Held in 10-12 knots of breeze and blazing sunshine the race looked like another opportunity for the Irish team to pull ahead on points, but it was not to be, as disaster struck for the Irish big boat, Fidessa-Fastwave.
Following a protest by Bear of Britain against Fidessa Fastwave being upheld by the international jury over a pre-start port-starboard infringement, the margin of their lead has diminished by one point. Fidessa Fastwave was disqualified from race 7 and as a result the Irish team now stand at 44 points in total, with GBR Black and GBR Red tied in second place on 47.5.
For the first time, on the marginally longer course, the Farr 52 Bear of Britain was able to stretch her legs.
"We started near the port end, just above a majority of the fleet,"
recounted Bear's helmsman Stuart CHILDERLEY. "There were a lot of boats early near the pin and having to gybe around. So even though we were 50m up from the pin, we were the most windward boat and we sailed over everyone quite quickly. Then we just had our head down - shortest distance, fastest speed."
In contrast to Thursday's course in the eastern Solent, yesterday the boats had the tide running with them up the beat. This was stronger on the left side of the course and all the boats were heading in this direction on the beat and sticking to starboard gybe to get across to the mainland side and out of the tide down the run.
Bear of Britain, the biggest and highest rating yacht in the Rolex Commodores' Cup was once again was miles ahead of the competition but on this occasion her lead was enough to knock the Dutch team's Grand Soleil 44, Holmatro into second, by a margin of just seven seconds on corrected time. "Time-wise it was very close. The other boats were just over a minute behind us,"
Once again racing in the medium-sized boats in class two was dominated by Colm BARRINGTON'S Flying Glove, although it was France Blue's Paprec Recyclage that rounded the weather mark first. Flying Glove was able to surge ahead on the gybe across to the mainland and from there extended her lead, finishing 50 seconds ahead of the French Sinergia 40 on corrected time. The Irish boat, has an unusual scoreline, with straight wins, apart from the final race on Thursday when she finished last in class 2 after she was becalmed close to the finish line.
The closest racing was to be found in the small boat class where the Crosbie family's crew on board the Ker 32 Calyx The Voice and Data People applied all their Irish cunning to beat their British sistership Fair Do's VI.
"We got height and a good lead at the weather mark and then everyone closed up at the gybe mark with the tide. We were neck and neck with Fair Do's on the run and we had a gybe, they infringed and took a 360 penalty turn,"
said helmsman David CROSBIE. With the British boat dispatched they then set their attentions on the French.
Crosbie continued: "We just managed to get water on the French J/109 [Pen Azen] coming into the gate [leeward mark] and getting water there was the decisive move. It meant we had our lane for the next beat and we opened up our lead and we were able to hold that down the run. It was good racing - nice and tight."
At the finish they were almost a minute ahead of the French boat on corrected time, with John Shepherd's Fair Do's VI in third.
Last night the Rolex Commodores' Cup fleet headed off on the Channel Race, the final event in this regatta. The boats sailed east out of the Solent on a 170 mile long course out into the Channel around the EC2 buoy. With a point weighting of 4x that of the windward-leewards, it is still entirely possible for both GBR Black and Red to gain the necessary points to put them into the lead, maintaining the suspense of the event until the finish. The final outcome will only be known when the boats finish over the course of Saturday evening.
The forecast for the offshore race for a light and variable wind of Force 1-3 from the west or northwest with a sea breeze developing on Saturday afternoon. In these conditions the crew will be making sure they have enough line on board so they can kedge (anchor) if the wind dies out when they are in unfavourable tide. Some, such as Bear of Britain are going a stage further. "For the offshore race we're looking at our options, such taking off some crew off,"
hinted Stuart CHILDERLEY.
Full race results are available on the event website at the address below.