Sun and wind on the best day of racing at Skandia Cowes Week

There were some anxious faces shoreside this morning as the 8000 competitors at Skandia Cowes Week awoke to the forecast of a blustery day across the Solent with expected winds touching 25 knots and the chance of showers. However for the 948 boats that competed today, the worst of the winds blew through in the early morning leaving a glorious day with winds in the 10-18 knot bracket beneath cotton-wool cloud cover that allowed long spells of sunshine. On the water it was simply beautiful as flat seas and clear visibility made for near-perfect sailing conditions.

There is, however, a sense of deja-vu about the results sheets with several outstanding yachts of Skandia Cowes Week 2005 once again performing at the top of their game. Adam Gosling’s Corby 29Yes!scored a 34 second corrected time victory in Class 5 IRC over Harry Heijst’s Dutch enteredWinsometo extend out his lead as the overall Black Group winner by dint of sailing in a larger fleet whilst Andy Budgen’sThe Projectcompleted the Sigma 38 series whitewash with another victory today. The fact that the Sigma 38 class chose to only sail for seven days of the regatta virtually hands the overall title to Gosling in Class 5 IRC who will sail again tomorrow to complete his series. The well-drilledYes!team, sponsored this year by clothing manufacturer Murphy & Nye have been the class act of the week and showed again today over a 22 nautical mile course that the secret to winning at Cowes in the handicap fleets is to have a well prepared boat, fresh off the designers drawing board, sailed by a team of accomplished sailors.

Taking that formula literally is the superbly prepared and sailed Class 0 IRC winner of Eamon Conneely,Patcheswho absolutely trounced the glamour class of the regatta in recording a win by close to 10 minutes on corrected time. The rest of the fleet are looking at their boats and wondering just what they can do to claw back on ‘Patches’ with Shirley Robertson steering and Ian Walker calling the shots. Conneely tucked the Rocking Horse Trophy under his belt today to make it a clean sweep of the prestigious trophies at Skandia Cowes Week and his mantle-piece back in Ireland will be groaning under the weight of the Queens Cup, the Britannia Cup and the New York YC Challenge Cup alongside today’s trophy. All in all a very successful week for the team onPatcheswho will be looking to score further success over the coming year at regattas across the Mediterranean. Second place today in Class 0 IRC went to Nick Lykiardopulo’sAerawith Kit Hobday’sBear of Britainscoring a third after a course in the western Solent that covered just over 40 nautical miles.

In Class 2 IRC, Colm Barrington’s beautifulFlying Glovewas pushed hard by the Belgian entry of Francois GoubauMoanawho is pushing equally hard for the prestigious Skandia Young Skipper’s Trophy.Flying Glovegot the nod today by just 46 seconds with the Dutch entry of Frans van der HeijdenDaikin Aircocoming across the line some 15 seconds later to take third place. Barrington, from Dalkey County Dublin has been the man to beat all week on his dashing blue Ker 39 and this previous Class 2 winner in the Commodore’s Cup has certainly shown the fleet around the race courses with five first places and a second to record an almost perfect series. Barrington is ruing his second place on Tuesday as only a slip-up from Adam Gosling’s ‘Yes!’ in tomorrow’s race can give him the overall Black Group title.

We reported yesterday that John and Rupert Mander in the International Flying Fifteen class had not lost a race since the opening day of Skandia Cowes Week 2004. Well, today the stellar run came to an end as Laurence Mead, sailing with his daughter broughtHoomaloohome by a click over three minutes to confirm that the Mander’s are human after all! On a tricky course in the eastern Solent that saw the Flying Fifteens dicing with all manner of bigger boats and a nasty wet chop on the final beat, it was a day for staying out of trouble on the 15 nautical mile course.Hoomaloosailed a blinder, getting the navigation absolutely right (not tricky on these low slung, two-man keelboats) to record a win that was celebrated hard down at the home of the Cowes Fifteens – The Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club.

Skandia Cowes Week prides itself on its long tradition and encourages yachts of all ages and styles to compete. Class 7 IRC, always a hot-bed of talent that has spawned the winner of the Gold Roman Bowl in the ISC’s Round the Island Race no less than four times in the last five years, saw the beautiful Clyde Linear 30 of Michael Briggs finally score a class win today. Built in 1904 by William Fife & Sons in Fairlie off the drawing board of William Fife III,Mikadoharks back to a bygone era of sail and sets the romantic hearts aflutter whenever her long aft hangings kick up her beautiful stern wave. Today she scored a close victory by a touch under two minutes over the Quarter-Tonner of Royal Corinthian YC secretary Louise Morton,Super Qwith Tony Dodd’s sailing his season conquerorPurple Hazejust squeezing into third place.

The White Group fleets got away to running starts today off the Royal Yacht Squadron Line with Principal Race Officer Simon Hand and Chief Race Officers John Dudley and Peter Dickson electing to send the early fleets against the tide to minimise the numbers of recorded OCS. The Laser SB3s got away to yet another stunning asymmetric spinnaker-flying start with all the fleet jostling to get inshore for tidal reasons on a fast reach down to the first marker buoy – Marine Ian Southworth made the best of the start launching his highly distinguishable pink kite right on the starting gun and leading a big pack of SB3s away. However it was not to be Southworth’s race win today despite sealing the series as Ben and Jono Shelley made the most of an aggressive starboard gybe approach to the first mark to sneak into a lead that they built on all afternoon. SailingPWC, the Sheeley’s crossed the finish line after three hours of sailing to record a win just shy of two minutes from Solent ace Colin Simonds aboardDoolalli.Meanwhile in the International Dragon fleet who are witnessing a real ding-dong for the coveted overall class title, it was Graham Bailey who outscored the overnight leader Poul-Ricard Hoj-Jensen with a second place to the Dane’s fourth. Implementing the discard now sees Bailey extending his lead to three points with all to play for in tomorrow’s deciding race where we’re sure to see some tactical fleet positioning coming into play. The winner in the Dragon’s today was Kent resident Len Jones sailingRumoursfromAimeewith Eric Williams in third sailingEcstatic.

The hard-partying crew of Hunter 707 defending championsCharlie Fishtook the pressure off themselves today with a comfortable two minute win ahead of their infamousRum-Ball in the Jungletonight in aid of the John Merricks Sailing Trust. Skipper Iain May has sailed a canny regatta at Skandia Cowes Week scoring four race wins and two second places to win the fleet with a race to spare and finish runner-up in the White Group overall. Speaking this morning May said “I really enjoy the social side of the regatta but not so much as winning on the water. There are five of us in the syndicate onCharlie Fishand it’s just a pleasure to sail with them. We won last year and everyone says that defending your title is twice as hard and I can definitely confirm that that’s correct! My crew have sailed a blinder this week and got me out of quite a few tricky situations…I’ll be back next year for sure.”

The inshore fleets saw quite a few names coming to the fore today perhaps suggesting that the time spent on the water throughout the week has blown some cobwebs away and crews have gelled. In summary: The Redwings saw a popular race win for Mark Andreae and the Hayley’s aboardPrawnwho secured the narrowest of victories (5 seconds) from William Clegg’sLady Laetitiawhilst Richard Thompson and Charles Fisher sailing the wonderfully namedMigrantin the National Swallow class pipped Neville Upton’sGoosanderto the race win by just 9 seconds. The sleek RS Elite fleet saw Steve Powell rise to the top inE’Tuahead of class favouriteCiao Bellaof Mike Tong and Peter Wareham. In the Seaview Mermaid fleet, John Sandiford-Haigh sailingZarascored the win over overall leader Ben Few-Brown inSheenwho secured the week with a second place today whilst Roger and Jacky Wickens in the Solent Sunbeam ‘Danny’ recorded a 40 second victory over Tim Hill’sQuery.Roddy Bowerman made the best of the wet conditions in the Victory fleet to steerSteadfasthome by a little under a minute from Shaun Hopkins aboardZephyruswith Jeremy Lear taking third place aboardZinnia.The Sonar’s were once again aBilly-Bertieshowdown with Duncan Bates inBillytaking the chocolates today whilst in the Sportsboats the J-80 of Jervis Devonshire brought the fleet home ahead of Liz Savage’sJust Savagealthough a protest is currently logged against Savage’s boat making the result therefore preliminary.

In the largest fleet at Skandia Cowes Week, the 79-strong XOD fleet, it’s all to play for tomorrow despite Lt Colonel Stuart Jardine being reinstated yesterday with a first place after querying the video evidence that had seen him initially scored an OCS. Jardine virtually secured the regatta today with a sixth place to top the overnight standings from Kim Slater’sAlvine Xwho clocked fourth place today. The maths suggest that Jardine must not finish lower than seventh place and Slater must win for Jardine to be denied his sixth Captain’s Cup. Today’s winner in the XOD fleet was James Meaning sailing ‘Arrow’ with Jonty Sherwill’sAstrain second and fellow Lymingtonian Rory Paton sailingDianain third place.

The Black Group summary sees Rob Goddard’sFarrfalinascoring a three second victory on corrected time in Class 1 IRC from Peter Harding’sFidessa-Fastwave.Tim Spalding scored another good victory in Class 3 IRC aboardLove Shackby over a minute from Lance Stevens onSidneywhilst in Class 4 IRC an important win was scored by Harry Evans and his crew aboardJacobite-Alvine.Evans has never been out of the top two all regatta and today’s third place by Jimmy Pahun’sRegion Ile de Francegives a glimmer of daylight between the two boats going into the final day. Class 9 ISC sawDrakes Drumof Terry Rowe continue their winning ways of yesterday with a three minute win over Michael and Sue White’sBossa Novawhilst in Class 8 ISC,Cloudy Bayof Richard Scarff all but sealed class victory with a win just shy of four minutes from James Clapham’sOutrageous.Iain Kirkpatrick stormed to victory in the X332 class sailing the fast chargingFatjaxwhilst in the multi-hulls a tricky day of puffy conditions saw Ben Goodland’s Grainger Raider 30Roobest suited to score the biggest win of the day, some 22 minutes, from Mike Wigmore’sTriptych.The Contessa 32’s had a pedestrian race today, never quite getting into full stride but Eldred Himsworth brought the separated fleet home aboard ‘Drumbeat’ to record his third win of the regatta and lie within striking distance of leaderPolar Starfor the overall class crown. Finally the J-Sprit Classes 1&2 enjoyed the fast planing conditions to see the J-109 ‘No Naked Flames’ of Andrew Allen win J-Sprit 1 and the J-92JimJamsof Dutch entry Paul van der Pol scoop the J-Sprit 2 fleet by just six seconds.

The penultimate day of Skandia Cowes Week always produces nail-biting fleet racing as the overall scores are tallied. For most fleets there are still prizes up for grabs and all around the Yacht Clubs, anxious yachties can be seen clutching the detailed class summaries provided by the truly excellent Next Generation Results service. However Friday at Cowes rises to a crescendo this evening shoreside with the annual fireworks display that this year promises to be out of the world with a recreation of the Battle of Trafalgar. It’s standing room only along the High Street as literally thousands of sailors and spectators cram every possible vantage point for the spectacle kicking off at around 9.30pm this evening. There’s an aerial display too by the Honda Display Team and every hostelry in the town is packed to capacity. If the fireworks tonight can match the fireworks we’ve seen all week on the water – It will be a fitting finale to an amazing week.