Perfect conditions for the opening day of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week 2013
Bright sunshine, 20 knots of breeze and neap tides, you simply couldn’t ask for a better opening to Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week 2013.
For the big IRC classes the racing kicked off with a committee boat start out towards the eastern end of the Solent, a strange choice perhaps, but one that allowed the IRC classes to stretch their legs for three hours or so of predominantly windward/leeward legs.
Sailing aboard Richard Matthews’ Oystercatcher XXX, a brand new, Judel/Vrolijk 42 built by Hakes Marine in China, the day out also represented the first competitive race for the boat. Lining up against a fleet of other 40 footers, but with a handicap that suggested we should be out of sight and over the horizon if we were to score a decent result, was always going to be a big ask. Instead we were happy to come away with a boat that was in the same number of parts as we started with and with some sizzling, effortless downwind sleigh rides to boast about in the bar. Sitting pretty at 17 knots on the downwind legs is a good feeling in any boat and Oystercatcher XXX was no exception.
Elsewhere the tales were of similarly exciting days, whatever the downwind speeds. Sure there were a few slip ups, among them the sportsboat that managed to invert itself and a crew member who slipped overboard from a day boat, but there were no major dramas. All in all a perfect day’s racing.
Here’s the official report:
A gusty and reassuringly warm south-westerly airflow averaging 16-22 knots, provided a perfect day of racing on the opening day of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, with the wind against tide conditions giving lively downwind sailing on predominately windward-leeward courses.
The first starts, heading east against a building ebb tide, were for the J/70 and SB20 classes, both of which completed two races today, marking a significant break with the event’s long-standing traditions.
In the J/70 class, Jack Davies’ Jugador was enthusiastic in approaching the line, crossing it 50 seconds before the start, but returning to the correct side with time in hand. At the gun Ruairidh Scott’s North Sails led the fleet at the outer end of line, half a length ahead of the pack. The bulk of the fleet gybed offshore as soon as possible, although a couple of boats – Simon Ling’s RAFBF Spitfire and Ian Atkin’s Boats.com among them – stayed inshore for longer. Before long the fleet was therefore split laterally across the course as they sped downwind.
Once they reached the long layline leading into the first mark, an inflatable buoy near Hill Head, Scott was ahead by a good margin. However, Django, sailed by Malcolm Jaques, Tristan Jaques, Naomi Rowbotham and Nix Brook, crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of Scott, in a nail-biting finish that saw Atkins take third place just 13 seconds later. Scott took the second race by a margin of over two minutes to lead overall, two points ahead of the Jaques family at the end of the first day, with Ling a further two points behind in third overall.
The next start, for the SB20 class, saw an impossibly large bunch of boats approaching the outer limit buoy from offshore on starboard tack. With many running out of space, several crossed the line prematurely, although all but one was able to quickly re-round the pin and start correctly.
For the rest of the fleet it was an incredibly close start from which it was impossible to pick a clear early leader. At one stage Tich Summers’ Chill Pill Plus and Phil Plumtree’s PP Projects, who both managed to get into clean air to leeward of the main pack, appeared to be well placed. However, by the time they crossed gybes it was Tim Saxton’s Slam, Jerry Hill’s Sportsboatworld.com, and Paralympic gold medallist Helena Lucas’s Volvo that took an early lead.
By the finish of the 75-minute race Joe Llewellyn’s Henri Lloyd/Forell held a 52 second advantage over Hill, with Saxton in third place more than a minute later. In the second race Hill was first to finish, almost two minutes ahead of Llewellyn, with Saxton taking another third place.
A different approach
The Etchells fleet opted for a different strategy to the SB20s at the start of their closely-fought race. The bulk of the fleet stayed well to the west of the line, with all but one boat holding well back until less than 20 seconds before the gun. Rob Elliott’s Esprit was first to hoist the spinnaker, but crossed four seconds early – an expensive mistake, especially as she did not return following the recall. Andrew and Donna Cooper’s Ice looked well placed a few minutes after the start, followed by Elvis, skippered by Tim Daughton, with both boats on a tight spinnaker reach towards West Ryde Middle buoy.
By the finish it was Mark Downer’s Moonlight, who stayed further offshore after the start, trading a tidal disadvantage for a steadier wind, who came out on top, finishing 23 seconds ahead of Esprit. With the latter scored OCS, Rob Goddard’s Stampede took second place, crossing the line 45 seconds after Moonlight, and Shaun Frolich’s Exabyte V third. It was a close race, with the first half of the fleet finishing in little more than three minutes.
On a morning that saw many boats over the line at the start, but few responding to the recall signal, the J/80 class was more cautious than most. The first boat, Johanna Asplund, Meg Backhouse, Jamie Diamond and Kieren Hill’s Rascal, didn’t cross the line until 10 seconds after the start gun, and the second, Colin Simonds and family’s Doolalli, was a further 15 seconds back. Almost two and a half hours later it was Chris Taylor’s J.A.T. that finished first, followed by Doolalli and then Rascal.
Not long after 1400 there was a rapid string of Black Group yachts finishing close to shore and under spinnaker on the RYS line. One of the highest-rated boats in IRC Class 4, Adam Gosling’s newly refurbished 18-year-old Corby 36 Yes!, took line honours in that class. However, the lowest-rated boat in the fleet, last year’s overall class winner, David Franks’ Strait Dealer, finished less than 10 minutes later to win by a margin of just 18 seconds on corrected time.
“The stronger winds were ideal for us today and, as the smallest boat in a big class, we were very pleased with the result – you always struggle to find clean air and have fewer tactical choices than the faster boats,” said campaign manager and mainsheet trimmer Graham Sunderland.
The Sigma 33 class proved once again that this 34-year-old one design cruiser-racer is capable of providing extremely close competition. After almost three hours of racing, Jeff Worboys’ Workout crossed the line just eight seconds ahead of Richard Puddifoot’s Whippa Snappa, with T Claridge and J Fox’s Excelle taking third place a shade over two minutes later.
Video highlights of today’s racing