With a complete absence of wind over a swelteringly hot Solent this morning, sailors were wondering if there would be any racing at all, but after a postponement the handicap fleets of Classes A and B finally started from the Royal Yacht Squadron transit line just after 1300 hours local time. By then the wind had picked up to a very respectable force three, making for another perfect day's racing in the western Solent. With spring tides running, and the current threatening to sweep boats over the line early, judging time on distance was crucial to success at the start.
Spurred on perhaps by a lacklustre performance on Tuesday, Swan 601 Island Fling poked her nose out more than most and was rewarded with the best start of Class A, and owner/driver Paul WINKELMANN had the luxury of clear air and dictating tactics to his fellow Swan 601s. Tuesday's stand-out performer, Italian boat Cuor di Leone, also started well, just a little more conservatively than Island Fling and took up second place on the long beat to Salt Mead, but the Swan 70 Stay Calm made a second rank start and struggled to break through the pack of smaller but equally paced Swan 601s.
FERRAGAMO's tactician, Olympic sailor Andy BEADSWORTH (GBR), commented, 'We had a real ding-dong battle with Island Fling and the others, it was a very exciting finish - probably no more than a minute between the first five boats finishing. The last run down to Cowes was all about risk, how much you are prepared to take to get into shallower water, to avoid the tide.' According to BEADSWORTH, the Swedes at the back were the highest risk, daring to go further inshore than anyone else, while Island Fling yielded some of her lead by staying further out. 'We started to get uncomfortable when we saw anything less than three metres under our keel,' said BEADSWORTH, 'but at one point it was down to less than half a metre.'
On handicap, Libby DEEGAN's Swan 46 MkII Akarana maintains her lead in Group A after scoring a second, while Stephen JAMES' Swan 48 Jacobite chipped a point off Akarana's lead with a victory. With three races completed, Akarana holds six points to Jacobite's nine.
In Group B, the Swan 441 Menenes finished first across the water, but crewman Pete NEWLANDS (GBR) was not sure if they had done enough for a good result under handicap. 'We sailed a good race, and we were just wondering what else we could have done better, but I think it might be a day for the small boats,' said the former Olympian. 'The smaller boats have shorter keels so they can get into shallower water and escape more of the tide. That could be the difference that works in their favour on handicap.'
As it turned out, Menenes came fifth on handicap, lifting her to third overall after three races, but the two boats above her on the leaderboard had an even better race. Richard BALDING's Swan 41 Philippides II consolidated her lead with a victory, putting her on nine points overall, while Jonty LAYFIELD's Swan 47 Sleeper scored a second place, giving her 14 points from four races.maintained her lead for much of the race, but with the fleet running back down towards the finish at the Squadron line, the adverse current compressed the big boats and suddenly it was anyone's race between Stay Calm and the four Swan 601s. In the end the Stuart ROBINSON's Swan 70 just scraped across the line ahead of Cuor di Leone, owned by Leonardo FERRAGAMO.