After the carnage of the previous day, the final day of racing at Skandia Cowes Week dawned beneath baking sunshine that tipped the mercury to 23 degrees and moderate South-Westerly breezes that struggled to top Force 3 all afternoon.
It was a glorious day for racing in the Western Solent although for the Committee Boat starters down in the Eastern Solent there were postponements and repositioning before the wind finally settled in. Yesterday's entry of 801 yachts got underway on an ebb tide that saw several boats being swept over the Royal Yacht Squadron lines and with the early breezes of just 5 knots, struggled to get back over to restart.
The first start of the day was a classic example of the problems facing the smaller inshore classes as the Skandia Larrikin crew from Skandia Cowes Week's sister regatta, Skandia Geelong Week, in the Laser SB3 class found themselves downtide and eventually started some five minutes late. Glenn BOURKE of Volvo Ocean race fame, returned from work to make a beautiful start sailing Musto at the outer Alpha end of the line, sailing in clear air with pace and height. Bourke has dominated the Laser SB3s on the days he's sailed and the three-time World Laser champion recorded a 1 minute 38 second victory to take not only his fifth win of the week but the overall class title as well. Musto narrowly missed out on the White Group title despite the Flying Fifteen of Rupert and John MANDER not sailing yesterday but Bourke's performance in a wide variety of conditions has been an inspiration to the fleet.
Out on the Black Group line, the glamour boats of the IRM fleet set out on a 21 mile course in the Western Solent with Edward LEASK'S Babalaas acing the start with Adrian STEAD calling the tactics to take the early initiative. The Farr 52 Bear of Britain quickly overhauled Babalaas on the long starboard tack leg in towards Gurnard Bay but as the race unfolded it was Nick HEWSON'S rapidly improving Team Tonic that stole line honours. The usually dominant Farr 52's had a nightmare day on handicap, unable to save their time ,and it was a welcome change at the top of the class that saw Nick and Anne HAIGH'S Farr 40 Access Plus/Too Steamy taking a 55 second victory over Robbie CAMERON-DAVIES' Ker 11.3, I-Site. Philip TOLHURST'S Farr 40 Warlord VII made it a little boat bonanza taking third place whilst the Farr 52's dropped out of the top five for the first time this week.
One of the more remarkable feats of the day occurred in IRC Class 1 with the Russian entry of Serguei SHEVTOSOV, Follow Me starting on the wrong side of the Alpha starting buoy and being forced to return. Nearly five minutes had elapsed as Shevtosov steered his boat back against the tide with the Daring fleet lining up to start but he eventually rounded correctly and then went on to record a 13 second corrected time victory over the DK46, Fidessa Fastwave of Peter HARDING.
In the International Etchells fleet of 35 boats it was almost a three way match-race as overnight leader Ante RAZMILOVIC sailing Swedish Blue hunted down his nearest rivals of Mark DOWNER'S Maverick and Jervis TILLY'S Bushfire before the start. In getting the better start at the Squadron end of the line things were looking positive for Razmilovic but it was Tilly who stole the initiative and the race as Razmilovic tangled with Downer and a chasing pack. However by the finish, Razmilovic sneaked into third spot escaping the pack with Downer second to take the overall class win in his brand new boat.
The most hotly contested fleet of the week, the 83 strong XOD Class produced a thrilling finish with everything to play for after Stuart JARDINE'S retirement due to a rigging failure yesterday. His son Mark, sat atop the leader board on the penultimate evening after discard but yesterday was not to be for him as ex-Olympian Stuart stayed cool under fire recording a fourth place to lift a record fifth Captain's Cup as Mark finished a distant 17th. It has been a fascinating week-long battle between the two with Mark stepping out from his father's shadow to challenge hard and point the way to the possible destination of Captain's Cup's in the future. For Stuart, however, it is a remarkable achievement and is undoubtedly one of the stand-out performances of the week.
The big prize though for a perfect score and the runaway winner of Black Group overall goes to Ipswich based David PINNER in the X332 class. Eight races sailed, eight races won, a truly fantastic performance from this strict one design fleet of 17 boats. Pinner has sailed like a demon all week with an athletic, slick crew around him that have proved to be streets faster and smarter than the opposition. Yesterday's result, for the record, was a 1 minute 49 second victory over Ian SMYTH'S Pittolo Bill with the Royal Navy entered boat Electron V in third spot.
Taking her tally for the week to five wins and the overall National Squib Class title, Sarah EVERETT sailing Firestreak has totally dominated her class. Another big win today of over 3 and a half minutes was the icing on the cake after a fantastic display of seamanship, tactics and boatspeed from this 39 strong fleet and Everett has proved to be a very popular winner. David McCune's Inky Finger led the chasing pack today with David Wines sailing White Magic in third. Everett also landed the Skandia Young Skipper's trophy awarded to skippers under the age of 25 just ahead of John Gimson aboard the Sigma 33 Honey of Bosham.
The ultra competitive Class 4 IRC got underway today with a real dogfight between the two HOD 35's of Tim HARRINGTON'S Capitali$m and Major Peter SCHOLFIELD'S Zaraffa duelling for the outer Alpha end of the line. Capitali$m not only stole the initiative but took the race from Zaraffa as for once the favourable tide played to the HOD's handicap relegating Stephen JAMES'S all conquering Jacobite into third place.
Class 7 IRC has seen some controversy regarding redress and average points but the outstanding boat of the year, Giovanni BELGRANO'S Whooper has proved just too hot to handle, using her long waterline to great effect in the Solent chop. Taking the class win today, his fourth of the week, Belgrano scooped the overall title to add to his Round the Island victory and IRC National championship - an incredible year for both the boat and crew. The Fife designed and built Mikado of Michael BRIGGS took second today with Edward DONALD'S Folkboat Madelaine creeping onto the podium in third.
Class 2 IRC reverted somewhat to type today as the dominant Grand Soleil 44 of Hans Horrovoets, Holmatro recorded his fourth win of the week by a massive 7 minutes 52 seconds on corrected time to win the week by a distance. The all girl crew of Skandia Courage skippered by Lucy BURN took second place today bisecting the Grand Soleil battle with Jimmy PAHUN'S GS45 Satori in third.
The Sportsboat Class has seen a great tussle between the immaculate J-80 Redshift of Edward FISHWICK and the home-built and designed Pure 6 of Rory MOORE. With Rory's brother, ex-Illbruck navigator Ian MOORE calling the shots on Pure 6 the smallest Sportsboat in the fleet has taken two wins this week but yesterday was shown the way by Redshift who scored a massive corrected time win of over 5 minutes. Redshift therefore takes the class title for a second year running with four bullets from Pure 6 with the Melges 24 Wild Thing in third place after a third in today's race.
The Victory class is always a hotly contested fleet and so it was again this year with Jeremy LEAR'S Zinnia and Shaun HOPKINS Zephyrus taking the fight right down to the wire. Separated on discard only by virtue of a retirement by Zinnia in yesterday's windy conditions, Zephyrus takes the overall title having scored a third place today as Jeremy Lear sailed off to a 3 minute 16 second victory today to take the Lubbers Cup as consolation prize. Both boats finished on 14 points and the fleet have seen some of the tightest racing at Skandia Cowes Week.
In taking fourth place overall in the White Group, Duncan BATES sailing Billy has dominated the Sonar fleet all week scoring five victories and only dropping out of the top three once on Thursday. With the Sonar World Championships being held in Cowes next year, Bates has certainly put down a marker of intent in his ambitions for the title. Scoring a 4 minute 48 second victory today from Simon BARTER'S Echo, Bates secured his overall class win and is now viewed as the man to beat in this fleet that saw 18 boats on the start line.
The Redwings saw a close tussle on their mid Solent course with the top three separated by only a little over a minute. James Wilson's Quail was the eventual winner by 54 seconds from the partnership owned Toucan of the Romer Lee and Samuelson families to take his tally to five wins for the week and land third spot overall in the White Group.
In the National Swallow Class it came down to the wire for the Lunch/Reid owned Solitude as they landed the class victory with a third placing yesterday. The beautifully named Migrant took the winner's gun today by 1 minute 22 seconds to land second place overall just ahead of John HOUGHTON'S Avocet.
The International Dragon's were another class where the overall title was just too close to call. Len JONES sailing Chouette has proved to be the most consistent of the fleet and took a 1 point victory in the class by recording a 44 second victory over second placed overall Ecstatic of Eric WILLIAMS after 3 and a half hours of racing. David PALMER'S Princess Jalina took third place overall after a 7th place yesterday and this 24 strong fleet has been one of the most photogenic sights on the water all week.
The Daring fleet has played host to a great three way battle for the overall title with Robin RICHARDSON'S Doublet, Huber/Axtell/Greene's Dionysus and the Peckham/Carver owned Dauntless having a real ding dong to the final day of racing. Dauntless took the initiative today from Dionysus with Doublet in third but in the overall standings today's race results were reversed with Doublet taking the title from Dionysus with Dauntless third.
Other notable wins around the fleets included Tim SPALDING'S Beneteau 40.7 Love Shack taking IRC Class 3, Simon OSGOOD'S Folkboat So! winning Class 9 ISC and Ian ATKINS bringing home the 1720, Boats.com to take the cannon. With no Charlie Fish today in the Hunter 707's after they secured the week yesterday to go alongside their success at Cork it was Mike FOSTER'S Surfeit who held his lead off the start line to taste the spoils of victory. Will Caws landed the Gordon Rae Bowl in the Seaview Mermaid fleet sailing Cynthia whilst the Mike's LAW and Moss took the Alfred Westmacott trophy in the Solent Sunbeams.
Overall, the last day of Skandia Cowes Week 2004 proved to be a rousing success and as the fleets depart the marinas, the boats leave their moorings, thousands of weary, happy, sunburnt sailors can reflect on what has been a truly vintage regatta. It's a little under a year now to next year's event and, with any luck, we will see some of our Gold medal winners from the Athens Olympics gracing the waters of the Solent! Thank you Skandia and thank you Cowes; it's been another fantastic Skandia Cowes Week!