The third day's racing is over and here are the results so far

This morning yachts short-tacked up the Green, fighting for favourable tide and clear air after their starts on a day that saw gusts above 25 knots as rain clouds brought increased pressure from the south-west. Tales of wild broaches, prolonged surfs, broken masts, near sinkings and man overboard incidents dominated the bar talk throughout the evening as the gusty conditions proved to be a real test of boat handling ability across the 935 competing yachts.

After yesterday’s abandonment for the 89-strong Laser SB3’s, it was an early 10.05am start for this, the biggest fleet at Skandia Cowes Week as the race officers hammered out a compromise solution to ensure that not only could the hard-charging fleet get away but that any general recalls would not disrupt the schedule for the rest of the inshore fleets.

Somewhat surprisingly, when the Royal Yacht Squadron canon fired for the SB3 start there were cheers from the platform as every boat got away cleanly for a 14.74 nautical mile course around the central Solent. As squalls filtered down the racetrack, the SB3’s showed just why they are such a popular class as they flew downwind on the mainland shore under asymmetrical spinnakers, pumping huge spray and hitting impressive surfing speeds. From the start it was clear that a gaggle of four boats would dominate the race with Jono and Ben Shelley’s Price Waterhouse Coopers vying for the front with Russell Peters aboard Selden Seen. Volvo Race CEO Glenn Bourke was in the hunt just behind aboard Musto with Tim Peters pushing hard in Henri Lloyd but today belonged to the Shelley brothers who showed some impressive downwind speed to hold out from the fast finishing Russell Peters to take a brilliant 1 minute 24 second victory. Tim Peters claimed third spot to relegate Bourke down to an uncharacteristic fourth place and there were certainly some aching limbs across the fleet after a thoroughly enjoyable day on the water.

Another asymmetric fleet that revelled in the breezy conditions was the 13-strong 1720’s who powered around a series of legs in the Hill Head area of the racecourse with James Flynn’s Crescendo proving too hot to handle as they cruised to a 1 minute 49 second win from James Clay’s Finn M’Coul. In the International Etchells fleet, there was no stopping Graham Bailey again today who recovered from a mid-fleet start in Arbitrator to steal a hard won 1 minute 17 second race win and cement their place at the top of the leader board. Neil Payne brought Selection Box home in second place in the Etchells just ahead of Doug Flynn’s Wobbegong after two and a half hours of superb Solent racing. Milo Carver’s Dauntless meanwhile was humbled in the Daring fleet after two opening race wins as the Balme, Stride, Winton, Collins and Harckham owned Dynamite shaded a very close 27 second race win from James Axtell’s Dionysus.

For the majority of the International Flying Fifteen fleet it was a tough day at the office as they were caught very line shy by the fast running flood tide. However, the familiar faces of Rupert and John Mander in Men Behaving Badly took full advantage of the fleet’s slow starting to streak into a massive early lead, never to be headed, as they cruised to a comfortable 4 minute 24 second bullet that leaves them clear at the top of the leader board with a perfect three race wins. The Mander’s will be pushing hard to claim the overall White Group crown which this year has the added incentive of a chic Corum Admiral’s Cup watch courtesy of the sponsors! Another fleet that had a very tough race today were the International Dragons who dusted off the excesses of the previous night’s class dinner at the Royal Corinthian YC with a 16.37 nautical mile course that tested boat handling to the extreme. Len Jones on Rumours was, once again, a cut above the rest as he stretched out to a 1 minute 29 second victory from Chris Brittain’s Caramba to score his second win of the regatta. In the Hunter 707’s, Russell Mead’s The Ant Hill Mob got away to a very clean start with Peter Dickson’s Star Born 3 and snatched the race win by just 20 seconds in the dying throes of the race – terrific racing in this somewhat depleted fleet that has seen many of the traditional class stalwarts migrate to the Laser SB3 fleet.

In the combined start of the RS-K6 and RS-Elite fleets it was a heart-breaking day of sailing for Charles Nicholson’s who led the Elite fleet home by nearly three minutes only to discover once shoreside that they had been adjudged OCS. The big beneficiary was Alistair Keck’s Eloise who comfortably held off Mike Tong’s Ciao Bella to claim an unexpected race win. Meanwhile in the RS-K6 fleet Glyn Locke guided Artigiano to another commanding victory, this time recording a thumping 7 minute delta on the rest of the fleet. The Sonar’s too saw a familiar name top the leader board with Simon Barter’s fast starting Bertie getting out of the blocks cleanly to lead Duncan Bates’ Asbo! home by a shade over two minutes. In the beautiful 12-strong National Swallow fleet that has seen a new winner every day, it was the turn of Chris Creak’s Blue Phantom to top the pile from Harry Roome’s evergreen Skua that pushed hard to the finish line but fell short by a narrow 32 seconds. At the other end of the spectrum, the dynamic Sportsboat fleet saw a desperately tight battle for supremacy between the two leading J-80’s of Liz Savage’s Savage Sailing and Robert Napier’s Jura. Just 2 seconds separated the yachts in Savage’s favour after nearly two and a half hours of racing whilst Philip Williams secured third spot just 44 seconds behind Jura.

In the offshore Black Group fleets starting from the outer Squadron line it was a day of long beats against the tide that favoured the longer waterline displacement yachts down the various handicap fleets. This was proven beyond doubt in Class 4 IRC where Harry Evans skippered Alvine Jacobite to a big win on the water and over 6 minutes on corrected time as she powered away from the fleet leaving Rory Fitzwilliam’s Symmetry to bring the rest home ahead of Jim McGregor’s Flair IV. In Class 3 IRC, Peter Jackson’s Assassin took advantage of an early lead off the start line at the newly moved Alpha buoy to stretch into a massive lead that converted into an even bigger corrected time victory of 26 minutes whilst in Class 2 IRC it was David Dwyer’s Mills 39 that edged out yesterday’s winner Adam Gosling in Yes! with Stewart Hawthorn’s Jump pushing hard all day but settling for third spot after an exhilarating afternoon’s racing. Familiar faces dominated Class 1 IRC once again as Professor John Shepherd’s Fair Do’s VII, Glynn Williams’s Wisc and Nick Haigh’s Dark and Steamy fought an interesting handicap battle. Fair Do’s VII shaded the victory by 39 seconds after four hours of racing to score the win and extend their lead at the top with three perfect scores from the first three days of racing. Meanwhile at the top of Class 6 IRC a real battle is ensuing between Mike Tattersall’s X99 Electra and Ian Braham’s MG346 Dean & Dyball Enigma. Today, on the committee boat start line off Hill Head, it was Electra that returned to their winning form of the opening day and scooped the IRC Bones Trophy (!) by a little over 2 minutes from Dean & Dyball Enigma to seize control in the overall standings. However the talking point shoreside centred around a protest between the two yachts that could see the result overturned and will certainly have an effect on the final standings – for sure, it will be a long evening in the protest room?

For the Class Zero fleet, the course setters of the Royal London YC sent them on a long 35 mile course in the western Solent encompassing the Needles Fairway buoy and once again it was Volvo Race winner ABN Amro One that streaked away from the fleet after a very conservative start. ABN quickly got up to speed and blitzed the course, flying around the Solent at speeds touching 25 knots and crossed the finish line some 48 minutes ahead of Charles Dunstone’s TP52 Red. The eventual corrected time victory for ABN Amro One was just shy of 13 minutes although a discrepancy regarding a navigational mark could see ABN penalised by the race committee who could either disqualify the yacht or impose a time penalty. Whatever the outcome of the protest, which will be heard this evening, the awesome spectacle of this super-charged Volvo 70 tearing around the Solent with a team of superstar sailors on board is certainly one of the sights of Skandia Cowes Week 2006 providing plenty of shoreside gossip for both the competitors and spectators alike.

In Class 7 IRC, Jamie McWilliam scored another race win aboard his quarter-ton Espada Wanchai Belle by edging out Solent legend Edward Donald in his immaculate Folkboat, Madelaine. It was the same story in Class 8 ISC with Tony Wyeth just a click faster than the fleet on corrected time as he guided Ocean Venture to yet another race win whilst in the Contessa 32 fleet, that started off the committee boat line, it was class stalwart Eldred Himsworth who upset the apple cart today with a win from Kay Carpenter’s Polar Star. Stephen and Anthony Weekes from Cowes had a great day in Class 5 IRC sailing the Dufour 34 Sir Jasper III to a convincing corrected time win over Harry Heijst’s Winsome. The highly competitive J-109 class, fresh from a hard fought Cork Week, had an exhilarating afternoon’s racing with Mike Ewart-Smith’s Zelda taking the winners gun from the all-conquering King Louie of Fiona and Malcolm Thorpe.

For the rest of the inshore White Group fleet it was a tough end to the day as the gusts topped out just shy of 30 knots with white horses meaning a busy day of pumping out and bailing for the smaller boats as they struggled with the conditions. The 73-strong XOD fleet saw some new names on the podium with Tom Cryan and Keith Bridgeman’s Sirius scoring a popular race win whilst in the Victory fleet, John Tremlett made it three races out of three sailing Jeremy Lear’s Zinnia to a commanding 2 minute 47 second victory. The Solent Sunbeams had an eventful race with the Glaister, Pople, Timberlake owned Emily just holding off Cdr Ford’s Melody to secure a 33 second race win whilst in the Seaview Mermaid’s it was J Sandiford- Haigh who took today’s chocolates from the Baines family aboard Sheen.

Across the fleets there were several tales of heroics but one particular rescue that was heard live on air concerned renowned yachting commentator Dick Johnson who was broadcasting for the regatta’s official radio station – Cowes Radio 87.7 – when he observed a man overboard incident in the Sigma 33 fleet. The dashing Dick, replete with a blue moustache in the spirit of this, the charity day of Skandia Cowes Week, rushed to the scene and plucked the crew member of Cerefe from the water without breaking his commentary and returned the bedraggled sailor back to the yacht?we suspect the usual payment of a large rum or two will be finding its way to Dick this evening from a very grateful crew!

This evening, just off the Green the Stars of Sailing will be racing with a healthy smattering of Olympic and world-class sailors whilst all eyes tomorrow will be on the three Extreme 40’s who are challenging the round the island elapsed time record. The Oscar-wining actor Jeremy Irons will be a crew member aboard Team Conrad Humphreys Racing along with his son Max, and they can expect a super-charged trip aboard these slippery catamarans that provided such a fantastic spectacle during the stop-overs in the Volvo Ocean Race.