Yes, that’s what you expect at Skandia Life Cowes Week, but for yesterday – and for yesterday only we hope – there was one vital ingredient missing, the first, the wind.
AP over AP, the signal displayed to indicate that there is an indefinite postponement in force, was flown from the very first, showing that the severe lack of wind was likely to persist for some time. Aboard those boats that did go out the crews read the papers, played cards and chatted and waited for action. Then they sunbathed and waited some more, finally, some of the crew of the Bull 7000 Hullabaloo decided to go for a swim, but lacking swimming shorts, used their socks in a strategic fashion to preserve the modesty for the spectators. Not that, given the chilly nature of the water, there was much to preserve. . .
Over near the mainland, the committee boat that daily takes four of the week's classes for some different racing, waited out the calm too, with Class 10, the Mumm 30s, Class 5 and Class 7 waiting for something to happen.
Eventually, the race officers at the Royal Yacht Squadron lowered the AP over AP and replaced it with a single AP, indicating that they were hoping to start the racing at some time in the next hour or so. A ripple of anticipation ran through the fleet, only to be dashed when, just before 1400, three guns indicated that all racing on the Squadron line had been abandoned for the day. The only race was the one to the bar - the Next Generation results computers do not indicate who won this one. . .
Out on the committee boat line Race officer Bob Milner was not about to give up that easily. He only had four classes to start as opposed to the 24 on the Squadron line, so it would be possible to take advantage of any small increase in the wind to get the races underway.
The wind co-operated just enough, settling in the South at about five knots and with a blast of air horns - not nearly so impressive as the Squadron's cannon - the ranks of Class 10 left the line, heading across the Solent for DB Marine. Moose on the Loose, Mervyn Gutteridge and Duncan Money, along with Wings of the Wind, Andrew McIrvine and Steven Thorpe showed first, but in moments it was the big boat of the fleet, Stephen Fein's Full Pelt, that took the lead.
Next up, Class Five, packed full of First 31.7s and 33.7s took to the stage, with the biggest boat in the fleet, the S&S41 Winsome, Harry Heijst from Amsterdam standing out on a packed line. The interesting Adams 10, Great Scott II, designed and built by Joe Adams from Australia in 1986 and sailed here by Eurof Phillips, has been showing the fleet the way round and despite her small sail area looked to be sailing well on the first leg of the course.
Yesterday's winner in the Mumm 30s, Hugh Courtenay's Mumbo Jumbo, didn't look as though she would be able to repeat her success with a very tardy start. Initially it looked as though Tim Barclay's Marauder, which set off to the western side of the course in defiance of majority thought in the fleet, was making the early running, but quite soon the wind decided otherwise and deserted that side of the course.
Finally the little boats of Class 7 set off with the International H Boat Cloud Nine, Martyn and Magnus Wheatley, slipping along very cleanly in the virtually non-existent wind. Again there was a diversity of opinion about the correct direction in which to head, half the fleet going left, the other half right.
At DB Marine the first boat round was Full Pelt, well ahead of Wings of the Wind, followed at quite a distance by the rest of Class 10. Full Pelt continued to sail away from her chasers, making the most of the light southerly breeze.
When Class 5 arrived, Great Scott II was well in the van, with the Sigma 362 Software Mistress, Ian Maclean also holding on to a place in the front of the fleet. Andrew Davey's First 31.7 Black Jack, boasting in her crew powerboat racer Sarah Donahugh - who must have been thrilled at the speed and excitement of yacht racing - almost made in round ahead of Software Mistress, but the Sigma's crew are well drilled and tacked the boat well, hoisting their spinnaker smoothly and cleanly to easily move away.
Near the end of the Class 5 procession round the mark, the Elan 333 Waimanu, Winston Peters, approached the buoy on port and tried to round inside Nigel Sheppard's Attitude, a First 31.7. There just wasn't room - quite apart from the manoeuvre being against the racing rules, and there was a collision that luckily was only very gentle thanks to the light winds and flat water. With the crew of Waimanu having their legs over the side between the two boats, it was lucky that no one was hurt.
Pity poor Class 7. Having struggled to get to DB Marine mark, in non-existent winds, they rounded - Cloud Nine and Pink Lime, Nick Houlding in the lead - only for the wind to decide to switch through 180 degrees and make what should have been a gentle spinnaker run to Fastnet Insurance buoy into yet another windward leg.
The cause of the wind shift, a huge black cloud, dumped some very chilly rain on the fleets, causing tee shirts to be exchanged for foul weather gear, but also managed to raise the wind speed to double figures.
The three bigger boat classes were, however, already on a shortened course, with Full Pelt leading Class 10 by an immense amount - winning by 40 minutes on the water in an hour and a half race, ahead of Moose on the Loose. At last Full Pelt has also managed to win on corrected time too, beating Jack and Joan Hardie's Forza by 18 minutes on corrected time.
In the Mumm 30s, Jack Kelly's Moonshine won by a scant four seconds from Gregor Logan's Highlander II, and there was another close run thing for 4th and 5th between David Knight's Pogo Bogo, and William Edwards' Sardonyx VI, just two seconds separating them.
Class 5 went to Great Scott II, followed by Software Mistress, and then Mike Tatterall's modified X99, Electra. The low and slim Great Scott II proving that she was at home in the light conditions - what will happen later in the week with more wind?
Finally, remember poor Class 7 they sailed to windward to DB Marine, turned and sailed to windward to Fastnet Insurance, where a sympathetic race officer took pity on them and shortened course. Pink Lime won on the water, but gave best to Cloud Nine on handicap - by one minute and 15 seconds, followed by Barrie, Matt and Chris Aston's Floater, the newly re-painted Trapper 300.
It can only get better - can't it?
The forecast for Tuesday still doesn't promise much in the way offwind, official regatta forecaster Chris Tibbs refusing to commit himself even 24 -hours in advance, but it looks as though more light conditions might be on the cards - but with more showers. Oh damn!
Class 5 IRC
1, Great Scott II (Eurof Phillips & Barbara MacKay)
2, Software Mistress (Ian Maclean)
3, Electra (Mike Tatterall)
Class 7 IRC
1, Cloud Nine (Martyn & Magnus Wheatley)
2, Pink Lime (Nick Houlding)
3, Floater (Barrie, Matt & Chris Aston)
Class 10 IRC Bowsprit
1, Full Pelt (Stephen Fein)
2, Forza (Jack & Joan Hardie)
3, Big Wednesday (Roger Mavity)
1, Forza (Jack & Joan Hardie)
2, Big Wednesday (Roger Mavity)
3, Jambalaya (Andrew Bird)
1, Moonshine (Jack Kelly)
2, Pogo Bogo (David Knight)
3, Highlander III (Gregor Logan)