As the Admiral's Cup fleet set off on the fifth heat of the series yesterday, the short offshore race, it was the Australian team that were making the early running
As the Admiral’s Cup fleet set off on the fifth heat of the series yesterday, the short offshore race, it was the Australian team that were making the early running when they left the Solent, through the Hurst narrows, at the western end of the Isle of Wight.
The Australian boats Wild Oats and Aftershock, which represent the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club in Sydney, had clear leads in the big and small boat fleets respectively.
Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats led the charge down the Solent from the start off the Royal Yacht Squadron on the Cowes waterfront, zig-zagging her way using a huge masthead asymmetric spinnaker, and was out into the English Channel more than six minutes ahead of second placed Chernikeef 2.
Aftershock owned by Colin O’Neil, headed the small boat fleet, about one and a half minutes ahead of Spain’s Telefonica Movistar, with the rest closely bunched behind.
For the third day in a row, the Solent was blessed with a cloudless blue sky, and a lazy south easterly breeze of between 6 and 8 knots, with temperatures soaring, many of the crews were down to shorts as they sweated to squeeze the best performance from their boats.
With a strong outgoing tide under the fleet, they made good progress from the start to Hurst Narrows, near the famous Needles that mark the western end of the Isle of Wight.
The course takes the fleet west initially, to a mark off Poole in Dorset, before they turn and head up the English Channel in an easterly direction, going south of the Isle of Wight, to the Owers Light Buoy, off Brighton.
The course is variable, depending on the wind strength, with the big boats initially expected to do 182 nautical miles, while the small ones have a proposed course of 146 nautical miles.
The Australian team took a four-point lead into this double scoring race, having leapt into the lead after Sunday’s fourth race, when the Spanish boat Telefonica Movistar was disqualified from race three following by protest by the British boat Dickies Yacht Sales.
In second place are Britain’s Sailability Royal Ocean Racing Club team, which is led by Peter Harrison, who funded England’s recent America’s Cup challenge.