High adrenaline racing in strong winds and bright sun at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week

Wedmesday August 10th:

Today the Solent was sandwiched between areas of high and low
pressure. “This makes it quite tricky to forecast wind speeds
precisely,” said CEO Stuart Quarrie after the race officials’ early
morning briefing. “Small movements of either weather system will create a
big difference in the wind speeds we experience.” As he spoke the wind
began a relentless non-stop upwards trend that lasted for five hours,
peaking with mean speeds of 25 knots and gusts well over 30 through the

It was another day of hard, wet beats to windward, followed by high
speed downwind blasts that had competitors grinning from ear to ear as
they came ashore. Unsurprisingly, there was also a lot of gear damage,
including three J/109s, among them William Edwards’ Sardonyx and Robert Stiles’ Diamond Jem, who retired with broken rigs.

One of the largest boats in IRC Class 0, Richard Matthew’s Humphreys 54 Oystercatcher XXVlll,
suffered the same fate, dashing Matthew’s entry in the Rolex Fastnet
Race. The boisterous afternoon conditions also forced the cancellation
of racing in the Extreme Sailing Series for the first time in five

Today’s first start was for the pro-celebrity Artemis Challenge
charity dash around the Isle of Wight, the fleet of IMOCA 60s making a
fine sight in the sunlight as they passed the mouth of the Medina river
under spinnaker with boat speeds that topped the 14 knot wind speed.

Hugo Boss skipper, Alex Thomson reported big seas off St Catherine’s
Point, with actor Ewan McGregor hit in the face by a wave. After the
finish Thomson described it as a great race: “[We made a] wrong sail
choice at the beginning but it was an awesome sail …24 knots of boat
speed, on the edge!” Vincent Riou’s PRB, winner of the last solo,
non-stop Vendee Globe, won the race, missing out on breaking the
previous fastest time by just 13 seconds.

Half an hour after the IMOCA 60s started, it was the turn of the big
boats in the IRC Big Boat Class, this time heading west from the RYS
line. George David’s Rambler 100 blasted in towards the Green, with Niklas Zennstrom’s Ran
in hot pursuit making a fantastic sight. After rounding Gurnard buoy
they hoisted giant spinnakers in front of crowds on shore and headed
north-east towards the Thorn channel, across the north of the Bramble
Bank, skirting the Black Group committee boat start area, before heading
outside the Solent.

Rambler again took line honours, but Ran took a second win on corrected time, with a margin of almost 20 minutes. The other two competitors, Andres Soriano’s Alegre and F Vaton’s Swan 100 Alalunga both retired.

A large tanker outbound passing Calshot at 1140, led to the
postponement of the start of the First 40.7 race. Paul McNamara and Tony
Lowe’s Incognito led away from the line, with PWC and Peter Robson’s Trustmarque following three lengths behind, and Christopher Jago’s Anticipation a similar distance astern. Trustmarque was first to tack on to starboard, followed quickly by PWC.

Incognito was ahead at the finish to take her second win of the event, three minutes ahead of Nicolas Gaumont-Prat’s Tradition Philosophi, with Anticipation third. Today’s closest racing in the class was between PWC and Interceptor
– the former finished 10 seconds ahead, but the small difference in the
two boats’ ratings meant they tied for ninth place on corrected time.

Photo finish

The J/109 fleet started in a tight bunch towards the inshore end of the line. Adam and Helen Wright’s Velvet Elvis
made an excellent start, far enough ahead to cross in front of the
fleet on port tack. Next were five boats all tied neck and neck – the
Calascione/Ripard family’s Yeoman to leeward of a bunch that included Jamie Sheldon’s Jigsaw and Stanley, Walker and Williams’ Levante. Despite her apparent disadvantaged position, Yeoman managed to pull four lengths ahead of the others a couple of minutes into the race. Velvet Elvis
extended her lead to more than four minutes at the finish. However, the
next three places were super-tight, with only 24 seconds separating
Jigsaw, Yeoman and Levante.

By the time of the start of IRC Class 7 at 1250 the wind was already
near maximum strength. The boats more spaced out than in some of the
earlier starts, with Jo Richards’ Moo comfortably crossing the fleet on port tack to take an early lead on the water, ahead of Ed Brand’s Fianchetto and Dave Wright’s H-Boat Hubble Bubble, her mainsail flogging violently in the big gusts. Next were and Simon Percival’s First 21.7 Arwen and Martin Moore, Simon Coombes, Anne Barlow and Caroline Hoy’s Mini Tonner If.

Fianchetto took line honours in the class, finishing just 49 seconds ahead of Moo, however Richards took victory on corrected time. Madelaine and Isobella Donald’s Folkboat Madelaine took second on handicap, with Fianchetto third.

In Class IRC1, Robert Condon and Simon Shaw’s new Ker 40 Marinetti
won the New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup, after finishing more than
three minutes ahead of Bernard Gouy’s Ker 39 Inis Mor on corrected time.

White Group

The dayboat classes starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron line had a
downwind start against an ebb tide that was setting strongly to the
west. In the RS Elite class, Mike Tong’s Ciaobella inshore looked to be very well placed starting close inshore, while Jono Brown’s Aeolus, who started mid line, was also quick with setting the spinnaker. Meanwhile Martin Wadhams’ RSSailing.com was also looking good towards the outer end of the line.

A big difference of opinion soon became apparent, with Ciaobella staying well inshore, while three boats – RSSailing.com, Steve Powell E’Tu and Jeremy Tolhurst’s Outlaw steering well offshore. The advantage at this stage seemed to be with the boats offshore. RSSailing.com took her third win of the week, while Aeolus was second and E’Tu crossed the line just eight seconds later to take third.

Some of today’s closest racing was seen in the Victory class. They made a cautious start, with Russell Mead’s Shearwater first away from the line followed by Delphine Freeman’s Minx. Duncan, Carol, Di and Tom’s Peregrine initially looked good offshore, but later suffered in the strong tide. Shearwater
failed to get her spinnaker set until almost two and a half minutes
into the race, yet maintained a five-length lead at this stage.

Mark and Joanna Dennington’s Ziva claimed a third first
place, with a commanding lead of more than four minutes. However, only
28 seconds separated the next four boats: Geoff and Sarah Dixon, Maxine
Reeves and Hugh Winter’s Zelia, Janet Dee and Shaun Hopkins’s Variety, and K and S Taylor and J Childs’ Zest.

Today the XOD class had a general recall, with a black flag for the restart. Chris Froy, Andrew Shaw and Alan Roberts’ Phoenix
took their second win, to lead the 145-strong class by seven points
after four races. A fifth today for Adrian Summers, Ian Paton and Johnny
Mordant’s Excalibur put them in second place overall, on 28 points, while today’s second place lifted John Tremlett’s Xcitation to fourth overall on 45 points. Richard Bullock and Richard Jordan’s Lass lies third on 42 points.

Rudy Jurg’s Myrtle is currently 19th overall, having posted a
consistent string of results. He was ecstatic after racing today: “We’re
absolutely loving it and today was fantastic – in such a big fleet
there’s always something happening around you. The course was very well
set, with perfect upwind legs that took the tide direction into account.
They were very long and tiring, with big waves that the boat almost
disappeared into at times – we had to pump constantly to get the water
out. And the downwind legs were just awesome.”

Report by Rupert Holmes