Following good Channel Race results GBR Red have won the 2004 Rolex Commodores' Cup

Irish and British teams have been waiting on tender hooks throughout the night for the definitive outcome of the 2004 Rolex Commodores’ Cup. This morning, following strong performances by all three of their boats in the Channel Race, the highly scoring finale of this regatta, GBR Red have been proclaimed the overall winners. Following the Channel Race, the Irish team, who have led this regatta throughout the week, dropped to third overall behind France Blue.

Despite their good time, Kit Hobday and Tim Louis’ Farr 52 Bear of Britain were beaten in class one in the Channel Race by the well-sailed Dutch Grand Soleil 44R Holmatro, skippered by Hans Horrevoets, who finished almost an hour ahead of the British boat on corrected time.


In class two Colm Barrington’s invincible Ker 39 Flying Glove once again showed her impressive form finishing first in class two by three and a half hours. Significant in class 2 for GBR Red was the result of Jerry Otter’s IMX40 Exabyte 2, with match racer Paul Campbell-James at the helm, who put in their most critical score of the regatta to finish second on corrected time.


The leaders in class three did not finish until this morning after their second night at sea. This saw a solid win on the water by GBR Red’s J/105 Jeronimo, skippered by Jonathan and Lisa Goring. She was knocked into second place on corrected time by a top result for Erwan Dubois’ tiny JPK 9.60, Guyader L’esprit de la Mer in France Blue. The Irish Ker 32 Calyx The Voice and Data People could only manage a seventh place.


While Ireland went into the Channel Race with a 44 point lead over GBR Red on 47.5, the British team scored 12 points to the Irish team’s 22 in this final race to take victory on 59.5 points to 66. This pushed the Irish team down to third overall behind the 2002 winning French team led by Gery Trentesaux on 65.


For the small boats the light winds and strong tides in the Channel Race proved highly challenging for the crews. “There were a lot of highs and lows and we didn’t believe until we crossed the finish line that we were going to win the race,” said Kevin Sproul, navigator on Jeronimo.


On two occasions the class three boats found themselves with no wind going backwards on the powerful spring tide. To prevent this the boats had to kedge, throwing out an anchor into water often as deep as 50m to stop themselves being washed back up the course.


The first occasion was as they were rounding the RORC mark, the most south-westerly corner of the course. “We got to within half a mile of the mark and just missed the tidal gate,” recounted Sproul. “We started going backwards and we ended up there for about five hours. We had Fair Do’s VI and one other boat in our fleet around us and I was really worried that something had happened in the night and we’d lost it.” Fortunately after the wind had filled in, effectively restarting their race, they discovered the Irish competition, Eamon Crosbie’s Calyx The Voice and Data People, had rounded the RORC mark an hour astern of them.


Sproul believes they made their biggest gain sailing along the coast off Swanage Bay en route to the Needles Fairway buoy. “That was our big tactical gain in the race, otherwise it was just a war of attrition – keep going and never give up,” he said. Jeronimo overtook John Shepherd’s Fair Do’s VI, the most successful class 3 boat of the week, just before they rounded the Ocean Safety mark for the second time. Here they were becalmed again, but on this occasion only for an hour before the wind picked up and they were able to round up and make for the finish line.


“We had a good plan before the start as a team and as it happens we ended up doing what we set out to do,” summed up Sproul. “We knew the boat is fast offshore, we knew that Bear was dependent upon getting the tidal gates right, and the tricky one was the IMX40 and they pulled out all the stops and did brilliantly. So as a team it worked out really well.”