Strong southeasterly breeze intensified during the day to produce outstanding sailing conditions

With big breeze and brilliant sunshine, Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week got off to a spectacular start today. A strong southeasterly breeze, which intensified during the day, produced outstanding sailing conditions for close to 800 yachts. In terms of the number of entries, Cowes Week is by far the largest sailing regatta in the world and there is a party atmosphere brewing up ashore fanned by some of the hot racing out on the water.
The big boat class in the Black Group cut loose in the Eastern Solent with 20 knots of breeze gusting over 25 knots. The two TP52s Pace (pictured above) and Powerplay were fully lit up but first blood went to Peter Cunningham’s Powerplay. The two powerful yachts were locked in a duel in the prestart but a main sail issue shortly after the start put pay to Pace’s realistic challenge of winning the first race of the regatta.
“We managed to fix the damage to the head of the mainsail but it probably cost us the race,” commented Pace‘s tactician Jeremy Robinson. “The wind speed was a bit up and down but there wasn’t a major shift to play with and in the end it all came down to boat speed. The early problem put us behind and we never really had any options to make it up.”
“Great sailing but very wet especially downwind,” said Simon Fry, principle trimmer with Powerplay. “With a forehatch hoist we were shipping 500 litres of water down below, which means a lot of bailing but an excellent day on the water with boat speeds in excess of 20 knots; that was Cowes Week at its very best.”
Nigel Passmore’s Ker 40 Apollo took the gun in IRC 1 ahead of fellow Ker 40 Peninsula Signal 8. “It was my birthday yesterday but it looks like the party will have to continue!” Laughed Passmore. “We led right from the start, it was a great effort by all of the team and a cracking start to the regatta. I am proud to say that just about all the lads come from Plymouth and we love coming up for Cowes Week.”

The White Group was set a more sheltered race area in the Western Solent. However with the breeze flicking towards the south, strong gusts emanated from the island, especially from the Medina River, causing a few thrills and spills. In the Etchells Class James Howells’ Gelert (pictured above) won the first rubber by a handsome margin but it was far from an easy win as Howells explains:

“That was a real work out, racing an Etchells for three hours in over 20 knots is physically demanding. Also it was quite refreshing to race around the cans, we normally just race windward leeward and it brought a new dimension to the action. As usual there was some very close battles going on but I have to say the last downwind leg was the decisive part of today’s race.

“David Bedford called the tactics spot on by getting a good angle into the last bottom mark, which meant no- gybe. The breeze had really piped up by that stage and we kept the sails above the boat as our rivals were broaching out behind us.”
After a day of classic Cowes Week weather, the town is bracing itself for the social activities of eight thousand or so sailors. After today’s champagne conditions, it looks like there will be less wind tomorrow and if the forecast southerly direction is correct, it could be a shifty day on the water with more tactically challenging conditions.