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7 August 2007, 10:10 am
Hot Start For Cowes Week
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Cowes Week is underway

Skandia Cowes Week 2007
Cowes, Isle of Wight, Great Britain

It's that time of year again in Cowes with 8,500 sailors crowding into the Isle of Wight for the 181st year of Skandia Cowes Week. Around 1,000 boats are competing on the Solent waters and they were greeted with a blisteringly hot start to the event over the weekend.
Sunday proved a classic as the tricky conditions thrown up by the strong flood tide and baggy breezes caused a series of upsets.

The first major shock of the day was the seamless choreography that marked the start of the Laser SB3 class. After last year's problems in getting 87 boats onto the race track, Cowes Combined Clubs (CCC) this year decided to allocate 25 minutes to the SB3 starting sequence to allow for general recalls.

That time provision was needed on Saturday when dozens of boats were OCS at the start but today the 98-strong fleet were given a round of applause from race officials on the Royal Yacht Squadron platform after just two boats were recalled.

'Your reward for good behaviour yesterday is a difficult 'upwind uptide' course,' Principal Race Officer Malcolm MCKEAG told the fleet over the radio prior to the start. In the tricky conditions, with light variable winds and a strong east flowing tide, the fleet made its way to the central Solent before heading up to Lepe Beach.

The second surprise came in the leaderboard as the boats passed Alpha Buoy. No places for the usual Laser blazers as Glenn BOURKE in Musto was boxed in and Geoff CARVETH, Saturday's winner, was way back in the fleet on Earls Court Boat Show. Instead it was Kit GLOVER's Outkri and the awesome ladies on Team McLaren who were making all the running in the early stages.

By the time they were closing in on the finish, CARVETH had carved his way through the fleet to second whilst the winner, by one minute and 31 seconds, was RumbleFlurg owned by Dave CUMMINS with Colin SIMONDS in Doolalli in third. Musto arrived home in 26th place while Russell PETERS in Selden Seen posted a fifth, which all serves to heighten the bitter sweet rivalry.

A Striking Charge From Class 5

Another shocker was a general recall in Class 5 IRC which started off the RYS line. No one could remember Class 5 ever being black flagged but when they did eventually get going, just three boats over at the second attempt, they provided a striking vista, as they charged off towards Gilkicker Point at the precise moment that the SB3 spinnakers came powering through in the opposite direction behind them.

After completing their 20 nm course, Cowes regular Harry EVANS, the man who supplies the millions of plastic beer glasses to Cowes Yacht Haven each year, had his paws on the Victory Trophy after taking both line honours and victory on corrected time in his Swan 48 Alvine Jacobite, recording a 1 minute and 23 second advantage over Tontin, a brand new Joubert Nivelt 35 from Belgium owned by Wouter BORGHIJS.

Tricky Conditions

All skippers returned to Cowes talking of tricky conditions at various points around the race track. As Chris TIBBS reported at the outset, the breezes started out as east southeasterlies and veered to southwesterlies as the day went on. Winds in the East Solent were likely to be SE and in the west, southwesterly though a band of light variable airs in the middle would, TIBBS predicted, make life awkward for boats passing through it.

And he was right. By mid to late afternoon, the breeze was strictly southwest and force 3-4 which tested the fleet but they also benefited from some searing sun and cloudless blue skies, with temperatures reaching 25 degrees. No flashing brine or roaring tempest in the Solent today then though according to weather predictions, the Skandia Cowes Week fleet could savour a taste of the tempest later in the week.

Back at the Squadron, large crowds lined the waterfront to watch the flag officers hoist and lower ensigns, the cannon firers discharge their guns and Sea Cadets raise the essential course boards.

In Class 6 IRC, there was mayhem at the start as a few boats were forced the wrong side of Alpha Buoy and had to turn around. These included the beautiful 8 m Athena, campaigned by David GLASGOW and The Earl of Cork and Orrery. Two Sigma 38s flew protest flags and Vanilla, Niek SPILJARD's X332 that won on Saturday, was forced to retire.

TP52s Set To Crank Up The Pressure

Down the Western Solent, the Class 1 IRC fleet drifted around in the zephyrs for an hour and Benny KELLY's TP52 Panthera was forced to suspend her racing for 20 minutes to unravel the committee vessel's anchor line from their keel.

When the breeze kicked in, the fleet enjoyed a good tussle though officials shortened the course when the wind flunked out leaving Saturday's line honours winner Loki at the front. However, Sir Peter OGDEN's Swan 601 Spirit of Jethou remains at the top of the leaderboard for the second consecutive day.

OGDEN and his crew are happily tucking away as many conquests as they can before the winds start to blow later this week when the TP52s are likely to hit their straps and crank up the pressure.

Class 3 IRC were subject to a general recall when one of the competitors bumped into the committee vessel, leaving the poor race officials feeling a little bruised.

Yum! Yum! Mikado Takes The Saida Cup

In the increasingly competitive Sunsail Sunfast 37 class, Pippa HILDESLEY and Mike NEILSON, in Cazenove Dynamic, posted an 82-second victory over Listening Cimpany, entered by Phil MCDONALD with the Williams F1 team in third.

Rumours enjoyed an excellent start in the Dragons and proceeded to dominate throughout the 15 nm course to finish in first place, one minute ahead of Princess Jalina. Skipper Len JONES was in blistering form, more than happy not to see a repeat of his unfortunate dip in the drink on Friday when he campaigned a Laser SB3 Millgate Homes in the VW Touareg King of Cowes at Skandia Cowes Week regatta.

After his triumphant start to the Week on Saturday, Magnus WHEATLEY made a disappointing start in Class 9 IRC today in his International H-boat Hesperus but recovered well to finish in third, conceding the Newport Citizens Cup to Richard DONALD's folkboat Madelaine and the runners-up place to Philip Williams Nordic folkboat Tatterat.

Class 8 IRC were black flagged, another surprise in the start sequence but eventually were led away by Liz RUSHALL in Louise MORTON's quarter tonner Espada with Curved Air hot on their heels but it was the 103-year old Mikado, Michael BRIGG's lovely old Clyde 30 class boat that won the Saida Cup. Jeff WORBOY's Sigma 33 Workout and Howard SELLERS' quarter tonner Bullett came in behind them with just 21 seconds separating second and third. Espada finished fifth.

For the bigger boats, there could have been more wind but for the majority of the fleet, it was another classic Sunday at Skandia Cowes Week with both the ice and sun cream sellers doing brisk business.

Showers are being forecast overnight as a front passes through, then tomorrow it will be sunny with the chance of showers according to our weather guru TIBBS. Winds will be light or moderate NW, backing W-SW and increasing 13-18. Sounds terrific.

Just as we were about to close this bulletin we received news that Josephine, racing in the XOD Class and driven by Mark JARDINE, was dismasted in a collision with the Tall Ship J. R. Tolkein, a 42m gaff-topsail schooner. Her bowsprit ripped out the X-boat's backstay, leaving a buckled shroud and the boat needing a new mast.

Kate Laven/CCC (As Amended By ISAF)
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