The J/109 fleet has a reputation as one of the most competitive at Skandia Cowes Week 1/8/06

A fleet of 21 J/109s are enjoying close racing here at Skandia Cowes Week. With their own class start this popular 35ft one-design is continuing to grow and attract top talent from dinghy and other keelboat classes. Just two weeks ago an equally large fleet of J/109s raced at Cork Week with Malcolm Thorpe on King Louie taking an impressive win. This week Thorpe and team are keen to repeat their glowing performance but with such a competitive fleet Team King Louie are going to have their work cut out.

One to watch out for here in Cowes is Zelda jointly owned by Mike Ewart-Smith and Ben Richards. Ewart-Smith and Richards not only won the class national championship last year but took the Bridgestone Tyres Trophy for the best in class at Cowes Week last year. They have also just completed the double-handed Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race.

Early indications this week show the racing is as tight as it can get with Zelda on 1,2,1, and Shiva owned by Matt Boyle scoring 2,1,2 after three day’s racing. Cork Week’s winner King Louie hasn’t taken a podium position yet but it’s still early days and a fifth, fourth and a third today bodes well for the rest of the week.

Boyle, landlord of the Bugle pub in Hamble, is relatively new to sailing so today’s second place was extremely impressive particularly in the challenging conditions – 30kts downwind! Chatting to Boyle about his day on the racecourse he said: “It was a great result today because we didn’t have a very good start but it’s Zelda that really sets the bench mark in the J/109 class so to be up there with her is really fantastic. It was a massive team effort today but I think the star today was Andy Nicholson who was doing navigation and made some fantastic calls. Conditions were awesome Paul Heyes was trimming and everyone else was hanging on at the back of the boat, that’s where we made most gains because we were just really very quick downwind.”

I’ve only been sailing for four years and this is the first boat I’ve owned. My four years of sailing has mostly involved crewing for other people so today on the helm was quite an eye-opener. Infact the last few days have been a steep learning curve but helped by a fantastic team.”

Another past top performer and who is currently on excellent form having won the recent J/109 EuroCup in France is Chas Ivill’s Johnny Blue II. This boat took class honours at Cowes Week in 2004 and with a couple of thirds and a fifth is also one to keep an eye on.

So with a very slim lead between Zelda and Shiva going in to today’s race, and with 22kts expected during mid afternoon, the J/109s are preparing themselves for more exciting racing that should see more interesting results develop.