The third day of racing sees the Oysters race westwards-about back to Cowes from Haslar

Sighs of relief, at last a morning with sun warming the cockpit for that waking coffee before making ready for the third day’s racing in the 2012 Cowes Oyster Regatta, westwards-about back to Cowes from Haslar where the fleet had overnighted after a big weather race up the Solent to dinner and sea shanties on Portsmouth’s HMS Warrior.

With the wind still in the west but very much lighter, the fleet, which entirely opted for white rather than downwind sails for the mostly upwind course (13 miles Class 2, 16 miles Class 1) ghosted around the Squadron’s committee boat and a 50-yard line gauging a tide approaching low water slack. Inshore around Gillkicker, or out left into the channel and likely more breeze?

Class 2 saw its tied-on-points leaders lock horns at the start with Bert Janssen’s Oyster SJ41 Prince de Petarcq squeezing Simon Timm’s Oyster 53 Nutcracker away from the line and under the committee boat, forcing a turn that in this slow wind cost considerable time. The two then parted, testing the theories. The Oyster SJ41 scurried off right to the island shore. Nutcracker took a hike out left for more wind in the just 0.3 knot tide. And the wind was there building to five, six and then a few more knots. The Morris family’s Oyster 49 Tenens Spirit also went left but then rolled back inshore while Nutcracker stayed out, pulled away and led around first mark Good Acre but only to be outpointed by Prince de Petarcq who then opened a gap. Up above, the gap between clouds closed and it was back to rain, which remained for the race.

Nutcracker needed to beat Prince de Petarcq on the water to win Class and with 17 knots apparent stayed out for boat speed hugging the banks, but on the final dog leg back to Cowes Prince de Petarcq, pointing a good 10 degrees higher, took the lift as the wind veered a little more south, and lee-bowed the tide the whole way into Prince Consort on a single tack, taking line honours and first on corrected. Nutcracker came in a good second with Tenens Spirit third and John Nelson’s and Phillip Riesco’s Oyster 42 Sundancer fourth, ahead of yesterday’s winner Nick Flower’s Oyster 45 Kite Runner and Mike Freeman’s Oyster 46 Can Do.

Of how the Belgians on Prince de Petarcq with no local knowledge have fared so well throughout, owner Bert Janssen says, “Simple, while you party, we read books… no, only joking, where we sail we have a lot of sandbanks too, and when tide and wind are against you, you stay by the bank, it’s easy… but we race a lot and we have a very good boat, and it is very different to the other Oysters here.”

With 20 minutes between Class 2 and 1 starts, the bigger Oysters had time to review the decisions of the smaller fleet but again this saw a divide. Richard Smith on the Oyster 655 Sotto Vento got a cracking start coming in from the port end taking advantage of the bias to get pole position going inshore, but they left it too late to tack back out and, compared with those who did, virtually parked.

The Oyster 82 Starry Night led the procession with fellow 82 Bare Necessities joining the fleet today after returning from the Pendennis Cup where, in strange contrast, she was the smallest in that fleet, the biggest being almost three times longer! But a heavier boat and without the sailing rock stars of Starry Night aboard, Bare Necessities followed in the on-water leader’s wake, with behind her Andrew and Ann Walters 56 Asante and Charles and Nicky Manby’s Isis, the main contenders. Isis had been fourth across the line and held Asante for much of the time but in the final legs the pair replayed the same Class 2 leader board wrangle. The result, Asante first corrected, Isis second, Starry Night third, Bare Necessities fourth.

They say you never know what might happen and today fate served up two ‘courses’. To turn the basic 13-mile course into a 16-miler for Class 1, the race team stitched on an extra bit of knitting at the front end, with one of those extra marks being the old favourite Mother Bank. It was fortunate it was not set for Class 2. At the time of their passing by but not needing, the vast steel buoy was raised high in the air on a working barge. Fortunately it was in position by the time Class 1 arrived! And as the boats went out on the dog leg to Mother Bank, the wind shifted significantly and the reach became a run with the big boats quite a spectacle all boomed out. It being 12.30 the Committee Boat declared this the ‘picnic run’ and lunch was duly served!

The second incident raised a special mention for Paul Fletcher of 56 Dreams Come True at the prize giving for the day’s Raymarine sponsored race, at a cocktail party hosted by Panerai, thankfully in their fine marquee as the heavens simply opened up again.

Oyster CEO David Tydeman, passing out the generously Raymarine-donated prizes, made a special mention of Paul Fletcher who came to the regatta to test his Oyster 56 Dreams Come True for his family’s entry in the inaugural Oyster World Rally, but who today went one step further, going straight overboard when in a tack a genoa sheet snapped bar taut and upwards flipping him over the rail. Fortunately Paul was uninjured and his crew were quick in making the recovery. All was back to normal and none of the edge had been lost, clearly. While Paul was in the water, Brendan McNutt’s Oyster 56 Purusha diverted to offer assistance. Their reward? The Dreams team later creamed Purusha by two seconds on the line… but conceded when corrected!

So today’s been a day of difference again, and Friday, the final day of racing, will be exciting in both classes with the discard now perhaps dictating who will take the top prizes. In Class 1 it could be any one of three boats, and perhaps four in Class 2. The course tomorrow will start to the West for the first time this week, and discard or no, on the last of the falling tide it’s the fair tide beat that’ll decide the day’s winner and point to the podium at the last night’s prize giving at the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Just let it shine!