On what must have been one of the best days for yacht racing this year, with 12-15 knot north-westerly breezes and a sky clearing progressively of clouds, the Rolex Commodores Cup began stylishly in the Eastern Solent.
The Royal Ocean Racing Club started the 33-boat fleet on time for a five-leg windward/leeward race to open the series.
Good starting was the keynote of success, as amply demonstrated by David Scanlan's Beneteau 40.7, Fandango of the England Red team. The dark blue boat sped from the left hand end of the starting line, forcing the slightly bigger Checkmate 3 of Peter de Ridder, sailing for the Netherlands, to tack away. Fandango sailed to the left of the fleet and was well placed at the first mark.
It was however, not surprisingly, the province of the bigger boats to be able to pick their way clear of the smaller fry. Peter Harrison's Farr 52, Chernikeeff 2, for the Commonwealth team, did so to perfection and was 62 seconds clear of Peter Morton's 50 foot Mandrake of the Irish Orange team at the first mark. Harrison was undoubtedly a happy man as Chernikeeff 2 continued to pull away from the rest, even the other two Farr 52s, Nick Hewson¹s Team Tonic for Wales and the jointly owned Bear of Britain of Kit Hobday and Tim Louis, the big boat in the England Red team.
At the end of the race, it was Fandango that was the winner, by 14 seconds from the immaculately sailed IMX-40, Courrier Nord of Gery Trentesaux for the France Red team with Chernikeeff 2 in third place. With Nick Harrison and Robert Greenhalgh's Natti Vee, a Ker 11.3 in fifth place and another of the fast Ker designed 11.3s, Tony Clarke's Blue Belle in 13th, the Commonwealth team emerged as the initial points leader of the series.
While the conditions improved in the afternoon for the second race, the behaviour of the crews did not. Even without a favourable current, the majority of the fleet were over the line early at the first start, and while not quite so many were the second time, there were too many to be identified and the race committee called for another general recall.
Chernikeeff 2 was always looking good at each of the starts and repeated her performance a third time when the fleet was away with only ten boats over early and identified three of these returned to start correctly, the other seven received a 20% of the fleet place penalty. The good start was converted by Kenny McCullagh behind the wheel of Chernikeeff 2 into a 12 second lead at the weather mark.
We've had a few changes in the crew since Cowes Week,
admitted McCullagh, and the boat is livelier and more organised. In addition we were on fire downwind today.
Certainly he was able to keep control over the other Farr 52s in the second race to finish 17 seconds ahead of Bear of Britain and another ten seconds clear of Team Tonic, but there was little that he could do to stop the Etchells World Champion, Stuart Childerley, from steering Mandrake across the line just a minute later to take first place easily on corrected time.
But it was the consistency of the French Red team, led from the front by Trentesaux with Courrier Nord, that brought home the best team result of the day. A fifth place to add to his second in the opener was backed by Jean-Yves Le Goff's Clin d'Oeil 6 in eighth place and Eric Fries' Fastwave III in eleventh place. It gave France Red just 12 points to add to the 15.25 it had scored in the morning and a three-quarters of a point lead over the Commonwealth team. Ireland Orange is five and a quarter points further astern in third place.
TEAM/BOAT NAME/OWNER-SKIPPER/TYPE/RACE 1 POSITION/RACE 2 POSITION/POINTS OVERALL/TEAM PLACE
France Red/Courrier Nord/Gery Trentesaux/X442/2/5/27.25/1
France Red/Clin D¹Oriel/Jean-Yves Le Goff/IMX 40/20/8/27.25/1
France Red/Fastwave 3/Eric Fries/IMX 40/8/11/27.25/1
Commonwealth/Chernikeef 2/Peter Harrison/Farr 52/3/2/28.5/2
Commonwealth/Natti Vee/Nick Harrison & Robert Greenhalgh/Ker 11.3/5/6/28.5/2
Commonwealth/Blue Belle/Tony Clarke/Ker 11.3/13/28/28.5/2
Ireland Orange/Mandrake/Peter Morton/Mills 50/14/1/33.75/3
Ireland Orange/Gloves Off/Colm Barrington/Corby 41.5/10/12/33.75/3
Irleand Orange/Carphone Warehouse Communicator/Corby 41.5/4/19-ZFG/33.75/3
England Red/Bear of Britain/Kit Hobday & Tim Louis/Farr 52/22/3/35/4
England Red/Fandango/David Scanlan/First 40.7/1/7/35/4
England Red/Kerisma/Chris Bull/Ker 11.3/15/22/35/4
Wales/Team Tonic/Nick Hewson/Farr 52/17/4/46.5/5
Wales/I-Site/Robbie Cameron-Davies/Kerr 11.3/9/18-ZFG/46.5/5
Wales/Minnie the Moocher/Anthony Richards/Ker 11.3/11/27/46.5/5
Netherlands/Salty Dog/Hans Hout/IMX 40/16/12/51.75/6
Netherlands/Checkmate 3/Peter de Ridder/BH 41/6/9-ZFG/51.75/6
Netherlands/Satori/Hans Horrevoets/Grand Soleil 40/26/20-ZFG/51.75/6
Spain/1906/Chris Brown/First 40.7/7/15/59.5/7
Spain/Estrella Galicia/Alberto Viejo/Alberto Viejo/First 40.7/25/21/59.5/7
Spain/Cabreiroa/Peter Schofiled/HOD 35/27/24/59.5/7
England Blue/El Gringo/Nick Hartshorn/Ker 11.3/18/16/64/8
England Blue/Fair Do¹s V/John Shepherd/Ker 11.3/19/17/64/8
England Blue/Too Steamy/Nick & Anne Haigh/24/29-ZFG/64/8
France Blue/Meta-Baron/Jean-Philippe Chomette/IMX 40/12/14/71/9
France Blue/Coraya/Marc de Saint Denis/IMX 40/23/23-ZFG/71/9
France Blue/Ster Wenn 5/Guy Sallenave/X 442/30/33/71/9
Ireland Green/Cracklin¹ Rosie/Roy Dickson/Corby 40/20/9/77/10
Ireland Green/White Knuckles II/Simon Brown & Deidre Horneck/31/26/77/10
Ireland Green/Cheiftain/Ger O¹Rourke/First 40.7/33/30-ZFG/77/10