There is, however, a sense of deja-vu about the results sheets with several outstanding yachts of Skandia Cowes Week 2005 once again performing at the top of their game. Adam GOSLING's Corby 29 Yes! scored a 34 second corrected time victory in Class 5 IRC over Harry HEIJST's Dutch entered Winsome to extend out his lead as the overall Black Group winner by dint of sailing in a larger fleet whilst Andy BUDGEN's The Project completed the Sigma 38 series whitewash with another victory today. The fact that the Sigma 38 class chose to only sail for seven days of the regatta virtually hands the overall title to GOSLING in Class 5 IRC who will sail again tomorrow to complete his series. The well-drilled Yes! team, sponsored this year by clothing manufacturer Murphy & Nye have been the class act of the week and showed again today over a 22 nautical mile course that the secret to winning at Cowes in the handicap fleets is to have a well prepared boat, fresh off the designers drawing board, sailed by a team of accomplished sailors.
Taking that formula literally is the superbly prepared and sailed Class 0 IRC winner of Eamon CONNEELY, Patches who absolutely trounced the glamour class of the regatta in recording a win by close to 10 minutes on corrected time. The rest of the fleet are looking at their boats and wondering just what they can do to claw back on Patches with Shirley ROBERTSON steering and Ian WALKER calling the shots. CONNEELY tucked the Rocking Horse Trophy under his belt today to make it a clean sweep of the prestigious trophies at Skandia Cowes Week and his mantle-piece back in Ireland will be groaning under the weight of the Queens Cup, the Britannia Cup and the New York YC Challenge Cup alongside today's trophy. All in all a very successful week for the team on Patches who will be looking to score further success over the coming year at regattas across the Mediterranean. Second place today in Class 0 IRC went to Nick LYKIARDOPULO's Aera with Kit HOBDAY's Bear of Britain scoring a third after a course in the western Solent that covered just over 40 nautical miles.
In Class 2 IRC, Colm BARRINGTON's beautiful Flying Glove was pushed hard by the Belgian entry of Francois GOUBAU Moana who is pushing equally hard for the prestigious Skandia Young Skipper's Trophy. Flying Glove got the nod today by just 46 seconds with the Dutch entry of Frans van der HEIJDEN Daikin Airco coming across the line some 15 seconds later to take third place. BARRINGTON, from Dalkey County Dublin has been the man to beat all week on his dashing blue Ker 39 and this previous Class 2 winner in the Commodore's Cup has certainly shown the fleet around the race courses with five first places and a second to record an almost perfect series. Barrington is ruing his second place on Tuesday as only a slip-up from Adam GOSLING's Yes! in tomorrow's race can give him the overall Black Group title.
We reported yesterday that John and Rupert MANDER in the International Flying Fifteen class had not lost a race since the opening day of Skandia Cowes Week 2004. Well, today the stellar run came to an end as Laurence MEAD, sailing with his daughter brought Hoomaloo home by a click over three minutes to confirm that the MANDER's are human after all! On a tricky course in the eastern Solent that saw the Flying Fifteens dicing with all manner of bigger boats and a nasty wet chop on the final beat, it was a day for staying out of trouble on the 15 nautical mile course. Hoomaloo sailed a blinder, getting the navigation absolutely right (not tricky on these low slung, two-man keelboats) to record a win that was celebrated hard down at the home of the Cowes Fifteens - The Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club.
Skandia Cowes Week prides itself on its long tradition and encourages yachts of all ages and styles to compete. Class 7 IRC, always a hot-bed of talent that has spawned the winner of the Gold Roman Bowl in the ISC's Round the Island Race no less than four times in the last five years, saw the beautiful Clyde Linear 30 of Michael BRIGGS finally score a class win today. Built in 1904 by William FIFE & Sons in Fairlie off the drawing board of William FIFE III, Mikado harks back to a bygone era of sail and sets the romantic hearts aflutter whenever her long aft hangings kick up her beautiful stern wave. Today she scored a close victory by a touch under two minutes over the Quarter-Tonner of Royal Corinthian YC secretary Louise MORTON, Super Q with Tony DODD's sailing his season conqueror Purple Haze just squeezing into third place.
The White Group fleets got away to running starts today off the Royal Yacht Squadron Line with Principal Race Officer John GRANDY and Chief Race Officer Paddy O'RIORDAN electing to send the early fleets against the tide to minimise the numbers of recorded OCS. The Laser SB3s got away to yet another stunning asymmetric spinnaker-flying start with all the fleet jostling to get inshore for tidal reasons on a fast reach down to the first marker buoy - Marine Track.com. Ian SOUTHWORTH made the best of the start launching his highly distinguishable pink kite right on the starting gun and leading a big pack of SB3s away. However it was not to be SOUTHWORTH's race win today despite sealing the series as Ben and Jono SHEELEY made the most of an aggressive starboard gybe approach to the first mark to sneak into a lead that they built on all afternoon. Sailing PWC, the SHEELEY's crossed the finish line after three hours of sailing to record a win just shy of two minutes from Solent ace Colin SIMONDS aboard Doolalli. Meanwhile in the International Dragon fleet who are witnessing a real ding-dong for the coveted overall class title, it was Graham BAILEY who outscored the overnight leader Poul-Ricard HOJ-JENSEN with a second place to the Dane's fourth. Implementing the discard now sees BAILEY extending his lead to three points with all to play for in tomorrow's deciding race where we're sure to see some tactical fleet positioning coming into play. The winner in the Dragon's today was Kent resident Len JONES sailing Rumours from Aimee with Eric WILLIAMS in third sailing Ecstatic.
The hard-partying crew of Hunter 707 defending champions Charlie Fish took the pressure off themselves today with a comfortable two minute win ahead of their infamous Rum-Ball in the Jungle tonight in aid of the John Merricks Sailing Trust. Skipper Iain MAY has sailed a canny regatta at Skandia Cowes Week scoring four race wins and two second places to win the fleet with a race to spare and finish runner-up in the White Group overall. Speaking this morning MAY said 'I really enjoy the social side of the regatta but not so much as winning on the water. There are five of us in the syndicate on 'Charlie Fish' and it's just a pleasure to sail with them. We won last year and everyone says that defending your title is twice as hard and I can definitely confirm that that's correct! My crew have sailed a blinder this week and got me out of quite a few tricky situations…I'll be back next year for sure.'
The inshore fleets saw quite a few names coming to the fore today perhaps suggesting that the time spent on the water throughout the week has blown some cobwebs away and crews have gelled. In summary: The Redwings saw a popular race win for Mark ANDREAE and the HAYLEY's aboard Prawn who secured the narrowest of victories (5 seconds) from William CLEGG's Lady Laetitia whilst Richard THOMPSON and Charles FISHER sailing the wonderfully named Migrant in the National Swallow class pipped Neville UPTON's Goosander to the race win by just 9 seconds. The sleek RS Elite fleet saw Steve POWELL rise to the top in E'Tu ahead of class favourite Ciao Bella of Mike TONG and Peter WAREHAM. In the Seaview Mermaid fleet, John SANDIFORD-HUGHh sailing Zara scored the win over overall leader Ben FEW-BROWN in Sheen who secured the week with a second place today whilst Roger and Jacky WICKENS in the Solent Sunbeam Danny recorded a 40 second victory over Tim HILL's Query. Roddy BOWERMAN made the best of the wet conditions in the Victory fleet to steer Steadfast home by a little under a minute from Shaun HOPKINS aboard Zephyrus with Jeremy LEAR taking third place aboard Zinnia. The Sonar's were once again a Billy - Bertie showdown with Duncan BATES in Billy taking the chocolates today whilst in the Sportsboats the J-80 of Jervis DEVONSHIRE brought the fleet home ahead of Liz SAVAGE's Just Savage although a protest is currently logged against SAVAGE's boat making the result therefore preliminary.
In the largest fleet at Skandia Cowes Week, the 79-strong XOD fleet, it's all to play for tomorrow despite Lt Colonel Stuart JARDINE being reinstated yesterday with a first place after querying the video evidence that had seen him initially scored an OCS. JARDINE virtually secured the regatta today with a sixth place to top the overnight standings from Kim SLATER's Alvine X who clocked fourth place today. The maths suggest that JARDINE must not finish lower than seventh place and SLATER must win for Jardine to be denied his sixth Captain's Cup. Today's winner in the XOD fleet was James MEANING sailing Arrow with Jonty SHERWILL's Astra in second and fellow Lymingtonian Rory PATON sailing Diana in third place.
The Black Group summary sees Rob GODDARD's Farrfalina scoring a three second victory on corrected time in Class 1 IRC from Peter HARDING's Fidessa-Fastwave. Tim SPALDING scored another good victory in Class 3 IRC aboard Love Shack by over a minute from Lance STEVENS on Sidney whilst in Class 4 IRC an important win was scored by Harry EVANS and his crew aboard Jacobite-Alvine. EVANS has never been out of the top two all regatta and today's third place by Jimmy PAHUN's Region Ile de France gives a glimmer of daylight between the two boats going into the final day. Class 9 ISC saw Drakes Drum of Terry ROWE continue their winning ways of yesterday with a three minute win over Michael and Sue WHITE's Bossa Nova whilst in Class 8 ISC, Cloudy Bay of Richard SCARFF all but sealed class victory with a win just shy of four minutes from James CLAPHAM's Outrageous. Iain KIEKPATRICK stormed to victory in the X332 class sailing the fast charging Fatjax whilst in the multi-hulls a tricky day of puffy conditions saw Ben GOODLAND's Grainger Raider 30 Roo best suited to score the biggest win of the day, some 22 minutes, from Mike WIGMORE's Triptych. The Contessa 32's had a pedestrian race today, never quite getting into full stride but Eldred HIMSWORTH brought the separated fleet home aboard Drumbeat to record his third win of the regatta and lie within striking distance of leader Polar Star for the overall class crown. Finally the J-Sprit Classes 1&2 enjoyed the fast planing conditions to see the J-109 No Naked Flames of Andrew ALLEN win J-Sprit 1 and the J-92 JimJams of Dutch entry Paul van der POL scoop the J-Sprit 2 fleet by just six seconds.
The penultimate day of Skandia Cowes Week always produces nail-biting fleet racing as the overall scores are tallied. For most fleets there are still prizes up for grabs and all around the Yacht Clubs, anxious yachties can be seen clutching the detailed class summaries provided by the truly excellent Next Generation Results service. However Friday at Cowes rises to a crescendo shoreside with the annual fireworks display that this year promised to be out of the world with a recreation of the Battle of Trafalgar. It's standing room only along the High Street as literally thousands of sailors and spectators cram every possible vantage point for the spectacle kicking off at around 9.30pm this evening. There's an aerial display too by the Honda Display Team and every hostelry in the town is packed to capacity. If the fireworks tonight can match the fireworks we've seen all week on the water - It will be a fitting finale to an amazing week.