After a rip-roaring, high-wind start to the America’s Cup Jubilee, we are now suffering from a disappointing lack of wind. Even so, the competition at the front of the Classic Division of the 12-Metres remains as tight as ever.
On board Flica II, we share the lead with Patrizio Bertelli's Nyala, with Sovereign not far behind. Yesterday's race was fun while it lasted. A beat against a foul tide is always tough going, but after a bad start we recovered to third place by the windward mark, having short-tacked up the shallows next to Ryde Pier.
Trickling down the run in a dying breeze, we found that the leeward mark turned into a parking lot as each boat turned the mark and stopped. The first of the Grand Prix 12s had snuck round the mark and got back into the breeze further up by Ryde, but the later 12s could never get back there. One by one we dropped anchor and started kedging against the ripping current.
We had a nasty bump down the side of one modern 12 that was kedging before we had had time to secure our own anchor. Then, when we did drop anchor, the line broke and we were off downtide on a fast but unwanted trip home back to Cowes. Thankfully the race committee saw fit to abandon the race for another day.
Today didn't look much better on the forecast, with the saving grace that the tide was with us for the early part of the day, giving us enough forward motion to get upwind to the first mark. Great start this time, and first to the windward mark by some margin, with the bonus of seeing our great rival Nyala back in sixth place. The top five boats gybed towards the island shore to get out of the tide. Nyala carried on towards the mainland shore to chance her luck over the other side.
We thought that might be the last we would see of them for that race as Nyala plugged away into adverse tide but no, by the leeward mark they had moved up from sixth to first place. Damn! I'd have called it luck if it had been anyone else, but with Torben Grael and the Prada boys maybe we have to accept it was smart sailing. Either way, their gamble had paid off.
Regular readers of this column will not be surprised to hear that they then started tacking aggressively on us, with both boats tacking out to the starboard layline while the rest of the fleet raced up the middle of the course. By the windward mark we had dropped to third and after a poor gybe set it was looking like it could get worse.
Gradually our spinnaker trimmer, Herve Cunningham, dragged our boat down what was to be the last run before a shortened-course finish at the leeward mark. Nyala had scored another bullet, we had to be satisfied with a third, but at least our other big rivals Sovereign suffered a fifth.
Despite the graceful, elegant appearance of these yachts, the racing is proving as close as anything you might see in newer boats. Flica II is entered in the Concourse d'Elegance contest for the most aesthetically pleasing yacht at the Jubilee, and for on-the-water appearance I think we would do well. On board, however, there are too many concessions to racing and speed for us to be serious contenders. Aesthetics and speed are often diametrically opposed to each other. We seem to have reasonable amounts of both, but I know which contest Flica's crew would like to win most. The Prada 12-Metre World Championships.
Results after Four Races
1 SOUTH AUSTRALIA (Russell Coutts) 1.00 (1) 1.00 (1) 2.00 (2) 1.00 (1) 5.00 pts
2 AUSTRALIA II (John Bertrand) 2.00 (2) 4.00 (4) 5.00 (5) 2.00 (2) 13.00 pts
3 KIWI MAGIC (Cameron Appleton) 5.00 (5) 2.00 (2) 3.00 (3) 3.00 (3) 13.00 pts
4 "ECOSSE (Irvine Laidlaw) 3.00 (3) 5.00 (5) 7.00 (7) 4.00 (4) 19.00 pts
5 "CRUSADER (Richard Matthews) 6.00 (6) 8.00 (8) 1.00 (1) 6.00 (6) 21.00 pts
6 HISSAR (Edgar T Cato) 4.00 (4) 3.00 (3) 6.00 (6) 12.00 (DNF) 25.00 pts
7 "ITALIA (Don J L Wood) 7.00 (7) 6.00 (6) 8.00 (8) 5.00 (5) 26.00 pts
8 "FIDDLER (Alfred B Van Liew) 12.00 (RET) 7.00 (7) 6.00 (6) 12.00 (DNF) 37.00 pts
9 "KOOKABURRA (David Allen) 8.00 (8) 9.00 (9) 10.00 (10) 12.00 (DNF) 39.00 pts
10 "KIWI (Michael Smith) 9.00 (9) 10.00 (10) 9.00 (9) 12.00 (DNF) 40.00 pts