Yesterday we said Skandia Cowes Week couldn't get better...but it just did today thanks to a fresh and building wind that saw all of the classes back in the beer tent in double-quick time.

Bright sunshine and a building easterly breeze that broke the 20-knot barrier before the day was out set the scene for the fourth day’s racing at Skandia Cowes Week. For the first time this week there were no postponements and racing commenced on schedule. And even the 64-strong XOD fleet reverted to their traditional Squadron line start, much to the pleasure of the crowds ashore for whom the classic dayboat class always makes a great spectacle.

The close racing between Kit Hobday’sBear of Britain, Peter Harrision’sChernikeeff 2, and Nick Hewson’sVolvo for Life Team Tonic, continued where it left off yesterday with all three immediately engaging in a close battle for the front of the fleet. Chernikeeff led off the line after a good start heading east along the Solent and, in a shifty easterly 8 knots of breeze headed off the island shore picking up a couple of useful shifts. MeanwhileVolvo for Life Team Tonichelmed by Jeremy Robinson headed to the north (mainland) shore for clean air away from the pack and made up some valuable time.

Commenting after the race Neal and Lisa McDonald fromTeam Tonicsaid: “It’s always tricky with big boats to keep in clean air – we disappeared off to the north shore for this reason and it paid off. It was a terrific race for us today – with all three of the Farr 52s nose to tail all the way round the course, it was very tactical and almost like a three-boat match race. BothBearandChernikeeffhave slightly bigger sails, hence the different handicap ratings. So our tactic is to keep slightly ahead of them, knowing that they’ve got to finish a minute ahead to beat us on corrected time.”

But to focus solely onChernikeeff, theBearandTeam Tonicwould be to miss the point because, having completed their mini IRM regatta yesterday, they now find themselves in Class 0 IRC and there the plaudits once again went toAerawith Jez Fanstone enjoying an excellent return to Cowes at the helm. With a second and two firsts to her name before today, the Kerr 55 asserted her strong position in class by taking another first over four minutes ahead ofVolvo for Life Team Tonic(just under three minutes on corrected time), a result that also places her at the head of the Black Group tonight.

The 707 fleet has to be one of the closest racing fleets here at Cowes. These equally matched David Thomas-designed small keelboat are known for offering incredibly competitive racing and today’s performance was no exception.

After a reasonable start Jon Powell and his super-hot team aboardBettypowered their boat up in the good working easterly wind and rounded the windward mark in third position. A smart spinnaker hoist on the bear-off enabledBettyto squeeze in to the lead ahead ofSynchroandSharkin Madin a broad reach heading towards the mouth of the River Hamble. With a lot at stake, the cool, calm and collected Powell kept the power on and, together withSynchro, started to pull away from the fleet rounding the leeward mark 10 seconds ahead.

From here onBettycontinued to increase her lead and crossed the finish line two minutes ahead ofCensored.Synchromissed out a mark and had to retire.

Powell commented: “We’ve got some really good boat speed this week. Up the first beat we headed out in to the stronger tide and reached the top mark in third. Once ahead we just concentrated in keeping in clear air to increase our lead. The race committee are generally tending to set us windward/leeward courses because they think we want them. For us however, with our non-asymmetric spinnakers, we would prefer courses with some good reaching legs.”

Bettynow sits at the head of the Hunter 707 standings, but only narrowly so against early pace-makerChilli Chaserwhich could only manage a disappointing sixth today.

Another of the smaller classes to enjoy exciting, close racing today was the Laser SB3 class. Yesterday’s race winner,Yachting World, helmed by Jonty Sherwill, started the race as they meant to continue by taking an immediate lead on the first beat. But during the bear-off, in a building breeze, the spinnaker ended up under the boat that resulted in them losing five places.

Having worked themselves up to second place once againYachting Worldwas thwarted once again when the metal plate on the jib clew pulled off. Determined to continue, the crew managed to fix the jib and work their way up the fleet once again into fourth place at the last leeward mark. Sitting out by their toenails, they then managed to take another place on the final beat and just missed second place by one second. No doubt it should make some good copy for Yachting World’s technical editor on his penultimate race here at Skandia Cowes Week 2003.

Meanwhile Michael Ewart-Smith and team aboardSublimekept their cool and crossed the line in first place. A tired and weary Sheahan commented after the race: “Despite our mishaps, we had a really fun day on the water and we’re really pleased with the result even though we just missed second place. Our biggest tactical decision today was undoubtedly our move to sail well out of our way north around the Brambles Bank avoiding the worst of the tidal stream. It was here, on the long downwind leg, where we made up most of our lost places.”

Laser SB3 group leaderStress Bunnyhauled in only ninth today but the former J/24 sailor Colin Simonds can still look over his shoulder a comfortable distance to his next nearest challenger at this stage. Perhaps more stressed should be the SB3Misb3havewhich suffered the ignominy of being hauled off the Brambles Bank by the Skandia Cowes Week website/Yachting World news reporting RIB.

In the Sportsboat fleet John Roberson is starting to make an impact taking his second win of the week in today’s race which puts him in second place overall behind the J/80Redshift. Sailing the Fremantle 8Skandia Contribution, Roberson and team, which included co-owner Andrew Thorpe, former Skandia Cowes Week Media Centre Manager Lou-Lou Rendall, Alex Taylor from the Volvo Youth Squad and Mike Ridley from London Corinthian Sailing Club, started from the Squadron end of the line in clear air and soon found themselves engaged in what was to become a race-long battle with the J/80Abstention 2. Roberson commented: “On the last leg we managed to get away from them. And at the last mark were one minute ahead. But they pushed us all the way.”

Another Skandia Squad team member to come good in today’s racing wasSkandia Commitment, Simon Osgood’s Folkboat racing in Class 9. Osgood’s team was selected as a Skandia Squad member for the courage and commitment one of his crewmembers has shown in recovering from a serious motorbike accident. “I’m also committed to getting more people, especially younger people, into Folkboat racing,” added Osgood.

The team was, however, fortunate in having Olympic class sailor Steve Mitchell on board today on the tiller. Osgood continued: “He certainly kept the boat upright! He did a bit of everything and I think he enjoyed his day. He hasn’t sailed a Folkboat before, only a Sonata in 1990 that he thinks is the closest he’s got! It took him length of the second beat to get the hang of the helming but he did quite well, better than Iain Percy yesterday! Had a DNF yesterday so there was a bit of competition between Iain and Steve and Steve came out on top despite us being OCS at the start. We went back round the line, had a committee boat start off Beaulieu.”

At the head White Group this evening is the VictoryUnityafter scoring another win today, his third of the week (the fourth race having been abandoned on Sunday). Helmsman John Tremlett and co-owner Jeremy Lear were two seconds late to the line but lead the fleet all the way to the windward mark and for there on to the finish line. All of which is a little surprising as the boat had been sitting in a garden providing a microclimate for moss for eight years prior to the start of this season. Lear would usually have been sailing Victory sail number 69, but his usual steed is on a compulsory year’s sabbatical out of the water while awaiting refit. So the decision was made to buy into another Victory as the owner was not exactly looking to take the sabbatical himself.Unityis carrying 69’s sails, even though numbered 70, which has confused some but there’s no confusion about the way this team has set about its racing here this week.

All in all today was the best day yet, with salt-encrusted crew able to get back to the beer tent in good time. But will the wind last? There’s a chance of a shower or two this evening and some early mist patches in the morning. The low pressure out to the west that provided a useful gradient wind against the high to the east is moving north now. As it does so the wind speed will drop and the direction will veer to west or south-west in the morning. While there is not much for anyone to get excited about on tomorrow’s synoptic, that south-westerly direction bodes well for the development of an afternoon sea breeze.

Odds on a postponement flag in the morning anyone?


Class 0 IRC
1Aera (N. Lykiardopulo)
2Volvo For Life Team Tonic (Nick Hewson)
3Bear Of Britain (Kit Hobday and Tim Louis)

Euro Prix 45
1Wolf (Glynn Williams)
2Timberland Euro Prix (Edward Leask)
3Victric (Tony De Mulder)

Class 1 IRC
1Desperado (Richard Loftos)
2Alvine Xiii (Harry Evans)
3McFly (Tony Mack)

Class 2 IRC
1Yes! Murphy & Nye (Adam Gosling)
2Chernikeeff 3 (Nick Harrison)
3Holmatro (J J Meijer)

Prima 38
1Kylidh (Guy Spurr)
2Mostly Harmless (Tom Hayhoe & Natalie Jobling)
3Firestorm (Jon Perry)

Class 3 IRC
1Royal Blue Addict (Ian Handley, Jennie Austin, & Andrew Fitton)
2Partnership Challenge (St James’s Place)
3Salvo (Mr and Mrs Peter Morton)

Beneteau 40.7
1Royal Blue Addict (Ian Handley, Jennie Austin, & Andrew Fitton)
2Partnership Challenge (St James’s Place)
3Beam On (Stuart & Jane Hemingway)

Class 4 IRC
1Deliverance (Russell Hodgson)
2Capitali$M (Tim Harrington)
3Skandia Passion (Tom & Dianne Andrews)

HOD 35
1Capitali$M (Tim Harrington)
2Owl (Peter Bruce)
3Zarafa (Major Peter Scholfield)

Class 5 IRC
1Great Scot II (Eurof Phillips & Barbara Mackay)
2Winsome (Harry J Heijst)
3Sleeper (Jonty Layfield)

Class 6 IRC
1Prime Cut (Peter Parker)
2Software Mistress (Ian Maclean)
3Cracker (Stephen & Carole Heppell)

Class 7 IRC
1Cloud Nine (Martyn Wheatley)
2Madelaine (Edward Donald)
3Tsunami (Roger & Liz Swinney)

Class 8 ISC
1Antidote (Colin Bishop)
2Hotwatch II (David Clementi)
3Sky Hunter (Peter Bainbridge)

Class 9 ISC
1Witchcraft (David McDonald)
2Skandia Commitment (Mr Simon Osgood and Dr Stewart Becker)
3Cloud Cuckoo (John Stork)

1J Spirit (Mrs Marie-Claude Heys)
2Jazolo (Robert Shaw)
3Jalfrezi (Hon Christopher Sharples & Oliver Stanley)

1Vampire (David Moore)
2Big Wednesday (Roger Mavity)
3Moby J (Mark Franklin)

Contessa 32
1Polar Star (Sebastian Gardner)
2South Haze (John Holloway & Stuart Paton)
3Equator (Kay & Simon Porter)

Mumm 30
1Bushfire (Cian O’Carroll and Tom Hill)
2Pogo Bogo (David Knight)
3Sardonyx VI (William Edwards)

Sigma 33
1Honey Of Bosham (Joanna Brigg)
2Hooligan (Steve Sault)
3Whippa Snappa (Richard J Puddifoot)

Sigma 38
1Red Macaw (John & Jackie Edwards)
2Skandia Creativity (Hans Hollander)
3Mefisto (Kevin Sussmilch)

Sunsail 37
1Sunsail 66 (Felpham Sailing Club)
2Sunsail 80 (Polypipe plc)
3Sunsail 63 (MDM Citroen)

Sunsail 36
1Sunsail 11 (Team Imperial College)
2Sunsail 13 (Team Endeavour)
3Sunsail 19 (Team Shamrock)

1Crikey V! (Nigel Theadom)
2Yellow Rose (Marten Jan Ringers)
3Pittolo Bill (Ian Smyth)

1Polyphagus (Stephen Porter)
2Boats.Com (Ian Atkins)
3Oi! (Swalwell, Vance & Cooper)

1Dynamite (A. D. N. Balme, A. S. Collins & D. H. Winton)
2Dionysus (Bruce Huber)
3Dauntless (M B Carver & G A Peckham)

Hunter 707
1Betty (Jon Powell)
2Censored (Derek Blancke)
3Synchro (RAFSA)

International Dragon
1Chaotic (Richard Jordan)
2Caramba (C Brittain & G Hamilton)
3Hestia (Frank Van Benningen)

International Etchells
1Love Shack (Tim Spalding & Gareth Lloyd Jones)
2El Toro (Messers Hayden, Watson & Williamson)
3Fuzzy Duck IV (Woodman, Proudlove & Ford)

International Flying Fifteen
1Friendly Fire (Barry Rolfe)
2Affore The Week (Nick & Estelle Clarke)
3Cruella (Jonathan Hill)

Laser SB3
1Sublime (M. Ewart-Smith & B. Richards)
2Full Chat (Mark Richards)
3Yachting World (Matthew Sheahan)

National Sonata
1Pizzicato (Tom White)
2Crisis (Giles Palin)
3Chrysalis (Christopher Bentley)

National Squib
1Artful Dodger (Nick Emery)
2Firestreak (Miss Sarah Everitt)
3Firecracker Too (Andrew Porteous)

National Swallow
1Serenade (Mr & Mrs Hugh Kemlo)
2Curlew (Malcolm Green)
3Echo (Charles Hindson)

1Quail (Edmund Peel & James Wilson)
2Lady Laetitia (William F Clegg, William H Clegg & Erik Cole)
3Paroquet (Meri & Keith Benham)

1Courageous (T J R Sheldon)
2Fat Face (Paul Rudling)
3The Wright Team (Phil Wright)

Seaview Mermaid
1Cynthia (John Sandiford-Haigh)
2Sirena (Noel Dobbs, Richard Dobbs & Alexander Dobbs)
3Jade (Will Caws & John Betchley)

Solent Sunbeam
1Polly (Jonathan Money)
2Comedy (Robert Bailey)
3Daisy (Mike Moss & Mike Law)

1Puff Pirate (D Bates & P Bowen)
2Scintillate (R A H Perkins)
3Yachts And Yachting (James Day & Jamie Reid)

1Skandia Contribution (John Roberson & Andrew Thorpe)
2Just Savage (Liz Savage)
3Redshift (Edward Fishwick)

Bull 7000
1Hullabulloo (Martin Forster)
2Cow’S Rig (David Neate)
3Bullwinkle (John Sheldrake)

1Unity (J R Lear & S Spraggs)
2Zelia (G P & S M J Dixon)
3Hawk (M & J Hunter)

X One Design
1Blue On Blue (Willy McNeil & Andrew Tredrea)
2Lass (Simon Russell, Darren Maple & Leanne Akhurst)
3Kyperini (Kim Slater & Alistair Evans)