Pendennis saves the best until last
- Sat, 7 Jul 2012
As luck would have it the fourth and final race of the Pendennis Cup avoided the record breaking rainfall which overnight doused revellers in Falmouth. By the time the fleet reached the startline the following morning it had all cleared away east.
Nonetheless a leaden sky and what appeared at first to be a dying breeze didn't look that promising. Peter Craig and the race committee put their faith in reports that the breeze would fill in from the NNW and got both fleets away on time. Everyone was rewarded with a day which improved by the minute and ended in sparkling sunshine and a solid breeze.
The final race would be a real decider for the two main fleets, Unfurled and Mariette slugging it out for the Pendennis Cup and Mikado and Firebrand locked in battle at the top of the Little Dennis Cup.
For the first time in the regatta I was observing from a press boat and while the big yachts were hard to take one's eyes off, I kept on glancing at Firebrand, aboard which I had been sailing for a couple of days, to see how they were faring against Mikado.
Unfurled hit the start line almost perfectly while Mariette, it has to be said, was relatively late. The former made mincemeat of the beat and while Mariette went out to the left to avoid the worst of the tide, she was clearly going to have trouble holding onto Unfurled's coat tails.
It was all going fairly predictably until just after the yachts rounded the top mark for the second time. Unfurled was already improving on her horizon job while we concentrated on photographing Mariette and others against an unusually colourful Cornish landscape. But come the next mark Unfurled had somehow lost two places to Adela and the impressively quick Breakaway. We'd picked up VHF traffic from Mariette questioning whether the course had been changed but then it dawned on us that in fact Unfurled had made a ghastly course error, sailed past the correct turning mark and carried on into oblivion.
All navigators know that gut wrenching feeling when they look over their shoulder and see the entire chasing pack peeling off to another mark. Unfurled had no option but to return, round and carry on, her chances of victory snuffed out barring accidents. Mariette duly took the honours. How this error came about has yet to be revealed to me in details - will it ever? - but there was a suggestion that the letters P and R (denoting turning mark names) may have been confused and there was possibly too much reliance was being put on ‘black boxes' and not enough on the Mark 1 eyeball.
The order in Class 3 for the Little Dennis Cup saw Tomahawk with her somewhat tired sails trying to prevail over the heavily armed (in terms of sails) Firebrand which John Boyce, Adam Ostenfeld and crew brought home in very fine style benefiting from two longish beats in which she revelled. It was enough to win them the class.
The plucky 6-Metre Mikado just didn't have the upwind grunt to prevail and enjoyed a tussle with the 8 Metre Pinuccia instead.
This regatta somehow managed to avoid the worst of the outrageous ‘summer' weather although Cornwall certainly wasn't at it summery best. The pluses were excellent organisation, a marvellous camaraderie, a race course second to none for both sailors and spectators and, in Falmouth, a great venue whose facilities have come on leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. Peter Craig and the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club were right on the button too and there was a very pleasant, down to earth atmosphere about the whole thing.
Crews from both the J Class and the superyacht fraternity seemed to thoroughly enjoy the combination. "When you go to some Mediterranean regattas and you only get one decent day's sailing out of four you really do start to look at the options - Falmouth is certainly one," said a leading sailor. And this week's sailing proved that point.