Solent Coastguard have their work cut out as strong winds and lumpy seas test the Cowes competitors' rigging

The first strong winds of Skandia Cowes Week gave competitors some exciting and testing racing. With a forecast of 25 knots and gusts of up to 40 knots, several yachts found their rigging inadequate for the combination of wind strength and very lumpy seas.

“We had the first good blow of the week, and we hope that competitors enjoyed the fast courses that we gave them.” said Principal Race Officer Dave Atkinson of the Island Sailing Club. “Inevitably after a week of light winds, the damage to boats was concentrated by the strong gusts as they came through.”

The Solent Coastguard responded to a total of 29 separate incidents, assisting 39 people. This included four capsizes, all leaving crew in the water. The Coast Guard vessel Osprey assisted in two of these incidents, pulling six sailors from the water. The Coast Guard helicopter was sent to assist in the other two incidents, but found the RNLI already dealing with one, and Solent Sea Rescue handling the other. The Race Committee was also kept busy, with their fleet of committee and marshal boats being part of the Coast Guard’s coordinated effort.

But for those that passed the test, the hard grind upwind was more than rewarded with exhilarating rides downwind. The X One-Designs were the last fleet home. The heavy conditions provided the biggest fleet at Cowes with exhilarating sailing, with the old ladies being pushed to the very limits of their hull speed. Despite all the drama there were no serious casualties.