Whilst the grouse shooting season officially got underway today, Skandia Cowes Week basked in its own glorious festival of Corinthian sailing as brisk breezes settled in across the Solent to produce a fantastic day of sailing for all 885 boats entered.
Day six dawned beneath beautiful sunshine breaking through a cloudy sky with the prospect of some thundery showers later in the day but more importantly there was a steady 16-19 knot breeze. However, with two wind patterns fighting for dominance, it was very much a day for the navigators and tacticians as a SSW filtered down the Western approaches whilst a SSE set in the Eastern Solent.
The big race of the day was in IRM for the New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup and again the Royal Yacht Squadron's Principal Race Officer John GRANDY and Chief Race Officer Rear Admiral Paddy O'RIORDAN made the Class work hard for the coveted trophy. Setting a course of 37.5 miles in length, starting on a Committee boat line by Reeds Nautical Almanac, encompassing 13 marks with the furthest being the Bridge buoy just beyond the Needles, it was a tough day for the crews.
In a race that saw the three Farr 52's, (Bear of Britain, Team Tonic and Chernikeef 2) virtually tied together with invisible rope, it was inevitable that the overall winner would emerge from this pack. Just 51 seconds separated the three as they thundered down the Solent to the finish with Chernikeeff 2 and Bear of Britain side by side to the death. Peter HARRISON'S Chernikeeff 2 took the canon by just 9 seconds but the story was very different on overall handicap as Nick HEWSON'S Team Tonic bounced back from a blown spinnaker to claim the race. The Farr 52's have, on balance, dominated the fleet all week from the chasing Farr 45's and with match racing in the evening off the Green have thoroughly deserved the Skandia Cowes Week headlines. Both Kit HOBDAY and Peter HARRISON should be congratulated for a wonderful spectacle.
One boat that thoroughly deserves some headlines though is the X332 Kiss owned and sailed by Ipswich based David PINNER who has absolutely dominated the fleet and today recorded a 2 minutes 13 second win to secure a perfect score of six races sailed, six races won. It's a remarkable performance by Pinner and his hard driving crew who simply haven't put a foot wrong all week and are firm favourites to achieve not only a perfect score but also the overall Black Group title.
In the White Group Fleets, Principal Race Officer Ian LALLOW set the fleets away to the Eastern Solent against the tide in the hope of reducing the numbers of OCS starters. However for James WILSON'S dominant Redwing, Quail, their chances of overall glory in the White Group were greatly diminished as she mistimed her run into the line to jump the gun. The other main contender for overall honours, the Sonar Billy (Duncan BATES) had a disastrous start being caught in the lee of the Squadron to eventually finish in a lowly seventh place. Both these competitors will be ruing the glorious twelfth as the day they lost the White Group.
However in the International Flying Fifteen Class, Rupert MANDER sailing Men Behaving Badly has now secured the class after taking his fifth win in the class by 2 minutes 39 seconds from Tony BEDINGFIELD'S Dusty IV. Mander's performance has been peerless all week as he's stormed the class with only a seventh on the opening day of racing preventing him from taking a clean sweep.
The Etchells saw Ante RAZMILOVIC further extend his lead overall with a second placing today in Swedish Blue after a mesmerising start at the outer end of the line. Jervis TILLY'S Bushfire took the winners gun by 2 minutes 23 seconds whilst Mark DOWNER sailing Maverick suffered a setback to his Skandia Cowes Week ambitions with a third placing today. This class will go all the way down the wire to the finish on Saturday with Razmilovic and Downer the stand-out performers in the fleet.
In the Laser SB3 class there was a return to form of Glenn BOURKE'S Musto after yesterday's slip up to fifth place with a convincing win over the Skandia Squad member, Jon SHELLEY sailing Skandia Passion. The Skandia Squad is a week-long sponsorship package for boats that closely adhere to Skandia's core ideals of Passion, Creativity, Courage, Passion and Contribution with Skandia providing free berthing, entry fees, a spinnaker and a whole wardrobe of clothing. Results have been mixed through the squad so Shelley's result today was certainly cause for celebration!
Graham BAILEY secured his third International Dragon Class win of the week sailing Aimee and after discard is now tied overall with Len JONES in Chouette who recorded a fourth place today. Peter NICHOLSON'S Virago trailed Bailey home in second place by just 23 seconds and only 12 minutes separated the entire 22 strong fleet in this ultra-competitive class.
Sarah EVERETT confirmed her position at the head of the 32 strong National Squib Class sailing Firestreak to a win just shy of two minutes over Richard BOWTELL'S Vanessa III after a brilliant start off the inshore Squadron line. With three wins in the Class now and no result worse than fourth, Everett is a near certainty to scoop the overall title.
In the Sigma 38 Class the competition is turning into a two boat race with Andy and Ian BUDGEN'S, The Project and John & Jackie EDWARD'S Red Macaw jostling for the top spot. It was a one-two again today with The Project thundering home to record a 6 minute 30 second victory. In the very pretty West Solent One Design Class which is celebrating its 80th year, Phil PLUMTREE sailing Arrow recorded his fourth win of the week by outsmarting the five-strong fleet from the starting gun out on the Black Group starting line.
The Hunter 707 fleet got away to a windward/leeward course out in mid-Solent and once again it was the impressive crew of Charlie Fish that stole the headlines. Iain MAY steered his party-loving team home to a resounding 3 minutes 32 second victory and will certainly be celebrating hard tonight at the Charlie Fish ball being held in the GBR America's Cup compound in aid of the Official Charity of Skandia Cowes Week, Sail4Cancer. The big question now will be, can the Charlie Fish brigade win again tomorrow after a hard night of partying? We shall see…
The two outstanding performers in the Sportsboat fleet, Edward FISHWICK'S Redshift and the Pure 6 of Rory MCLURE with ex-Illbruck navigator Ian Moore calling the shots, once again showed a clean pair of heels from the chasing pack. Redshift took the handicap win over Pure 6 by nearly six minutes to take their third victory of the week and tighten their grip on the overall title.
In Class 4 IRC Stephen JAMES'S beautiful Swan 48 Jacobite took his fourth win of the week, recording a massive corrected time victory of over 10 minutes. The interesting battle though was behind Jacobite as the HOD 35's of Tim HARRINGTON'S Capitali$m and Zaraffa of Major Peter SCHOLFIELD duelled for supremacy in not only IRC Class 4 but their own separate division. The slightly lower rated Capitali$m (1.037) took both line honours and the corrected time win from Zaraffa (1.038) to finish second and third in class respectively. The contest for the overall HOD title, certainly hangs in the balance with just one point separating these two after discard.
Round the Island Race winner Giovanni BELGRANO sailing the photogenic Laurent Giles designed Whooper, whooped up another race win to take his tally for the week to three wins. The Contessa 32 Class produced a surprise win for John CORDEN'S Fresh Herring who made a great start out on the Black Group line as Blanco launched a spinnaker for the fetch to the first mark. Fresh Herring notched a 1 minute 36 second victory and claimed the De Quincy Contessa Cup from Blanco in second and Eldred HIMSWORTH'S Drumbeat in third.
In the Seaview Mermaid's, Class leader John HAIGH, sailing Scuttle 62 stayed ahead of his nearest rivals for the overall title by recording a third place today as the Dobbs/Proddow partnership took the class win with a 4 minute 48 second victory from James NIMMO'S Sheen. In the Solent Sunbeam's there's a cracking tussle for first place overall unfolding with the overnight leader John DAVIS in Fleury scoring a crucial third place today just ahead of the charging Roger WICKENS in Danny. The Class win went to the Mikes Law and Moss in Daisy with Barry SAMPSON recording a handy second place.
Finally in the XOD Class, starting out on a Committee Boat line by Royal Southern, it was another Jardine that won again with Mark JARDINE sailing Kathleen taking a hard fought 59 second win from David TABB'S Zoe. In recording the win, Mark rockets up the leader board to challenge his father Stuart who finished fifth today. With only one discard in the XOD's there's everything to play for with Stuart JARDINE holding an eight point advantage over his son after discard with two days of racing to go. This will be a fascinating duel to watch unfold.
Overall the day was a great success with on-time starts and the only general recalls coming on the Committee Boat line for Class 2 IRC. Across Cowes the town is thronging with happy sailors and sunburnt faces all waiting tonight for the appearance of the Red Arrows performing a Class A display overhead and the conclusion of the Bear of Britain/Chernikeeff 2 match racing which is currently tied at one race each. The forecast for tomorrow promises continuing sunshine and another day of 15-20 knot breezes. Skandia Cowes Week…it's almost perfect!