayed due to the light wind, but the four guys finally got up and out 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. But, second placed Nick Dempsey on his windsurfer 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 reached 18 knots once up foiling “It was a great race, really good fun to be out there with all the other guys burning around at different speeds,” he sadi. “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 disappointing. 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!”