With the Britannia Cup up for grabs today all eyes turned on IRC Class Zero

With one of the most famous trophies, the Britannia Cup, up for grabs in the glamorous Class 0 on day five at Skandia Cowes Week, the Royal Yacht Squadron officials decided to make the professional crews really earn their money. The forecasted West North-Westerly winds, that gusted to a force five at times in places, seemed perfect for an attempt on the record set by Mike Slade’s Leopard in 2001 of 4 hours 8 minutes 55 seconds with the 98ft super-maxi ICAP Maximus lining up against the Volvo Ocean Race winner ABN Amro One. From the start the race looked set to be a titanic tussle around the 54 nautical mile course that was slightly lengthened by just over 4 nautical miles to take the fleet clear of the Laser SB3 fleet that had started some 25 minutes earlier. However the expected fast-jaunt around the Isle of Wight failed to materialise as the Super 0’s got stuck in patchy zones around the back of the Island where the wind dropped to around 10 knots on a long beat against the tide and at the finish it was ICAP Maximus that thundered down the Green with a flotilla of spectator and photographer boats some 50 minutes outside the course record.

The Britannia Cup however, was collected by second place finisher ABN Amro One skippered by Mike ‘Moose’ Sanderson and crewed by an all star Volvo Race crew who crossed the Squadron line just eight and a half minutes behind ICAP Maximus and handed a massive 39 minute corrected time hammer-blow to their on-the-water rival. The rest of the fleet came home after a long day on the water with Benny Kelly’s Panthera holding off the other TP52 Red of Charles Dunstone by some 7 minutes to leap into second place on the podium ahead of ICAP Maximus. The glamour fleet of Skandia Cowes Week 2006 are certainly putting on an aspirational show of super-charged sailing, showing the Corinthians just how far design and technology has progressed not to mention the awesome crewing abilities of the professional sailors.

In the other IRC classes it was a day that also favoured the best prepared crews with some familiar names taking the day’s trophies. Professor John Shepherd’s Class 1 rated Fair Do’s VII streaked away to a very convincing corrected time win whilst in Class 7 IRC Jamie McWilliam banished the blues of going to the wrong mark yesterday in Espada Wanchai Belle to take the winners gun by a convincing margin of 11 minutes 9 seconds on corrected time from Louise Morton’s Super Q. Class 8 ISC saw Tony Wyeth’s Ocean Venture score their fourth win of the regatta just 23 seconds ahead of the Cowes Combined Clubs Chairman Peter Ralls’ Wight Rabbit whilst in Class 6 IRC it was Mike Tattersall’s Electra that squeaked ahead of their big rival Ian Braham’s Dean & Dyball Electra by just 7 seconds on corrected time.

Alvine Jacobite, the Harry Evans chartered Swan 48, proved totally unstoppable in the Class 4 fleet as they powered away from the start line and led the fleet home on the water to record a 5 minute 24 second corrected time victory. Jacobite really is the class act in this fleet with an enviable sail inventory, superb crew and long waterline length that just loves a bit of breeze – she’ll be tough to beat this week.

Another boat in with a shout of doing well in the overall standings in the Black Group is Ben Goodland’s Team Eberspacher who had another great day on the Solent in his Tony Grainger designed multihull winning the race by a convincing 2 minutes 56 seconds from Brian Haynes on Carbon Tiger 2. The race for the overall Black Group winner is much wider than in previous years with any number of boats having a great chance if they can string the final races together. However in Class 5 IRC it was the usual sight of Harry Heijst’s Winsome that took the chocolates with a result just shy of 3 minutes from John Howell’s Spellbinder and Winsome is now the boat to catch for the overall title.

The cream certainly seems to be rising to the top here at Skandia Cowes Week and the battles around the fleets are heating up as we reach the business end of the regatta. Tomorrow, Skandia Cowes Week hosts its very first Ladies Day with all manner of activities being organised by Cowes Combined Clubs and the sponsors. Timberland will be running a Fancy Feet competition, the UK Sailing Academy will be hosting ladies from eight years up on their Try Sailing Initiative and Champagne G.H. Mumm is offering discounted Rose champagne at the waterfront bar in the Cowes Yacht Haven. A fashion show will also be held by Cowes Yachting Magazine in the Haven and The Ellen MacArthur Trust are running a ‘Best Ladies’ time competition as part of its Virtual Skipper game down on Cowes Parade. On the water it will be another great day of sailing with winds expected in the 15-18 knot bracket and clear, sunny skies so for both the sailors and the spectators there’s going to be something for everyone!