The penultimate day of racing at Skandia Life Cowes Week saw a White Group first confirmed for a first-timer.

The cold rain fell, and fell, and fell. And the wind blew reasonably well until a low parked itself overhead at lunchtime, which stopped things for a while and left race officers no choice but to cancel the last start of the day, the XODs. It also left the Victorys, plus the Class 7, 8 and 9 boats, floundering. There were those who consequently lost the will to live in the soggy cold whilst waiting for the promised north-westerly, but others persevered to make finishes in each class, despite the low loitering longer than promised. Indeed, so fluky did the wind become in the mid afternoon that spectators were blessed with the sight of yachts under spinnaker heading towards each other off Cowes Roads.

It was a different story for the earlier starts, however, which generally enjoyed good sailing breezes in the central and eastern Solent.

Today marked the last day of racing for the Sigmas, Sunsail 37s, Contessa 32s, Hunter 707s and the National Sonatas. Undoubtedly the absolute star of those classes and indeed, of Skandia Life Cowes Week, is Neil McLure and Keith Stewart’s Sonata So. Yesterday it looked as though they had ruined a straight run of firsts with a second, but then provisional winner Pizzicato was penalised. Today, they crowned the week with another first, making them uncatchable in the White Group.

Scotsman McLure had started the week by being surprised with his results, but has got beyond that now: “With a row of firsts and one seventh which could be discarded, the only boat that could’ve beaten us (in the White Group) was Martin Wadham’s RS K6 Fat Face,” Neil told us after getting back to the Island Sailing Club. His eye had clearly switched to the bigger game.

“This week we tried to start first without getting too involved with the fleet,” Neil explained. “However when the tide’s running with you, you have to hang back a bit to avoid getting an OCS. Today was our worst start, when we were possibly last across the line. But we managed to get out of the foul tide and plug our way to the front.” Fat Face took second in her class, which confirmed So’s White Group triumph.

The result is all the more significant because this is Neil’s first Cowes Week. “We’ve had the boat for four years and trail it around to events, concentrating on things like the Scottish Sonata series and the nationals rather than club racing,” he stated. “It’s our first time here, but the racing is very similar to what we’re used to. It’s class racing rather than handicap racing, so you don’t have to try and find a better course that suits your boat so much as stay ahead of the boat behind.”

We’ll be back next year,” Neil promises, “as we’ve got the nationals in the Hamble, and so we’ll ask our wives if we can stick around for Cowes!”

The Sunsail fleet tend to post inconsistent results, due to daily changes of most of their crew, many of whom are not that experienced. All the more reason why Steve Upson from Polypipe, the sponsor of Sunsail 37, should be delighted by their first position in the charter fleet’s overall standings by a substantial 16-point margin. Interviewed on the pontoons of Cowes Yacht Haven, Steve confirmed that today’s race had been, “frustrating. We crossed the line in first position, travelled about 300 yards and that was it. There was a whole pile of boats with us, we drifted around and went backwards. Eventually we managed to pick up some wind but there were a lot of boats ahead of us and we weren’t sure who was who and who was important to our overall results.

“This is the first time we’ve done Cowes Week and we’ve had a novice crew all week. We have a core crew of three and each day we’ve brought on clients. The main thing is that we’ve had tremendous fun.”

Steve went on to explain, “my sailing career started through Sunsail. I have an autistic nephew and we were looking to raise money for his treatment therapy. After deciding against golf and go-karting I approached Sunsail, chartered 12 yachts and sub-chartered them to my clients for a mini regatta. Two years back we managed 22 boats on the start line, last year we had 32 boats and for this year’s event, on 4 September, I’m hoping I can take the entire fleet of 40, all to raise more money for the young lad.

“Sunsail have been particularly good, really helpful and taken me from a complete non-sailor to somebody who really enjoys racing.”

The Contessa 32 fleet also clearly enjoy their racing, having seen some close competition throughout the week. Chris North, Contessa 32 class chairman explained: “Anyone of three boats could have won the class overall by winning today’s race. Blanco, Gualin or Drum Beat. So from their perspective it was a match race – whoever came in first would win without doubt.”

But Blue Shark, owned by Ken Mizen and Don Lang from the Hardway Sailing Club in Portsmouth, decided to get in the mix by taking their first ever win in a Contessa race. “They’ve had her for 17 years,” Chris told us, “but had only competed in club racing before their first Skandia Life Cowes Week last year.” Ken later commented, “normally playing follow the leader, we suddenly had to work out which buoys to sail round!”

Despite the joy at Blue Shark’s duck-breaker, it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Gualin, which headed her class and even briefly shared leadership of the Black Group this week, only to finally finish second in class, thanks to an OCS today. Gualin’s co-owner Mary Parson, wife of skipper David, is clearly a hard task-master; we are assured the crew (which includes the Parsons’ son and two of his friends) “get bananas and water if they’re lucky,” although there has been a concession made to comfort in the form of a rented house in Cowes as “it’s helped having a good night’s sleep.”

Speaking of the tactics aboard, Mary revealed, “it starts of as a calm boat, though can work into a crescendo as racing progresses. We normally have one crisis per day. The conditions have been frustrating, particularly being in a Contessa 32 which revels in stronger winds. We’re losing one crew tomorrow when we’ll be racing for the Saturday Cup. This is typically a ‘fun day’ when our son tends to helm, that is unless we’re still in the running for Black Group, in which case my husband will keep control.”

Turning to the Sigmas, the 33ft class went to Whippa Snappa and Grenville Snowden’s Prophet topped the 38 fleet. “We have a good crew,” Grenville told us, “and have sailed together a lot this year. We chartered a Ker 11.3 and competed in the Spring Series, and also went to Crosshaven and sailed in Cork Week.

“It’s a democratic boat, everybody’s opinion counts. We’ve had a good run of results, but were a bit too complacent on Tuesday thinking we couldn’t be beaten, only to come in ninth. We’re regulars here at Cowes Week and I think our secret is to enjoy it, but temper the festivities – a hung-over boat doesn’t sail a good race!”

Class 0 and 1 collectively contested the Island Sailing Club’s Rocking Chair Trophy from a Committee vessel start. Somewhat ironic, that name, because this year the trophy goes to one of the youngest helmsmen in the big boat fleets, Ben Ainslie aboard the Swan 70 Serano, racing as Volvo for Life, with Flying Dutchman triple Olympic medallist Rodney Pattisson guesting on the crew. Once upon a time Ben would have taken home a full-size replica rocking chair to keep for life, but these days it comes in miniature form.

Ricky Deppe, the bowman on board Serano, said: “It took the race committee a while to get us started with big black clouds and a windshift to contend with. However, when we finally started it turned out to be ideal conditions and the perfect course for the Swan 70. It was a great race. We had a couple of lop-sided beats, a couple of reaches back and forth and then an extremely long two-sail reach back to the finish. Because we were ahead on the water we had the opportunity to leg out on the Farr 52s and beat them on corrected time.”

It was the Class 0 boats that filled the next places in the Rocking Chair; they arguably enjoyed more favourable conditions with their earlier start, a neat reversal of yesterday’s conglomerate competition for the New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup when the Class 1 fleet got elemental assistance. Placing second was Nick Hewson’s Farr 52 Team Tonic. Peter Harrison’s Chernikeeff 2 rediscovered some form to place provisional third ahead of close rival Kit Hobday’s Bear of Britain; both boats were involved in a scrap on the first leg and are currently subject to protest as we write this report.

Sacha Oswald from the Royal Yachting Association, who is crewing on Team Tonic this week, said that the Farr’s crew were delighted to have kept Chernikeeff 2 between them and the Bear, which, even if she survives the protest, will be a point behind Tonic in the overall Class 0 IRC standings and two points behind on IRM going into what will surely be a match race tomorrow.

Ben Collett and Neil Mackley from the new Swan 45 McFly were looking forward to today’s race when we caught up with them for a report earlier today. That optimism was justified by a first ahead of Carphone Warehouse and Minnie the Moocher (placing the trio seventh to ninth in the Rocking Chair), with series contender Kirribilli taking a damaging fifth. Class 1 IRC looks to be a foregone conclusion now as Carphone Warehouse, seven points ahead of McFly, has a disard in her mobile phone holster.

Last mention today goes to Anthony Lunch, Swallow class chairman and owner and skipper of Solitude, who placed second today after leading up to the last mark in a south-westerly that he described as “brilliant, a good sail.” However, we cannot possibly quote Anthony’s words about what happened next as Solitude fell into a wind hole almost within sight of the line to allow Malcolm Green’s Archon to finish first. “That’s Cowes for you,” Anthony ruefully commented, although he remembered his captain’s hat in time to comment that it is all to play for in this class tomorrow with four points covering the top three in the overall standings for first-placed Serenade, Solitude in second and Archon in third.

Results day seven

Rocking Chair Trophy (Class 0 & 1)
1,Volvo For Life (Ben Ainslie & Robert Condon)
2,Team Tonic (Nick Hewson)
3,Chernikeef 2 (Peter R Harrison)
4,Bear Of Britain (Kit Hobday & Tim Louis)
5,Mandrake (Peter Morton & Adam Gosling)

Class 0 IRC
1,Volvo For Life (Ben Ainslie & Robert Condon)
2,Team Tonic (Nick Hewson)
3,Chernikeef 2 (Peter R Harrison)
4,Bear Of Britain (Kit Hobday & Tim Louis)
5,Mandrake (Peter Morton & Adam Gosling)

Class 0 IRM
1,Team Tonic (Nick Hewson)
2,Chernikeef 2 (Peter R Harrison)
3,Bear Of Britain (Kit Hobday & Tim Louis)
4,Mandrake (Peter Morton & Adam Gosling)
5,Tonnerre De Breskens (Peter Vroon)

Class 1 IRC
1,McFly (Tony Mack)
2,Carphone Warehouse (Charles Dunstone)
3,Minnie The Moocher (Anthony Richards)
4,Constanter (W Mesdag, J Whitley, L Abbey, S Barker, & L, K & E Mesdag)
5,Kirribilli (Douglas & Lynne Flynn)

Class 1 IRM
1,Arbitrator (Stephen Bailey)
2,Kung Fu Fighter (Rob Greenhalgh)
3,Farrfalina (Rob Goddard)

Ker 11.3
1,Minnie The Moocher (Anthony Richards)
2,Kung Fu Fighter (Rob Greenhalgh)

Class 2 IRC
1,Danebury Ex 2 (Danebury Vinyards)
2,Weerga (Wessel Liezenga)
3,Firestorm (Jonathan Perry)
4,Closing Time (David Riley & Andrew Yates)
5,Bounty Hunter (Jonathan Baines)

Prima 38
1,Firestorm (Jonathan Perry)
2,Closing Time (David Riley & Andrew Yates)
3,Born Slippy (Julian Bates)
4,Bounty Hunter (Jonathan Baines)
5,Longbow (Capt P Cooper)

Class 3 IRC
1,Pissaro (Mr Barry Polley)
2,Fastwave (St James’s Place Partnership)
3,Alvine Xii (Harry Evans)
4,Jackdaw (D K Walters)
5,Salvo (Mr & Mrs Peter Morton)

Beneteau 40.7
1,Pissaro (Mr Barry Polley)
2,Fastwave (St James’s Place Partnership)
3,Royalblue Addict (Austin, Fitton & Handley)
4,Fulcrum First Challenger (Fulcrum Trading)
5,Shockwave (Dr Nick Lutte)

Class 4 IRC
1,Dog Tag (Mr J Delacave & Mrs B Butcher)
2,Capitali$M (Tim Harrington)
3,Owl (Peter Bruce)
4,Triple A With Flair (Captain Jim MacGregor)
5,Passion (Mr Paul Jones)

HOD 35
1,Dog Tag (Mr J Delacave & Mrs B Butcher)
2,Capitali$M (Tim Harrington)
3,Owl (Peter Bruce)
4,Carpetbagger (Michael Ronson)

Class 5 IRC
1,Software Mistress (Ian Maclean)
2,Yamaha Waverunner (Charles Devanneaux)
3,Prime Cut (Peter Parker)
4,Leo Lady (Graham Nixon)
5,Cordon Rouge (Terry Hogg)

Class 6 IRC
1,Spirit Of Defiance (Mark Jephcott)
2,Dick Dastardly (Guy Nicholls and Partners)
3,Charger (Cdr A W Pheby (Rtd))
4,Respect (John Danby)
5,Cyclone (William Curtis)

Class 7 IRC
1,Floater (Barrie, Matt & Chris Aston)
2,Tsunami (Roger & Liz Swinney)
3,Dynamite (John Mcintosh)
4,Disko Trooper (Jules Hall, Rob Garlick & Will Hamilton)
5,White Mischief (Andy Hind)

Class 8 ISC
1,Mikado (Michael Briggs QC)
2,Iona (David Clementi)
3,Second Love (Michael A Palette)
4,Moonlight Saunter (David & Jennie Skinner)
5,Moonlighting (Roger Frost)

Class 9 ISC
1,Rio (Mike Shepherd)
2,So! (Simon Osgood)
3,Uforia (Denis Steele)
4,Murena (Charles Liddell & Hugh Carter)
5,5 Tarts Dominic (Five Star)

Class 10 IRC Bowsprit
1,Waverider (Mike Bennett)
2,Wings Of The Wind (Andrew McIrvine & Steven Thorpe)
3,Jezebel (Philip Swatman & Bruce Isles)
4,Judgement Day (Mr & Mrs N Brooke)
5,Moose On The Loose (Mervyn Gutteridge and Duncan Money)

1,Big Wednesday (Roger Mavity)
2,Forza (Jack & Joan Hardie)
3,Jupiter (James Owen)
4,Vampire (David Moore)

Contessa 32
1,Blue Shark (Mr K Mizen & Mr D Lang)
2,South Haze (John Holloway & Stuart Paton)
3,Blanco (D Richards, R Rouse & T V Anner)
4,Fresh Herring (John Corden & Annie Merryweather)
5,Drum Beat (Eldred Himworth)

Mumm 30
1,Pogo Bogo (David Knight)
2,Highlander III (Gregor Logan)
3,Mumbo Jumbo (Hugh Courtenay)
4,Monkey Business (David Wilkinson, Ian Poynton & Peter Edwards)
5,Tigger (Chris Thorne)

Sigma 33
1,Summation (Julia Wright)
2,Alexa (Ian Le Maitre)
3,Vela (Helen Woodland & Eddie Smith)
4,Mithril (Tom Hayhoe & Natalie Jobling)
5,Hooligan (Steve Sault)

Sigma 38
1,Prophet (Grenville Snowdon)
2,Alliance (J L Brantley)
3,Rapscallion (Pete Diamond)
4,Gambit (J C A Tildesley)
5,Red Arrow (RAFSA)

Sunsail 37
1,79 Bank Of Scotland (Sunsail)
2,49 Lloyds Tsb Sailing Club (John Parker)
3,55 Pinsent Curtis Biddle (Peter Stanley)
4,71 Fly Emirates (Joe Gillespie)
5,62 Marsh (Paul Fuller)

1,X-Therapist (Russell Hodgson)
2,Brightwork (Graham Fairhall)
3,Yellow Rose (Marten Jan Ringers)
4,Ilex Of Upnor (Bill Scullion)
5,Xabyte (Flying Fish)

1,Dreamer (John Ewart & Lavina Perry)
2,Division Belle (C N C Hill, Lt Col B J W Green, M C Sillars & J Reynolds)
3,Decoy (A Norton, D Chaplin, J Goodwin & R Ottaway)
4,Dionysus (Bruce Huber & Jonathan Goodwin)
5,Dauntless (Giles Peckham)

Hunter 707
1,Chiilli Chaser (Ian Southworth)
2,The Sweeney (Charles Whelay)
3,Star-Born 3 (Peter Dickson)
4,Betty (Jon Powell)
5,Trojan (Mr Simon Jackson)

National Sonata
1,So (Neil McLure & Keith Stewart)
2,Missred (Toby Gorman)
3,Pizzicato (Tom White & Simon Townsend)
4,Cobweb (Matt Glasgow)
5,Fsharp (David Hunter)

International Dragon
1,Etc Hell (Graham Bailey)
2,Chaotic (Richard Jordon)
3,Hestia (Frank Jan Beuningen)
4,Spitfire (Ken Freivokh)
5,Apalala (Chris Caws & Jeremy Field)

International Etchells
1,Fuzzy Duck IV (Woodman, Proudlove & Ford)
2,Diva (Mr Gareth Jones)
3,007 (Mike Sparks)
4,Festina (Mike Till)
5,Claudia III (Peter Andreae & D Shanks)

International Flying Fifteen
1,Saffina (Roger Palmer)
2,Funny Enuff (John Mander)
3,Cloud 9 (Barry Rolfe)
4,Fritilary (Gil McCutcheon & Mike Boll)
5,Dusty IV (Tony Bedingfield & Paul Wills)

National Squib
1,Red Admiral (Chris Gear)
2,Yes M’Lady (Stephen & Angie Whittone)
3,Nan (Graham Smyth)
4,Squffy (Chris Stonehouse)
5,Flame (Dagna Horner)

National Swallow
1,Archon (Prof Malcolm Green)
2,Solitude (A J Lunch & A M Reid)
3,Ptarmigan (David Leon)
4,Serenade (Mr & Mrs Hugh Kemlo)
5,Echo (Charles Hindson)

1,Redstart (Mrs Jonathan Peel)
2,Siskin (Mr T Montagu Douglas Scott & Miss A Montagu Douglass Scott)
3,Lady Laetitia (William F Clegg, William H Clegg & Erik Cole)
4,Quail (James Wilson & Johnathan Peel)
5,Snowgoose (Robin Culpan)

1,Team Purple (Philip Wright)
2,Fat Face (Martin Wadhams)
3,Pukka Clothing Company (Phil McDonald and Malcolm Morley)
4,Kalamity (Richard Sullivan)
5,Spark (Paul Handley)

Seaview Mermaid
1,Bluebell (David Rowley, David Stevens & Anthony Roberts)
2,Naomi (John Sandiford-Haigh)
3,Scuttle 62 (Nick Wakefield)
4,Scuttle (Alexander, Noel & Richard Dobbs)
5,Sheen (Andrew McCullough & Jonathan Woodall)

Solent Sunbeam
1,Daisy (Dr Mike Moss & Mike Law)
2,Danny (Roger & Jacky Wickens)
3,Fay (Kirk Webster & Richard Pearson)
4,Mystery (Viv Williams)
5,Melody (Cdr J Ford & R Boissevain)

1,Dolphin (Duncan Bates)
2,Mischief (Paul Miller)
3,Sonnet (Steve Sleight)
4,Biscuit (Christopher Driver)
5,Sonic Lady (Richard Perkins)

Sportsboats Rule
1,Flamboyant (Chris Jago)
2,Rattle And Hum (James Ives)
3,Boondoggle (Phillip & Michaela Allen)
4,Hybrid Challenger (Jonny Marshall)
4,F’Eightal Attraction (Andrew Thorpe & John Roberson)

Bull 7000
1,Seeing Red (Phil Cornick)
2,Rustler (Robin & Jill Stevenson)
3,Hullabulloo (Martin Forster)
4,Cow’S Rig (David Neate)

Cork 1720
1,Flamboyant (Chris Jago)
2,Boondoggle (Phillip & Michaela Allen)
3,Hybrid Challenger (Jonny Marshall)
4,Morpheous.Com (James W Flynn)
5,Phoebe (Bertie Bicket)

Laser SB3
1,Hyde Sails (Mark Richards & Rob Andrews)
2,Laser Sb3 (Richard Gibson, Nico Honor & Sandy McPhail)
3,Wee Jamarama (Stewart Hawthorn)
4,Dave (Peter Jackson)
5,Proctor Winning Masts (Zeb Elliot, Chips Howorth & Neil MacGregor)

1,Zinnia (Jeremy Lear & John Tremlett)
2,Woozle (Nigel P Sefton-Smith)
3,Zig Zag (Jim Hughes & Trish Foster)
4,Variety (Janet Dee & Robert Parkin)
5,Zephyrus (Shaun Hopkins)