One family, three classes, two wins. The Bailey family head three separate keelboat classes at Cowes 3/8/06

An interesting story is developing in the Etchells, Dragon and Sonar fleet at Skandia Cowes Week with one family dominating at least two of the classes.

The Bailey family including Graham – sailing in the Etchells, Julia Bailey (Graham’s wife) sailing a Dragon and Richard Bailey (Graham’s brother) sailing a Sonar, with various members of the family crewing, are currently staring in all three classes. In two days Graham and Julia have each won twice in their respective classes.

Although it’s not particularly unusual to find Graham, who’s won Cowes Week on 10 different occasions sailing a variety of classes including the Sigma 38, Class 1 – One tonners, Dragons and Etchells, at the head of the fleet, or indeed Julia who’s a top ranked Dragon sailor, it is almost unheard of to find two members of the same family succeeding in such competitive fleets at the same regatta. Graham is currently leading not only the 31-strong Etchells fleet but is leading the White Group overall.

Chatting to about yesterday’s race Graham recalled: “We were third round the first mark but got into the lead about eight minutes into the second beat and then we were handed a small gift because we were heading towards Peel Bank buoy while everyone else sailed to Peel Wreck buoy. The marks are both red and fairly close to each other which is quite confusing but because it just happens to be off where we live we knew for sure it was the correct mark the rest of the fleet went to the wrong one. After that it was quite easy.”

Meanwhile Julia, who has her brother Steven Richardson, and top Portuguese 49er sailor Pedro Andrade crewing on the Dragon was also leading (and eventually won) yesterday’s race when she virtually crossed paths with her husband Graham. Graham added: “It was quite extraordinary. We came up the leg from the Ryde Middle Bank and I said to ‘H’ my crew: ‘Is that Julia leading the Dragons?’ We sailed past, both of us in the lead and waved at each other trying desperately not to tack on each other.”

Over on the Sonar fleet course, family member three was doing his bit to complete the hatrick of class wins. And it was all looking fairly rosy until the crew somehow managed to lose the chart overboard. Richard, who’s Graham’s older brother couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the chart disappear over the side. “It was all looking great but after the chart went overboard we didn’t really know where we were going and hence lost the lead and eventually finish third.”

Although Julia has now clocked up a fourth and two wins to count she says it’s going to be tough to win overall commenting: “I had a crew problem at the beginning of the regatta. Basically Pedro got stuck in Barcelona airport during a strike and we didn’t really get going until Monday. We’re now fifth overall and there’s still a long way to go. But I’m just happy to have won two races on the trot.”

Graham chatting about why he enjoys Skandia Cowes Week so much and his strategy for the remainder of the week concluded: “I find it the most amazing week, some people will think that Cowes is just a bit of fun, which it is of course, but it’s incredibly easy to lose. You can’t relax from the second you leave the mooring. Also I think the generation of sailors who constantly do windward/leeward courses with port-biased startlines benefit hugely from the challenges thrown at them on the taxing Cowes Week courses.

“For us the plan now is to carry on doing what we’re doing and just try and put the class to bed but you can’t take anything for granted. Cowes Week is a long haul. You just have to grab it by the neck and hang on to the very end. You also have to take advantage of some of the other competitors who will have, by this stage partied too much; their performance will start to drop off. People will start forgetting to wash their boats and won’t bother too much about all the things they were doing to their boats at the beginning of the week. We will, of course, continue wash our boat every day which is a very important for this sort of regatta.”