For two of the protagonists there's almost been as much action off the water as on, but it all finally got settled in time for the final presentations at Skandia Life Cowes Week this evening.
Class 0 has finished in the kind of controversial way that you might just expect when Messrs Hobday and Harrison are involved, as indeed they both were in a lengthy protest meeting this evening following a first leg dust-up between Chernikeeff 2 and Bear of Britain in yesterday’s race and a disputed OCR for Bear that brought Team Tonic into the mix. What price tickets for that closed meeting?
The outcome of the protest had little bearing on Peter Harrison’s week, which has yo-yoed between third and 12th, with an OCS for a finale. But Hobday’s Bear, with Mark Campbell-James back at the helm again after a day off yesterday, was in close contention with Nick Hewson’s Team Tonic (racing as Skandia Contribution) and the protest could have meant something in the overall first and second standings between the pair of Farr 52s, depending on results today.
Then it all seemed immaterial at the start of today’s race when the Bear was called over the start line (OCS) by race officers; a decent placing would automatically hand the title to Tonic, which duly started off the right way by getting away cleanly. But after the finish, the Bear sought redress and got it.
As soon as he got ashore, Tonic’s navigator Pete Selby told us, “unfortunately we thought we’d won today because Bear of Britain was deemed OCS, but they’ve been reinstated. They obviously went to the race committee and challenged their OCS call which one is allowed to do under the regulations. We’ve since lodged a protest because we think they were over. We’ve reviewed the video ourselves and we think it clearly shows them over. It now goes to the protest committee and is totally in their hands. If Bear of Britain gets reinstated, they get a first, we we get a third and we’re then equal on points. Then it goes to a countback on the week and they win because but they have two firsts to our one.”
Ruefully Selby said, “we made several major mistakes today; we held Bear in a good position, kept them back for a lot of the race and then let them get away, so if we’ve lost it’s only our fault.”
Fortunately for Selby and his fellow crewmembers, the evening was to have a happy ending. After well over two hours with the protest committee the news came out. Firstly, that Chernikeeff 2 had not had her protest from yesterday upheld and in fact, had managed to get disqualified along the way. Secondly that Bear had been reconfirmed as OCS, giving the Swan 70 Serano, racing as Volvo for Life with Ben Ainslie on the helm, her third first of the week and a fourth overall in IRC behind the Mills 50 Mandrake. And more critically for the overall Class 0 titles, it confirmed Team Tonic with first placings against Bear in IRC and the IC 45 Wolf run by Glynn Williams and Kevin Sproul in IRM. Class 1, in contrast, managed to keep the action on the water. Charles Dunstone’s Corby 41.5 Carphone Warehouse capped a fine week with another first to place fourth overall in Black Group and take a Class 1 IRC win by six points from the Swan 45 McFly. Douglas and Lynne Flynn’s Beneteau 47.7 was third.
Matthew Lees, pitman onboard Carphone Warehouse said, “it’s been really great sailing and because the boat tends to perform better in light winds, we’ve had the weather on our side this week and we didn’t have much bad luck. The boat’s placing has also proved that the new keel we had put on last winter has certainly improved her all-round performance. We came close to winning last year, when the boat was known as Nokia, so we’re really pleased that, as a team, we’ve finally won Cowes Week after four years of trying.”
Right back in ninth in the same class was the Corby 41 Independent Bear, after a seventh today, her joint-highest placing in the regatta. But there were valid reasons for her result.
“This week has been quite interesting because we’ve had 10 different corporate guests from the financial arm of Zurich every day,” helmsman Pete Newlands explained, “and most of them have been totally new to sailing. We’ve given them a baptism of fire. My aim during the week was to not swear or shout. We got rammed by a Bull this morning and I did shout then, but I don’t think I swore! Apart from that we’ve had a great week – we felt we were getting good starts and some good first beats, but we then suffered because we’d only just taught people, 10 minutes ago, how to do things. I think the crew all enjoyed it though.
Pete reflected the comments of many amongst post-race beer tent scrum afterwards when he told us, “we’ve really enjoyed the week – it’s been really good fun.”
Class I IRM went to Rob Goddard’s Farr 40 Farrfalina, a result that has also stealthily pushed her into second behind Team Tonic in the overall IRM standings, all thanks to a string of consistent results.