Proving to be one of the most competitive and exciting fleets on the water, a Hunter 707 has been announced as the boat to represent Skanida Cowes Week at Geelong

One of the more boisterous classes at Skandia Cowes Week is the Hunter 707. The class has grown steadily in popularity since Hunter Boats introduced the 23ft David Thomas one-design into the small keelboat market in 1995, and they’ve had their own start at Cowes Week since 1997. This year the fleet of 707s are 34-strong, leading to a very busy start and some very competitive racing.

Following Skandia’s announcement of its title sponsorship of Geelong Week in Australia, they have revealed that a Hunter 707 has won the opportunity to be sent to the event next year.

The winning skipper, Iain May, is the owner and helm of Charlie Fish. He sails with friends who all sport distinctive shirts with “Charlie’s Angels” emblazoned on the back. Iain takes both the racing and socialising very seriously and even towed the boat down to Spain in January to sail on the Mar Menor for two weekends of coaching. He believes this has paid big dividends in the boats performance “We tried a few things with the boat that hadn’t been done before and they seemed to work.” But in a one-design class everyone watches each other carefully and already he believes he has been copied!

Certainly Charlie Fish’s results so far this week seem to bear this out. Iain ruefully says, “We’re getting worse, we started off really well on Saturday and we won. Then we were fifth on Sunday, then eighth and now I think we’ve gone to twelfth.”

One 707 owner that can’t be too disappointed with his results is Ian Southworth. His 707 Chilli Chaser has dominated the highly competitive fleet in convincing fashion with a string of firsts. After yet another win yesterday, they’ve won the event with a day to spare. Crew member Chris McCloughlin used to sail J24’s with Southworth, notching up some excellent results including the European champs. He explained to us what they’ve been doing right.

“Ian has been sailing the Hunter for a year now. He wanted something he could just step on and go.” And go he has. Southworth won the Hunter class at Cowes last year and decided to take an even more serious approach this time round and see what he could really do with the 707. New sails and lots of time spent fairing the hull and keel have been some of the preparations. “We set ourselves the goals of the Southerns, Cowes Week and the Nationals which are coming up in the next few weeks. So far it’s gone according to plan.”

With yesterday’s light airs and Chilli Chaser’s heavy crew (at 450 kg they think they’re the second heaviest in the class) they spent a lot of time with two guys down below, sitting on top of the keel. The race was no cake walk. First across the start line, they lost and regained first place three times during the course of the day eventually finishing seven and a half minutes ahead of Charlie Fish in second.

They can now afford to take it easy today, and were considering not racing to spend the day on a motor boat watching and learning from other 707’s. However, not wanting to seem discourteous to the rest of the class, they will be on the start line.

Racing at Skandia Cowes Week still has amateur status, but this doesn’t stop either Iain or Ian from really wanting to win. As Iain May says, “It’s got to be a race, otherwise there’s no reason to be there. We might as well take the boat cruising for a week around the ports of England.”