Conditions turned wintry as gusts reached 30 knots on the final Saturday

Driving rain and a bracing Force 5 deterred many competitors from the race track on the final day of Skandia Cowes Week but the 14 remaining unclaimed trophies found worthy winners as class warfare continued to the bitter end. Conditions in the Solent were positively wintry as gusts reached 30 knots and with big and choppy seas which gave the reduced fleet a testing last day.

Graham and Stephen Bailey duly completed a win in the Etchells class by halting a sequence of victories from Mark Downer’s Moonlight. For the past four days Moonlight has come in first but today the Baileys, winners for the past two years, posted a 90 second win over their adversaries to claim the 2008 prize.

Graham’s wife Julia Bailey needed a 4th or better in Aimee to make certain of a win in the Dragon class and she managed it by a small matter of seven seconds as Owen Pay put the pressure on in Njord. Tillmann Wiese won his first race of the Week in C’s Toy to finish third overall while Len Jones who came second in Rumours last year, posted a third place today which gives him another second overall.

Niklas Zennstrom’s Ran had IRC Class Zero wrapped up by Friday after winning five of the seven races but it was Andy Soriano’s elegant Alegre, the Mills 68 that crossed the line first every day sometimes with as much as a 30 minute advantage over the TP52s. The building wind and driving rain combined to create boat breaking conditions, prompting the crew on Ran to retire just a few minutes before the start of racing and head back to Hamble.

John Dean’s brand new Beneteau First 45 Poppy of Portland won IRC Class 1 with a race to spare. Named after the new marina that Dean’s company is building in Weymouth, next door to the 2012 Olympic sailing venue, Poppy of Portland competed in the Rolex Commodores Cup last month as part of the GBR White team that finished in 8th place.

Dean was especially pleased to finish ahead of Nick and Anne Haigh’s Dark & Steamy on that occasion, so repeating the success at Skandia Cowes Week was enough for him to abandon racing today and head off back to Poole. Francois Goubau was class runner up in his Beneteau First 47.7 Moana.

Another member of the GBR White team Jim MacGregor’s brand new Elan 410 Premier Flair led the way in IRC Class 2 achieving a consistent series of top five results ahead of Michael Greville’s Ker 39 Erivale III in second.

In the ten strong 1720 class, Neil Angel, who was runner-up in 2007 to Mark Greenaway’s La Licorne, took class honours after posting four wins while Giles Peckham brought the curtain down on a sensational week with a win in the Darings on Dauntless.

Peckham started the week by winning the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg King of Cowes at Skandia Cowes Week regatta, and although he was beaten in the last Daring race by Jeremy Preston’s Defender, he had done enough to also add the 2008 Daring title to his previous three crowns. “It has been a very good week,” he said. “We have been pushed hard all the way in the Darings by Defender so it has been a good contest. In the King of Cowes, stepping into a difference class and coming up against some of the best helms in the business was a big challenge.

“I was lucky I had bought a Laser SB3 in March and did the Round the Island race in it which was good practice and I had a superb crew in Steve White and Craig Bulton. If we get invited back, my co-helm Milo Carver will compete instead of me next year, because you can only have so many cars.”

Any competitor with the surname MacDonald is to be feared and Duncan MacDonald, the brother of professional racing skipper Neal, proved to be a formidable competitor in the J/Sprit class racing his J/90 Joe 90. He was first past the post every day and scored five bullets on corrected time, reducing J’ronimo to second place and Geoff Payne’s Jolene to third.

Louise Morton missed out on the Liz Earle Ladies Day Trophy to Sonar sailor Kerry Gruson but her name will be the first on the Quarter Tonner trophy after a superb performance by her and her all-female crew of Liz Rushall, Libby Deegan (navigator and pit), Vicky Lenz (jib trimmer and downwind trimmer), Charlotte Lawrence (bow) and Nicky Bethwaite from Australia in her Quarter Tonner Espada.

Her success signals a busy winter since not only will she be in training in order to outdo her husband Peter, who has bought his own Quarter Tonner to campaign next year, but she will also be honing her skills in the Laser SB3s, just in case.

In the X One Design class, Simon Russell, the 2007 champion finally climbed to the top of the podium for the first time today in what has been a disappointing week by his standards. His title has been pocketed by Stuart Jardine in Lone Star who has won two races this week, fending off claims from 79 other craft to carry on a fine tradition. In second place was Steve Lawrence’s Catherine while Peter Baines came third in Calypso, the 1948 XOD, to bring the curtain down on another cracking contest.

Skandia’s final prize giving

All the winners will receive their trophies at the overall prize giving to be held at the Haven Events Centre at Cowes Yacht Haven tonight. Winners in the white and black groups will also be presented with a Corum Watch and a magnum of Champagne G.H. Mumm, and overall class prizes of crystal produced by Thomas Lyte will also be awarded to the top three boats in each class.

Next year, Cowes Week takes place from 1-8 August 2009.