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22 August 2001, 03:01 pm
Stealth, GBR Challenge, South Australia Win
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©Jon Nash

America's Cup Jubilee
Isle of Wight

Stealth, GBR Challenge, South Australia are the Round the Island Winners. The UBS Race around the Isle of Wight celebrating the Jubilee of the America’s Cup started off the Royal Yacht Squadron’s starting line in Cowes today in ideal condi...
Thousands of spectators ashore and thousands more afloat watched as 201 boats representing more than a 100 years of yachting history departed Cowes on the 60-mile race around the Isle of Wight first made famous by the schooner yacht America 150 years ago tomorrow.

The line honors winner was Gianni Agnelli's Frers-designed sloop Stealth, steered by North Sails' Kenny Read, in 4 hours, 48 minutes, 9 seconds -see separate story.

In the America's Cup Class, the Prada Challenge's Luna Rossa snatched a two-second victory from the GBR Challenge's GBR-52 after the latter led all the way round the island, only to lose it on a protest - see separate story on the event website.

In the International 12-Metre Class, Russell Coutts steered the Swiss Team Alinghi to victory aboard South Australia - see separate story.

Punctuated by blasts every five minutes from the starting cannon of the Royal Yacht Squadron, an amazing array of sailing craft started in nine separate classes during the hour and a half starting sequence.

A six to eight knot southerly breeze and bright sunshine with a forecast of more breeze later promised a speedy circumnavigation for the fastest boats. As the fleet cleared the line, it was boosted by a strong flood tide running at four knots that would carry even the slowest boat to the eastern end of the Isle of Wight in quick order.

The smallest boats in the Vintage, Classic and Spirit of Tradition Class were first off the line at 10:40 a.m on a warm sunny morning with occasional high clouds. They reached down the line, hardening up on starboard tack at the gun and setting topsails, flying jibs and cramming on every inch of sail as they headed up the Solent.

When the 35 12-Metres got the gun, they spread rapidly out over a big patch of ocean as the age and condition of the older boats became apparent. Kiwi Magic, Sir Michael Fay's old "plastic fantastic" 12-Metre - and runner-up of the Louis Vuitton Cup in Fremantle in 1987 - headed the pack as they short-tacked up the Cowes shore, showing the way in the early going. She is being campaigned this week by the current Team New Zealand defenders of the America's Cup, steered by the team's youngest helmsman, Cameron Appleton.

Great Britain, which is returning to the America's Cup fray with its challenge for 2003, was prominent in the start of the America's Cup Class. The GBR Challenge's GBR-52, formerly the Nippon 2000 Cup challenger Idaten, quickly clawed in to the lead and the weather berth after the start. Parallel with her and two boat lengths to leeward with clear air, Team New Zealand was moving just as fast, while Luna Rossa, the unsuccessful 2000 Italian challenger for the Cup was an equal distance to leeward of the Kiwis.

Two hours later, at the lightship off Bembridge at the eastern end of the Island, GBR-52 had extended her lead over the Kiwis to two minutes, while the Italian boat was crowding Team New Zealand, just 20 seconds astern.

The last to start were the three J-Class yachts and the 23-Metre Cambria. The Aussies sailing Cambria made another of their classic weather end starts but, with their boat's long bowsprit soon sagged off to leeward below their younger J-Class sisters. Lipton's old wooden Shamrock, resplendent with green topsides set off with gold-colored winches and deck fittings, also started well. For the third time in three days, the green boat dominated the early going, putting Velsheda in her wake and maintaining a loose cover on Endeavour which was forced to sail lower, and hopefully faster, to get far enough ahead to cross Shamrock on port tack.

After a fast ride around the island, the lead ACC boats were continuing in the same positions as earlier, as they rounded the Needles and fought the ebb tide rushing through Hurst Narrows at the bottom of The Solent.

With 20 minutes to the finish, the ACC boats and others were hugging the Isle of Wight Shore, off Newtown Creek, with GBR-52 from the British America's Cup challenge syndicate leading Team New Zealand by 300 metres and Luna Rossa just a few metres behind the Kiwis. The British boat had the 60-mile race in the bag.

Off Gurnard, GBR-52 slowed dramatically after her spinnaker pole mast-end broke and the Italians surged up almost level with the British boat. Her crew worked frantically to make a repair and get the spinnaker filled. Surrounded by speeding spectator boats, the two contestants ran side by side under big asymmetrical kites for the finish line with Team New Zealand pressing, a couple of lengths astern in their wakes.

The three boats came up to the line together in a finish reminiscent of recent Louis Vuitton Cups, but GBR-52 was too close to the inboard limit mark. She made a lightning double gybe to get clear and was swept sideways by the ebbing tide as Luna Rossa bore on without gybing to finish first by two seconds. Team New Zealand finished moments later in third place. Luna Rossa later lost first place when the jury penalized her for a luffing infraction approaching the finish.

Marilee, the 1926 gaff-rigged New York 50 which led the smallest Vintage Class off the starting line, also led all the Vintage, Classic and Spirit of Tradition boats around the island and was first to finish. Launched in 1926, the low, graceful 58-footer is being campaigned this week by a group of New York Yacht Club members including Larry Snoddon, Edward Kane, Pete Kellogg, Mitchel Shivers, and B Waggoner.

Endeavour led the J-Class home, with Velsheda close behind. Shamrock V and Cambria trailed them across the finishing line.

Detailed results for all classes, all races and all days can be found on the event website. Click on "Results" on the Home page.

Keith Taylor/News Editor
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