Aound up of the action in the Solent today 07/08/07

The long line of Laser SB3s moored up stern to bow on a glistening sea told the story of today’s racing at Skandia Cowes Week although, eventually, the wind gods conceded defeat to allow a reduced programme of racing. Only the X One-Designs decided not to race when the 70 competitors judged the Committee Vessel start too far away to allow for a decent day’s racing.

Whither the wind?

Kicking off the day’s proceedings, Chris Tibbs’ rather depressing opening forecast coincided with a postponement which meant more recovery time for those crews who had been merry-making at the Ellen MacArthur Trust Ball the previous evening. All that digging in the wastelands of their enormous pockets unearthed a pot of gold – £78,328 to be precise, which was a fabulous result for the charity.

The weather guru was less generous. After a bright sunny windless start, the sea breeze may or may not kick in later, he predicted. Hopefully, it would come from the south west but there were no guarantees and hopefully it might build to a force 4, but again there were no promises. There could also be a shower or two he added, which was the prompt for a large collective moan to ring out across Cowes.

Delay or be damned

At around midday, the fleet started to drift out towards the start and the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Principal Race Officer Simon van der Byl announced the Laser SB3s would start at 1225. Just seconds before the gun fired however, the AP (Answering Pennant) was raised and the gun was fired three times to indicate a further postponement.

There was a look of complete bewilderment on the faces of crews who were unsure whether the guns signified a general recall or a postponement. However, the picture soon became clear when van der Byl explained over the radio that the wind had softened off Egypt Point and that when it hardened up again, they would send the 98 boats on their way.

Over the next half hour, the wind came and went, topping out at a dismal six knots but at 1305, they were off, only to be black flagged. At the second attempt, they trotted over the line and headed off towards Gurnard, although there was the usual melee when they tacked to stay out of the danger zone, leading to a round of shouting and arm waving, accompanied by a series of near misses.

The Squadron invoked special race instructions and split the White Group start, with seven starts on the RYS line and the rest sent over to the Wightlink Barge for a Committee Vessel start.

The Black Group were also given two starts, with the big boats sent down to Solent Bank for a 19nm course, finishing with a spinnaker sprint through Gurnard whilst the rest were sent on a shorter course finishing in a blaze of kite-flying glory on the same line.

Legendary Sir Robin back in action

Henri Lloyd Cutting Edge, Robert Lutener and Martin Elwood’s Farr 45, was carrying a distinguished guest in Class 2 IRC when solo round-the-world yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston joined them for today’s racing.

It was a far cry from his recent endeavours in the recent Velux 5 Oceans Race which saw him returning to the Southern Ocean for the first time since his historic passage in Suhaili in 1968; a 16nm course, as opposed to 30,000nm, and 12 other crew instead of being on his tod. He would also have been relieved to have a navigator alongside him to operate all the 21st century gadgetry that tested his patience so publicly during his recent circumnavigation. The welcome sight of his five grandchildren in a RIB at the finish to wave him over the line added to his enjoyment.

Tomorrow, Sir Robin will compete in the Artemis Challenge at Skandia Cowes Week and on Thursday, he will join up with his chum Robin Aisher in the Daring, Defiant.

Henri-Lloyd was the second finisher amongst the Farr 45s and eighth in Class 2 IRC which fell some way short of the results needed between now and the end of the week if they are to catch Glynn Williams. He has again dominated Class 2 IRC in his Swan 45 Wisc and now looks to have an unassailable lead after posting a second place today.

A sharp intake of breath

Meanwhile, Graham Bailey is enjoying a similar supremacy in the Etchells after posting his second win in two days in Arbitrator on top of a second and third at the weekend. He will be difficult to beat, though his wife Julia, campaigning her new Dragon Aimee, will be looking to match him, crown for crown having posted a series of podium places this week to make the Dragon leaderboard a tightly packed affair with Len Jones in Rumours currently out in front.

Crowds who gathered on the Green were treated to the same scenes of mayhem that they enjoyed at the weekend as the strong east to west tide carried the dayboats dangerously close to the rocks and, in the case of Brian Hardy and Charles Platt’s Daring Destroyer, right onto them. They spent ten minutes trying to heel her over to get her away but they were not the only ones to misjudge the depth as many boats were compelled to put in emergency tacks to keep them safe, resulting in sharp intakes of breath amongst spectators.

Ed Leask knocked the Dutch crews off their perch in Class 3 IRC with a one minute and 43 second win in his Swan 42 Uxorious III but it was not necessarily a day for Swans as Sir Peter Ogden discovered. Spirit of Jethou finished seven minutes behind the Reichel Pugh 60 Loki but was placed seventh on handicap which puts him in third place overall.

The TP52s Flash Glove and Panthera had another excellent day, despite the light airs with Colm Barrington finishing more than four minutes ahead of Benny Kelly. The other TP52 Cockburn’s Red finished off the pace once more with everything to do to make up for a slow start to the week.

At the first mark in the Laser SB3 race, Glenn Bourke had a convincing 25 second lead in Musto and although he was able to maintain that right to the finish, the winning margin over rival Geoff Carveth was a nerve jangling minute and two seconds. There is absolutely no doubt that Carveth, who leads the class overall in Earls Court Boat Show, will be seeking his revenge tomorrow.

Number crunching

Down on Cowes Parade Ellen MacArthur had one of her remarkable records beaten in a sensational performance from a young chap called Olly. After Ellen had set a record on the Ellen MacArthur Trust ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Dinghy’ sailing simulator of 02.02.06, Olly turned up on the stand and knocked a full five seconds off her time to claim pole position AND two tickets to both the Southampton and London Boat Shows.
Photo above by onEdition

For a chance to win £1,500 worth ofTacktickequipment click here