With 900 entries, Cowes Week ranks amongst the premier regattas in the world, but unfortunately the weather did not play its part on today's opening races, with light wind postponing races and rain.
Shortly after 1300 this afternoon, IRC Class 3, the largest handicapped class participating in Skandia Life Cowes Week, crossed the start line as if to bump-start the postponed fleets. Perhaps it was the frustration of hanging around in near wind-less conditions that prompted a number of yachts to jump the start; the resultant recall saw the 34-boat fleet, including last year¹s class winner, J93 Jackdaw, and Three Peaks Race winner, Reflex 38 Lightning Reflex, finally made a break for the first mark.
IRC Class 10 Bowsprit, was the next fleet to commence its starting sequence. Full Pelt is one of the hot favourites of the group, unsurprising given that her designer, Jo Richards, is the man behind GBR 70, the British America¹s Cup boat. Yet her pedigree failed to deliver the goods in the J-dominated fleet, as the J 92 Vampire and J 105 Jumanji asserted a quick lead.
The Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) and Barge Line Starting groups of White Group are also now underway. The Darings were the first to begin. No31 Devious made a streaking start, taking advantage of perhaps the only gust of the afternoon, leaving last year¹s winner, No33 Decanter, well behind. Dolphin and Dynamite managed to keep up with the leader and a tight battle for pole developed between the top three.
Another popular fleet, the Sigma 38s, was quick to start. Despite the light, damp conditions, and a few embarrassing twists, they hoisted their kites and made comparatively brisk progress towards the eastern Solent. Fat Chance and the Royal Navy boat, Gauntlet of Tamar, headed the closely-packed fleet, though with an uncomfortably small margin.
The unmistakable Dragons enjoyed one of the most exciting starts shortly after 1400 this afternoon. The relatively small start line posed an interesting gap through which to pass the 30-plus fleet, a fact all-too soon proven by the unfortunate Supremacy 669, which struck the buoy that marked the pin end.
The remaining fleets will continue to begin their races throughout the afternoon and yachts are due out on their various courses until at least 1900 this evening. Those with a galley aboard will no doubt be brewing tea and soup on the way around.
The weather is not expected to improve, with light northerly winds and rain predicted for the rest of the day. Just to make life even trickier, the late starts will mean different tides to throw out the pre-start homework.