Ireland retains 1,2,3, after second day of Commodores' Cup 27/6/06

Ireland Green consolidated their position at the top of the Rolex Commodores’ Cup leaderboard after another day of racing in light winds and strong tides. With the wind having veered east, two more inshore races were held once again on the north-eastern Solent.

The light conditions, the wind shifting between 90 and 160 degrees, and strong tides made for another taxing day for the tacticians on the 39 boats competing, but at least for the crews relief came with a break in the overcast sky giving way to a more typical mid-summer sun, conditions expected to last for the rest of the week.

The three boats in Ireland Green once again posted the most consistent performance of the day with their small boat, Andrew Allen and Colm Monahan’s No Naked Flame winning the first race with a corrected time of 1:39:12 ahead of Ireland White’s Checkmate on 1:42:16 and posting a second in the second race in this 13 strong class.
According to tactician Chris Main, who is one of the two professional sailors on board No Naked Flame with fellow former GBR Challenge America’s Cup crew and sailmaker Simon Fry, their J/109 is enjoying the conditions as she has been optimised for light weather racing.

Today’s two races were very different tactically. The first was a straight forward windward-leeward with the ebb tide assisting the boats up the beat while the second was a much more convoluted multi-leg course, with the tide against them on the first beat, causing the boats to dive into the beach at Lee on Solent. In the second race the finish order among the small boats was dictated by who started at the pin, closest to the shore. No Naked Flames, one in from the pin came second to Ireland Orange’s Antix who started at the pin.

Among the big boats GBR White’s Fair Do’s VII belonging to John Shepherd posted a third in the first race and won the second by just nine seconds. Tim Costello’s Tiamat, the Ireland Green big boat, posted an equally good result and much improved on yesterday, finishing second in both races.

“We are quite happy with that as it is tough for us in our fleet being one of the smallest boats. Playing against bigger boats all the time, we are having to fight for clear air and good starts and to get good roundings. Fortunately all those things came together today,” commented Tiamat’s helmsman, young Irishman Brendan Foley. Tiamat is a Mills 40, some 12ft shorter than class one heavyweights Bear of Britain and Chernikeef 2. Foley said he was particularly pleased to have stayed up with the fleet as today and yesterday the second races have been held on longer courses than they had expected.

On a day like today, intimate knowledge of the Solent and the vagaries of her complex tides were essential. Fortunately on board Tiamat they are sailing with the highly experienced professionals Mike Richards and Kevin George on board.

As a team Foley says they are happy with the light winds forecast for the rest of the week. “We’ll take whatever comes. I think we are lucky to have a team where there is a good spread and range of abilities across the boats and the crews, so I think whatever conditions arrive we’ll be happy with them.”

Among the big boats Colm Barrington’s Irish flagship, Magic Glove was the run-away leader on the water in the first race today, leading both Farr 52s around the racecourse. “We wanted to go right. We started there and were able to go right immediately,” said crewman, former International 14 and 18ft skiff World Champion Rob Greenhalgh, freshly returned from winning the Volvo Ocean Race. “Upwind we are quick. Downwind we are a little slow.” They won the first race on correct time, but were shovelled out of the start prior to the second race after some aggressive sailing by Bear of Britain and ended up finishing fourth.

As ever, competition in the mid-sized fleet was hottest and today the Ireland Green team’s Blondie, belonging to Eamonn Rohan, finished the first race third behind Ireland Orange’s Jump Juice and Ireland White’s 2, but won the second by just three seconds from France Bleu’s Paprec Recyclage.

One of the pros on board Blondie, sailmaker Neil Mackley said they had not done well in the first race due to choosing the wrong side of the first beat. They should have gone right where the tide was strongest. “In these conditions the tide is roaring at 2-3 knots and boat speed is only 5 knots. So it is a big percentage gain if you have even have half a knot more tide than someone else.” The ratings of the boats is closest in this class, so, Mackley says, making the difference is about working hard at all aspects. They are also learning somewhat on the fly how to sail their John Corby-designed one-off fast in light conditions.

While the Irish teams are dominating France Bleu is hanging on in fourth on 28 points behind Ireland White’s 26.75, Stephane Névé’s Sinergia 40 Paprec Recyclage putting in a respectable fifth and a second today.

“We would prefer more wind,” said France Bleu team leader Géry Trentesaux, skipper of their big boat Courrier de Coeur. “We would prefer 15 knots and for us it is quite difficult because we have one of the slower boats in class 1. The difference between us and Bear of Britain is 12 minutes an hour, so we are sailing in a different race. But we are lucky to be here.”

The top British team is GBR White on 36 where today John Shepherd’s Ker 46 Fair Do’s VII was the shining light. It was a day of mixed results for former Royal Ocean Racing Club Commodore Peter Rutter, whose Elan 37 Quokka, the GBR White small boat, came home third in today’s first race but was seventh in the second. “We were chuffed in our own little way because we were last at the penultimate mark and managed to gain five places on the last leg,” said Rutter of their performance in today’s second race. “It is a testing regatta but we are still only one third of the way through.”

Tomorrow sees an 0830 start for the Rolex Commodores’ Cup short passage/coastal race. This scores twice the points of the inshores and will be held on a course lasting around 12 hours.

Top Five Teams – Provisional Positions

Ireland Green 15.5 1

Ireland Orange 22.5 2

Ireland White 26.75 3

France Blue 28 4

GBR White 36 5