It was a shock victory for a team that joined forces just two months ago, but a combination of good boat speed in and solid boathandling was enough for them to clinch victory from another new pair, Grant ROLLERSON and top 49er crew Pete GREENHALGH.
With strong winds for the first two days, and gusts of up to 33 knots, gear failure and capsizing took its toll on the 44-boat fleet. Jones and Rice port tacked the fleet in heat one to win the race into the cliffs, a crucial Garda tactic, and held off reigning European Champion James FAWCETT and Dave DOBROJEVIC. Mike LENNON and Alex SOUTHON won the two other races that day, while Fawcett and Dobrojevic's day was cut short with forestay problems.
The following day produced the strongest winds of the week, and the war of attrition continued, with the many casualties including last year's Fireball World Champion Chips HOWARTH and Tim HANCOCK. They were knocked out of contention when one of their trapeze racks snapped while launching from the notoriously treacherous slipway at Riva. Lennon was unable to reproduce his stunning race-winning form from day one, but Fawcett fought back from his previous day's gear failure to post a second place behind Jones. Fawcett, who with Dobrojevic weighs in as one of the lightest crews on the 14 circuit, took the lead from Jones in the next heat, but a gust from hell saw him pitchpole less than 200 metres from the finish, allowing Jones his second win of the day.
Clouds hung over the final day of the event, never a good sign for a venue that relies on the sun for its thermally driven afternoon breeze. While there was barely a breath of wind, rumours ran round the boat park of a Force 7 due to come in from the North. Competitors dithered over their choice of big or small mainsails, while some stayed ashore altogether, put off by the unpredictable forecast. However, a shifting Northerly blowing between Force 1 to 3 proved sufficient for the race committee to complete the final three heats of the series. Jones and Rice struggled in the lighter conditions, while Rollerson and Greenhalgh seized the opportunity to close the gap on the series leaders with a 1,4,2 scoreline. A similarly consistent score from Geoff CARVETH and Adrian MURPHY propelled them to a third place overall. Fawcett and Dobrojevic also enjoyed the lighter breezes, showing good downwind boatspeed, and posted a 2,6,1 score. But for their gear failure on day one they may well have been challenging for the series.
However, Jones and Rice did enough to retain their lead and win their first major regatta since teaming up in March this year. For Jones, it is a triumphant return to the 14 after more than a decade, having won the World Championships in 1991, and his first Prince of Wales Cup in 1981 in the days before twin trapezing. Rice also returns to the 14 after a long break from the class, having won Prince of Wales Week and the European Championships in the mid-1990s. Jones commented: "No one was more surprised than we were at winning this regatta. The boats are radically different from when I last sailed them - much, much faster. But with the T-foil rudder they are in many ways much easier to sail. The big question for us was how our boatspeed would be as we've had no opportunity to benchmark our speed against anyone else. Fortunately the boatspeed proved pretty good."
Jones is using an Ovington/Specialized Marine Bieker 4 design, with Bieker mast and Pinnell & Bax sails. Rollerson and Greenhalgh were using a brand new RMW-built Morrison 12 hull, with CST mast and RMW sails.
Full results are available on the club website at the address below.