Friday the 13th lives up to its reputation

Day seven of Skandia Cowes Week was packed with high drama as the Solent churned up like a washing machine with a South Westerly Force 6 gusting 7 covering the racecourses over an ebb tide. It was certainly a day to be on the big boats with many of the White Group inshore classes struggling in lumpy seas as masts snapped, boats were swamped and several man overboard incidents reported. Two inshore lifeboats were on station with the Coastguard helicopter standing by as Friday the 13th lived up to its reputation. There were also some very notable retirees from the 895 entries today with perhaps the most significant being overnight leader in the XOD fleet, Stuart Jardine pulling out after a rigging failure.

In the glamour class of IRM, the flag officers of the Island Sailing Club PRO, Dave Atkinson and CRO Simon Hand, set a course in the Western Solent a whisker shy of 25 miles. Chernikeeff 2 was forced to return over the line after jumping the gun and did a remarkable job in catching up the other Farr 52’s of Bear of Britain and Team Tonic by the finish. However there was dismay aboard second finisher Bear of Britain as they came ashore after a two and a half hour blast only to find out they were OCS. Nick Hewson’s Team Tonic took the winner’s gun and the coveted Rocking Chair Trophy after recording a 2 minute 18 second corrected time victory from Edward Leask’s Farr 45 Babalaas with Chernikeeff 2 in third.

The big racing story of the week though is the outstanding performance of David Pinner in the X332 Kiss, who took his seventh win today out of seven races. Pinner’s crew were bang on the button at the start, hiking hard and sailing in clean air. The rest of the class were simply playing catch up from there on and with slick crew-work, fantastic sail handling and real tactical nouse, thoroughly deserved the win by over ten minutes to uphold their perfect record. This really is a fantastic performance as the X332’s are one of the hottest one-design fleets at Skandia Cowes Week.

Another name that is pushing hard for overall supremacy is the International Flying Fifteen of Rupert and John Mander, Men Behaving Badly, who today cruised to a seven minute win over the fleet to take his sixth victory of the week and the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club’s Friction trophy. With just a seventh place to discard from the opening day’s lottery-style race, Rupert and John have totally outshone the fleet in their Ovington built Fifteen with dedicated hiking and tactical brilliance around the Solent.

In Class 1 IRC, the racing was fast and furious off the start line with the water ballasted Volvo Ocean 60 Team Elanders (Matt Humphries), streaking away off the start line on a long starboard tack in towards Gurnard. However, Humphries was later to retire as the Richard Matthews owned Corby one-off Flirt took a four minute corrected time victory from the Swan 65 of Richard Loftus, Desperado. The hard campaigning Swan 68 of Clay Deutsch, Chippewa landed third place whilst overnight class leader, the Russian entered Follow Me of Serguei Shevtosov cemented his top spot with a fifth place today.

Class 2 IRC saw a successful port tack start from Stewart Hawthorn’s J-133, Jump, out on the Black Group start line but it was the Mumm 30 Joules Asterix of David Evans that found the fast planing conditions to his boats liking who took the class win. The Grand Soleil’s, Satori and Holmatro, were virtually neck and neck on the water but it was French yachting ace Jimmy Pahun sailing Satori who edged second place in his lower rated GS 45 from Hans Horrovoets GS 44 Satori after handicap was applied.

In the Sportsboats division, the Melges 24 of David Franks, Wild Thing, flew around the course after successfully executing a port tack start on the fleet with Edward Fishwick’s Redshift to take the winner’s gun and a 1 minute 45 seconds corrected time victory over the J-80 Redshift. Rory Moore’s home designed and built Pure 6 of the same name was a notable retirement in the fleet as just six boats completed the course.

In the Sigma 33 Class Honey of Bosham showed the fleet a clean pair of heels today as skipper John Gimson brought her home to record a big 2 minute 4 second victory over Andrew Johns and David Rolfe’s Shadowfax. Remarkably, the 21 year old Gimson is also firm favourite for the overall Skandia Young Skippers trophy after recording five wins this week and is only challenged by Sarah Everett in the National Squib Class.

Everett once again aced the Squib Class with a 1 minute 35 second victory over Jerry Westbrook and Andrew Porteous in Firecracker Too to seal the overall Class win for the week. With four wins to her name and no result worse than fourth Everett has achieved her ambition to win Skandia Cowes Week having come so close last year, only losing out on a count-back. This year she has proved utterly dominant and is a very popular winner in the forty-four boat fleet.

One fleet that is going all the way to the finish is the ultra competitive Sigma 38 class where the two stand out performers have been Andy & Ian Budgen’s The Project and John & Jackie Edwards Red Macaw. In scoring a 3 minute 28 second race win today, The Project has narrowed the gap on Red Macaw to just one point after discard and tomorrow’s final race will be the deciding duel and a fitting climax to a very competitive Skandia Cowes Week. The deciding factor could be on discard and if that is the case, The Project will win having no result worse than second place to discard whilst Red Macaw has a 10th placing from Tuesday’s race.

Possibly the most exciting class of the week for the shoreside spectators has been the multihulls, making their debut appearance as a class this year. Today they were flying hulls with the crews decked out in spray resistant ski mask goggles as the five strong class tore around a 26 mile course up as far as Lymington in the Western Solent. Brian Haynes sailing Carbon Tiger 2 took a massive 15 minute corrected time victory in his glamorously named Farrier F33R from the Firebird, Gerber Firebird of the Fildes, Pigett, Larson partnership. Stunning racing from a stunning class and we look forward to seeing them at next year’s event!

The XOD fleet saw a return to winning form by Simon Russell (a.k.a. Fumesy) sailing Lass who put some clear water of over 4 minutes between himself and the fleet to take the winner’s gun from the fast starting Blue on Blue of William McNeill. With the aforementioned Stuart Jardine being forced to retire, and his son Mark scoring a 7th place today, the fight for the Captain’s Cup is too close to call. Mark now goes into the final day as the class leader after discard with heavy weather expert McNeill relegating Stuart Jardine down to third place. The smart money is still on a Jardine win but with just one discard in this 83 strong fleet, neither father nor son can afford another slip up. Tomorrow will see a fitting climax to a fantastic week of racing.

The International Etchells had a real slog of a day today, punching through big waves on a 19.5 mile course in mid-Solent. Jervis Tilly’s Bushfire though, made light work of the conditions winning a thrilling encounter with Mike Sparks on OO7. Just 22 seconds separated the two after nearly three hours of racing but the big story of the day was overnight leader Ante Razmilovic who had ‘one of those days’ with an infringement just after the start eliciting a 360 degree penalty turn followed by the acceptance of a percentage penalty from a later infringement. Razmilovic dropped to 15th place, his worst result of the week, and can ill afford another bad day as his nearest rival Mark Downer sailing Moonlight recorded a 4th place and third placed Till took the class win. Again it will be fascinating to see how this class shakes out on tomorrow’s last day of racing.

Class 7 IRC at last saw a new name at the top of the leader board with ex- Round the Island Gold Roman Bowl winner Edward Donald sailing Madelaine taking a big corrected time win over current Gold Roman Bowl holder Giovanni Belgrano’s Whooper. Class 4 IRC reverted to type as Stephen James once again took the victory whilst in Class 9 ISC the Folkboats of Rio (Mike Shepherd) and So (Simon Osgood) took a one two. After yesterday’s stunning win in the Contessa 32 fleet, John Corden’s Fresh Herring could only manage a third place today as the Richards, Rouse and Vanner owned Blanco took a comfortable win of a little over a minute from Sebastian Gardner’s Polar Star.

The Hunter 707’s had a hard fought race, ragging their mainsails as the gusty breezes pulsed down the Solent but it was a new name at the top of the fleet as Jon Powell sailing Betty took the winner’s gun from James Ross in Black Sheep. The Charlie Fish boys, no doubt feeling a little dusty this morning after last night’s shenanigans at their crew ball could only manage a 9th place after their attempted port tack start shuffled them down the pack forcing them to play catch-up all afternoon.

Overnight White Group leader, the Laser SB3 Musto of Glenn Bourke suffered a set back to their title ambitions after a retirement from today’s racing but it was Christina Summerhayes sailing that made the best of the conditions to take their first winners gun of Skandia Cowes Week by just under three minutes from Jerry Hill’s 3 Sad Old Blokes. Musto still leads the fleet overall after discard but drops to seventh place in White Group. The Skandia Squad member Skandia Passion, sailed by Jono Shelley scored a commendable third place today to rocket up the leader board into fourth place and has just one more opportunity tomorrow to try and secure that elusive race win having come so close throughout the week.

In the Bembridge Redwing class, James Wilson’s Quail took the week with a second place today behind Fraser Morrison’s Skua to move up to second place overall in the White Group behind the dominant Flying Fifteen, Men Behaving Badly. For Quail it is now five Skandia Cowes Weeks in a row with no other Redwing bettering them in the 21st Century – a remarkable feat!

Overall the windiest day of Skandia Cowes Week produced some fantastic sailing conditions that saw boats surfing around the Solent on big seas. It was certainly a day for the experienced but tomorrow’s forecast is for gentler 10-15 knot breezes from the South-West with occasional showers. The outlook is for rain showers this evening but nothing can dampen the high spirits of the competitors as they throng the town centre for tonight’s traditional fireworks display from Kimbolton Fireworks. The ooh’s and ah’s will be audible in Southampton as Skandia Cowes Week’s penultimate day goes out with a bang!