Everything to play for as only 17 points separate the top four teams at Commodores' Cup 30/6/06

The Rolex Commodores? Cup enters its final phase tonight with the start of the 24-36 hour long offshore race, the last race of the regatta, starting an hour later than scheduled tonight at 1930BST from the Royal Yacht Squadron line.

Over the last 24 hours the points separating the teams at the top have been jumping up and down thanks to action both on the water and in the protest room.

Points for France Bleu, for example, were reinstated today after the team led by Géry Trentesaux had been disqualified for sailing the wrong course on Wednesday’s coastal race. With their reinstatement plus a sound performance in today’s final inshore race – where they scored two seconds and a third – France Bleu are now back in the fight in fourth place on 66 points, just half a point behind Ireland Orange and still within striking distance of the lead.

Tonight’s offshore race counts for double points – twice that of Wednesday’s coastal race and four times the scoring co-efficient for the inshores and thus with 16.5 points separating the first from the fourth-placed teams, France Bleu’s three boats between them will need to gain at least eight places on the leaders if Trentesaux and team are to take the trophy for a second time.

Leaders since the opening day of this regatta, Ireland Green continues to top the scoreboard with a slender lead of just under five points. If the second placed team get each of their three boats one place ahead of those in Ireland Green then they will win.

How this will work out given a light forecast for the offshore race remains to be seen. One theory goes that the bigger boats will fair better in lighter conditions as they will see fewer changes in the weather and tide. This could bode well for Colm Barrington’s Magic Glove in Ireland Orange and the two Farr 52s Bear of Britain and Chernikeef II. However, Ireland Green’s big boat is the smallest in Class 1. At only 40ft long the bigger Farr 52s, for example, must give Tiamat 7.5 minutes an hour.

“I think everyone will get to the west,” says Tiamat’s tactician Mike Richards of how he thinks they will fare. “After that it will be down to how well you play the shore and the breeze and how good people are at sailing at night. So it won’t necessarily be a big boat race, but our job is to do as well as we possibly can, to make sure we have our position size-wise in the fleet and see what the other guys can do, because they are in tighter rating bands than we are.”

Her small size and comparatively slower pace should also prevent Tiamat from being taken out? by her competitors as we have witnessed happen to other boats over the last 48 hours.

After a blistering start to the regatta Andrew Allen and Colm Monohan’s J/109 No Naked Flames, the Ireland Green small boat, scored a fourth to put them on 14 points total, the second lowest score for an individual boat this week – David Dwyer’s Mills 39 marinerscove.ie 2 still holds the lowest series score with just 9 points.

“We took it a little bit easier today; asymmetric kite downwind against the poles is hard, so we did the best we could,” reported Monohan. “We shouldn?t be ahead of Antix in those conditions. But we are holding them back and trying to keep them and some of the other boats behind us, the best we can.”

While it will be hard for Tiamat to be threatened in tonight’s race due to her size difference, amongst the smaller boats where the racing is closer there will be more vulnerability. “We need to keep our heads over the night. We will see what the course is like. We are hoping the breeze will stay down a little bit, but we have a sail inventory covering it all, so we’ll have to go out and see and see what the forecast brings us,” continued Monohan, who recounts one of their competitors having interfered with their racing, when they tacked on them 19 times up one beat.

The biggest upset of the day so far has been Ireland Orange losing second place to their compatriots in Ireland White. In this morning’s inshore race Magic Glove was late for the start line eventually finishing in 10th place, while Conor and Denise Phelan’s Jump Juice scored an eighth.

Former Olympic Star sailor Mark Mansfield helming this new Ker 37, explained what had happened: “I thought we were a second and a half early and so we immediately went into going back and trying to sort ourselves out. But it transpired we weren’t over. I think we got the timing a bit out.”

The forecast for the next 36 hours is for the wind to be mainly light, dropping off this evening and possibly building for a time tomorrow morning. The course for the offshore race will see all yachts heading east out of the Solent before heading out into the English Channel to one of the RORC’s offshore marks and then westwards to Poole. The Class 1 (big) boats have a 182 Nm course, the Class 2 (medium) boats have a 164 Nm course while the Class 3 (small) boats will sail 147Nm.

First boats are expected back in Cowes late tomorrow (Saturday) night.

Results (provisional)
Ireland Green 49.5 1
Ireland White 54.25 2
Ireland Orange 65.5 3
France Bleu 66 4
GBR White 93 5