A second helping of superb racing conditions and a race defined by seconds at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week 2013

With all four of the crew squeezed into the aft corner of our J70 we were launched on the downwind legs as the bows came up and the spray parted on either side as we accelerated well into double figures. Apart from struggling to get onto the pace for our first day’s racing aboard the new J pocket rocket, there was little to complain about when it came to the thrill of the downhill sleigh rides.

The J70 class has taken the USA by storm and has proved hugely popular. The first event at Key West earlier in the year saw a fleet of 40 boats and was the talk of the town. The same looks likely to happen over here too. While the fleet size at Cowes is just seven boats, it is still early days. UK dealer Paul Heys, who I was sailing with, tells me that the French builders of the boat are now producing 20 a month to keep up with demand.

It’s easy to see the appeal of this small sportsboat, especially for those who prefer more of a small yacht than a big dinghy and feel more comfortable with guardwires rather than toe straps. We sailed with a crew of four but several in the fleet were comfortable with a crew of three. In around 15-17 knots of breeze we were sitting comfortably on the plane at 12 knots. Gybes were pretty straightforward and the sheet loads are generally manageable. But there is a catch.

Good boats attract good sailors and if the stretch between the front and the back of our modest fleet was anything to go by, it is clear that while this is a simple boat to sail, it’s a tricky boat to sail well. Crewed by some seriously good sailors at the front of the fleet, the datum has been marked already.

At the other end of the racing scale, the battle of the TP52s in IRC One came down to just two seconds today as Sir Keith Mills Five Degrees West pipped Johnny Vincent’s Pace by just two seconds.

“We had a very comfortable lead until the last run where frankly we had a shocker on our last gybe. We just sat in a hole for 20-30 seconds. Then we had to put in a couple of extra gybes coming up to the finish line so it could have gone two seconds either way. It was a really exciting race and a testing course with short downwind legs, so the guys were flat out.”

Vincent had another explanation.

“I had a bout of hay fever and had a sneezing fit which cost us that two seconds,” he joked in the bar afterwards.

And talking of the bar, this evening’s popular topic of conversation was who will win in tomorrow’s (Monday’s) Volvo Sailing Speed Challenge between Paul Goodison’s foiling Moth, Nick Dempsey’s windsurfer, Sam Lutman-Pauc’s kite surfer and Alex Thompson’s Open 60 Hugo Boss.

My money was split between Goodison and Dempsey until I bumped into them this evening. Although Goodison had overtaken the 100ft ICAP Leopard upwind on his Moth he had broken his kicker rendering the boat unsailable and had to be towed in.

Dempsey managed to break his mast while practicing and was left floating on his board as he drifted down the western Solent. Having asked a passing boat if they could call someone up on their VHF he was told ‘no, they were racing’ – nice. Eventually someone did offer a hand and towed him back.

So with plenty of breeze in the forecast for tomorrow, both sailors were far less certain of victory in this charity race off Cowes Green. The contest kicks off at 17.00 with live footage streamed on all three event screens located on Cowes Parade, Cowes Yacht Haven and Shepards Wharf Marina, there will also be live commentary from Steve Ancsell and Shirley on Cowes Radio.

You can also watch the race live at 17.00 BST on volvocars.co.uk/sailing

Here’s the official report of Day 2 at Cowes:

Day 2 Round-up at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week 2013

A good dose of sun and wind that slowly built in strength from 8-12 knots for the early starts to gusts of more than 20 knots during the early afternoon gave more great racing for Family Day at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week 2013. The breeze was very shifty, with the mean direction varying through more than 30 degrees and big lulls that saw the wind speed drop by more than 50 per cent between the gusts.

This both challenged competitors, who had to constantly change gear to keep their boats moving at optimum pace, and gave the course setting teams a challenging morning to provide fleets with the best chance of decent upwind legs, despite the changing conditions. By the time the early Black Group yachts were finishing, the wind had built to give large gusts off the shore, treating competitors to quick spurts of downwind speed and spectators to a number of classic broaches and near misses as boats lost control.

Among the mishaps today were son and father team Rupert and John Mander, who have consistently won the two-person Flying 15 class in Men Behaving Badly for many more years than most can remember. During today’s race John fell out of the front of the boat – Rupert turned round and rescued his Dad without losing too much time, but the duo had to settle for an uncharacteristic second place, 28 seconds behind Nick Clarke’s Black.

Close competition in Black Group

Yesterday the 25 entries in the J/109 class proved that competition between these boats remains very close, with an average of just 43 seconds separating each of the first 17 boats. Today the class was all clear at the start, despite an ebb tide sweeping them over the line. Starting towards the northern end of the line William Edwards’ Sardonyx lX initially appeared to be best placed and benefited from clean air. However, it was the boats that started at the Island end of the line that gained the overall advantage.

By the finish it was Jonathan Calascione and Jonnie Goodwin’s Harlequin, last year’s class and Black Group overall winner that took the win, after another closely-contested race. Tor Mclaren’s Inspara finished second, just 16 seconds later, with Ross Walker’s Juno taking third another 42 seconds after that. There was also tight competition further down the fleet – at the end of the three and a half hour race little more than two minutes separated the eight boats in places 8 to 15.

This year the Contessa 32 class has a slightly larger fleet than for some time, with a number of boats returning to the race course for the first time in several years. Today, yesterday’s winner Ray Rouse’s Blanco, led them away from the start. However he was overtaken by Eldred Himsworth’s Drumbeat, which finished a shade over two and a half minutes ahead of Rouse.

The next start on the Bramble line was for IRC Class 6, which saw two boats over the line at the gun. One of these was the largest boat in the fleet, David Glasgow and The Earl of Cork and Orrery’s classic varnished International 8 Metre Athena, which swiftly tacked onto port in a gap between boats after the gun to return to restart from the correct side of the line. One of the lowest-rated boats in the class, Rory Fitzwilliams’ 37 year old Three-Quarter Tonner Simplicity had another good start, but was unable to save her time on line honours winner, Bob and Jon Baker’s X332 Brightwork, or Justin Leese and Mark Brown’s Figaro 1 Black Diamond, who respectively took first and second overall on corrected time.

White Group

The J/80 fleet was much more cautious at the start than the Darings had been 10 minutes earlier. At the gun Chris Body’s Swallow and Mark Greenaway’s Peloton looked best placed at the outer end of the line. However, long-standing Cowes Week competitor Colin Simonds’ Doolalli, who sails with different family members every day, started further inshore, tacking on the line just before the gun. He was soon passing the leaders to windward, pointing higher and appearing to sail faster than the competition through the gusts, holes and shifts off the Green, as the fleet made its way upwind to the first mark. Simonds’ early lead helped him secure his second second place in two days, but yesterday’s winner, Chris Taylor’s J.A.T., finished almost four minutes ahead to take another win.

The Dragon class started closer to the line than the J/80 fleet, with most boats approaching on starboard, before tacking immediately onto port. Graham Bailey’s Aimee was best placed towards the inshore end of the line and in clean air, getting away quickly from Chris Brittain’s The Old Bailey on her leeward quarter. Simon Barter’s Bertie, a newcomer to the Cowes fleet this year, having previously raced a very successful Sonar of the same name, was sailing higher and faster than Brittain and pulled into second place just three minutes after the start.

When a lull combined with a 25 degree unfavourable windshift slowed Aimee, it looked as though she would lose her early advantage, however, her crew changed gear with perfect coordination in the next lifting gust and pulled comfortably ahead again. At the finish of the two-and-a-half hour race Aimee crossed the line 52 seconds ahead of Gavia Wilkinson-Cox’s Jerboa, to take a second consecutive win.

In the RS Elite class Martin Wadham’s Kiss looked best placed of the boats at the offshore end of the line. However, it was Jono Brown’s Aeolus, tacking onto port in the middle of the line at the gun that initially appeared to hold the advantage over the fleet as they negotiated the many puffs, lulls and windshifts off the Green. Yesterday’s winner, Crauford McKeon’s Kandoo lll, just to leeward of Aeolus, managed to keep pace and only fractionally lost height despite her relatively disadvantaged position. Kandoo lll continued to push hard around the 15.8 mile course, finishing more than a minute ahead of Wadhams, who took second place and Jonathon Proctor’s Wombat in third.

Sport for all in the Sonar class

The 13 boats in the Sonar class this year has a wide mix of competitors, including the Paralympic Girls Team of Hannah Stodel, Megan Pascoe, Carol Dugdale, Bella Walsh and Megan Harris and Spare Part, a boat crewed by former soldiers undergoing rehabilitation, including a triple amputee and two double above the knee amputees who have been training with the support of RYA Sailability and the Andrew Cassell Foundation.

In today’s race Alistair Barter (son of Simon, who is racing his new Dragon this week) and Ed Suckling’s Bertie was best placed of the boats that started towards the outer end of the line. David Peerless’ Miscreant, one of the nine Sonars available for charter from the Island Sailing Club, started mid line. For the first couple of minutes she trailed the pack a little, but was then first to hook into a favourable windshift, gaining a useful advantage over the rest of the fleet.

However, by the finish it was Andy Cassell’s (who won the gold medal in the class at the 1996 Paralympic sailing demonstration event) Jenny that crossed the line first, 80 seconds ahead of Barter and Suckling, who are themselves starting a Paralympic campaign, and took second place today. The Paralympic Girls Team took third, pushing Peerless into fourth place, just nine seconds ahead of Rosy Jones, who was sailing another ISC boat, Biscuit.

Spare Part took eighth place today, narrowly missing out on a much better position after breaking a jib halyard block. “The team had a fantastic race and the course was really good,” says RYA Paralympic Development Coach Matt Grier, who was on board for today’s race. “It’s still early days for the team – they are only part way through rehab – and it was Craig Wood’s [a triple amputee] first experience of helming with the spinnaker up.”

Video highlights of today’s racing