GBR White loses ground on France Bleu despite Fair Do's best efforts 29/6/06

Yesterday’s Rolex Commodores’ Cup short passage/coastal race, taking the boats east from Cowes down to the Solent to the Nab Tower around several marks of the eastern end of the Isle of Wight and back took 9-12 hours. Fortunately despite a forecast of a light day with no more than 8 knots of breeze, crews were greeted with a solid 15 knots, piping up to 18 knots late morning before it died off in the afternoon.

The 39 boats set sail in a mass start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, with those heading across to the Solent’s north shore gaining a considerable advantage here from the tide and stronger breeze.

Colm Barrington’s Ker 50 Magic Glove sailing in Ireland Orange gained the lead on the water at this point and led the boats between the famous eastern Solent forts towards the Nab Tower. On the complex course between the Nab Tower and the eastern end of the Isle of Wight, Magic Glove typically gained on the upwind legs but lost out on the reaches. They lost their lead to the Farr 52 Chernikeef II after they were late to pick up a course change, designed to extend the duration of the race in the fresh conditions, and then over subsequent legs the two boats traded places frequently before the higher rating Bear of Britain pulled into the lead just prior to the leaders’ final return back to the forts and up the Solent on to the finish. While Bear won the race on the water, the day saw a resounding win on handicap for the silver Irish flagship, Magic Glove winning with a corrected time of 10:35:16 to the second placed boat’s 10:43:30.

“We had a really good tussle with the Farr 52s throughout today: we passed them and they passed us, so that kept us on our toes, so as a racing day it was super,” commented Magic Glove owner Colm Barrington. Under the rules for the coastal race Barrington was able to pass the helm over for part of the race today to a ‘professional’ in the form of former International 14 and 18ft skiff world champion and Volvo Ocean Race winner, Rob Greenhalgh.

Despite their win today, Barrington’s Ireland Orange team remains in second place behind Ireland Green, although they have closed the gap to 5 points in the overall standings. “We are a bit disappointed,” said Barrington. “Yesterday we had a first and a fourth but we were within 30 seconds of the leader. Jump had a 1st and a 12th so we have been up and down and have to get ourselves a bit more consistent.”

While Magic Glove won, her fellow team mates, Anthony O’Leary’s Antix posted a third, while their small boat, Conor and Denise Phelan new Ker 37 Jump Juice, was fourth in her class.

However, nothing seems able to shake the dominance of Ireland Green where Andrew Allen and Colm Monahan’s J/109 No Naked Flames, won their third of five races at this series by a huge margin.

Putting in an equally enviable performance to No Naked Flames is David Dwyer’s new Mills 39 2 who also won their third race of the regatta ahead of Ireland Green’s Blondie and Ireland Orange’s Jump Juice.

Despite scoring double points today, reflecting the longer duration of the race, the order of teams at the top of the Rolex Commodores’ Cup scoreboard has not changed. Top British team remains GBR White, whose results are consistently propped up by the exceptional performance of the smaller sistership of Magic Glove, John Shepherd’s new Ker 46 Fair Do’s VII. They were second in the big boat class today, despite blowing out their no.2 genoa. “It happened on the second beat. It blew up to 18 knots and I’d literally just looked at the crossover chart.” Commented helmsman John Greenland.

Fair Do’s race went well until they had to struggle back up the Solent when they were overhauled by the DK46 1, steered today by former GBR Challenge America’s Cup helmsman Andy Beadsworth. “They didn’t have to sail the angles so much and they were sailing downwind better,” explained Fair Do’s owner John Shepherd. “We were trying to keep away from the north shore where the tide had already changed.” Fortunately this was not enough to ruin Shepherd’s day, the Irish White big boat finishing fifth behind the two Farr 52s.

Among the big boats the team on Chernikeef II were pleased with their performance, having spent much of the race ahead of their higher rating sistership Bear of Britain on the water. While they have the highly experienced Luke McCarthy on board as navigator a majority of her crew are from the newly established Yacht Racing Academy formed earlier this year by Chernikeef II’s owner Peter Harrison and the late Kit Hobday.

“It was a really good day for us,” said Chernikeef II skipper Ben Willows, also Project Manager of the Yacht Racing Academy. “Bear has four-five years racing experience whereas we have only raced the boat for two weeks since the IRC Nationals, so to be in front of them for a majority of the race is really good. We are still learning a lot and our boat handling still needs some work, but overall today was very positive.”

Positions in classes two and three are currently subject to a number of protests, for boats missing marks. The outcome of these protests may affect the overall standings.

Today there are two more inshore races and again the forecast is for single figure winds speeds. However, fingers are crosses that the meteorologists will have it wrong once again.

Ireland Green / 25.5 / 1
Ireland Orange / 30.5 / 2
Ireland White / 37.75 / 3
France Bleu / 46 / 4
GBR White / 60 / 5