Andy Budgen and team aboard the Sigma 38 The Project

Is it any wonder one-design classes at Skandia Cowes Week offer competitors match racing thrills, when boats like Andy Budgen’s Sigma 38The Projectraise the competitive bar? Budgen and crew have once again demonstrated their expertise by taking their first win of the week in the Sigma 38 class.

For former dinghy racer Andy Budgen and his crew it’s serious business. After blitzing in the overall Sigma 38 class by winning every race at Skandia Cowes Week last year, including coming third overall in the Black group -The Projecthas a reputation to uphold. And the question is can they? With one win up their sleeve the odds are already looking good.

The on-form team have already had a win at Cork Week and the Sigma 38 national championship in May, but the first two days of the regatta here in Cowes didn’t go quite as planned, with a disqualification on Saturday after winning the race and a third place yesterday after leading off the startline and heading up the wrong way on the first beat. Budgen explains: “On the first day we were disqualified for an alleged port and starboard incident that we didn’t think happened after winning the race. That wasn’t our best day. They protested against us. It was my word against someone else’s.”

Despite the circumstances the crew remained positive, as main trimmer David Newey said: “It was just down to the guys in the protest room to look at the facts and decide the outcome. We just had to accept it and move on.”

If Budgen’s CV is anything to go by, the crew – made up of mainly University students – are in good hands. Owner of the Sigma 38, Scottish-born Andy comes from a dinghy sailing background, having coached the Irish 49er Olympic squad as well as just missing out on representing Britain in the Sydney 2000 Olympics with his brother, professional Volvo Ocean Race sailor Ian Budgen.

Budgen’s Sigma 38 is affectionately namedThe Projectbecause as he said: “The boat was in such a mess when I bought it two years ago. It was raced quite hard and not looked after very well, so I called itThe Projectbecause it was a project to put it back together. It still is a project, but it’s getting there.”

With help from his sponsor Freddie Schwyn, Budgen always aims to get the best crew for the big events but admits it’s not easy. He continued: “We’ve found it pretty hard to get crew. I’ve obviously got a lot of friends in the sailing world that I would like to have, but unfortunately they’ve all got family and businesses and so it’s quite hard to get a group of people together. We’ve ended up with mostly students because they’ve got lots of time off and are keen to go sailing.

“We have built a crew list of about 16 with people we can pull on if we need to. We actually took one more person to Cork than we needed by accident because I miscounted. So one person had a day off and we kept on swapping this person around. But at Cowes Week we have ten.”

There’s a lot riding onThe Projectretaining her position in the fleet. With lots of other Sigma 38s getting new sails and boats like John Edward’sRed Macawand Pete Diamond’sRapscalliongivingThe Projecta run for their money. Budgen reflects: “Last year we couldn’t get any better, we just won every race. It was hard to do any better than that.”

One of the secrets of their success is according to David Newey: “Preparation. We do a lot of preparation, we spend a lot of time making sure everything’s going to work and nothing’s going to break.”

Navigator William King also offers a strategy: “I think in the Solent the key is tides, and obviously watching the shifts on the island and mainland shore. So really getting out there early with eyes out the boat looking at what everyone else is doing, follow the race track and generally good awareness.”

Out on the racecourse today Budgen and team have demonstrated their skills once again in the breezy Solent conditions by taking their first win of the week. They are now looking forward to repeating their performance tomorrow.