Conditions could not have been better for the 45-boat fleet with 12 knots of wind from the southwest and brilliant sunshine for day one of the Rolex Commodores' Cup.
After a two-hour delay waiting for the wind to fill in, racing got underway shortly before lunchtime on Monday with two windward-leeward inshore races in the Western Solent.
Race 1 saw the French defenders, Géry TRENTESAUX's France Blue, pull into first place tied with GBR Red, led by John SHEPHERD's big boat Fair Do's VII, followed by the two Irish teams. In particular TRENTESAUX's own Class 1 boat Lady Courrier, won her division with their small boat, Marc ALPEROVITCH's Prime Time, scoring second, while in GBR Red Peter RUTTER took honours in Class 2 aboard his new Corby 36 Quokka 7, and Jerry OTTER posted a third on Erivale III.
"It is a very close regatta,"
commented Peter RUTTER. "This is going to be the best Rolex Commodores' Cup there's ever been - very much down to the wire. The quality from all sides has gone up. We're very pleased to be here."
RUTTER's Quokka 7 is a new 36 footer designed by Cowes-based, John CORBY. "We have upped our game enormously, with a boat especially designed for the event and with the rest of the GBR Red team, specifically decided two years ago to give it our best go, so here we are now."
RUTTER is sailing with Martin MOODY of the boat building dynasty and have Steve NORBURY of Selden Masts who is their on board pro. "It is a group of friends hoping to do a good job,"
RUTTER describes his crew.
The second race of the day was held on a similar course, but by this time the flood tide was ripping into the western Solent. With the wind and tide against them on the beat, competitors short tacked up the mainland side of the Solent darting out into the tide only to round the weather mark. However many boats got into trouble calling this layline and were forced to crab sideways to make it around or throw in a costly tack. The result was one boat being swept down on to the mark, while on another the crew succumbed to the stress causing them to mess up the hoist and trawl their spinnaker.
In the end in Class 1, TRENTESAUX's Lady Courrier won her second race of the day - earning her a perfect scoreline. "We arrived yesterday midday - so we are a bit stressed, but we were lucky,"
admitted TRENTESAUX, whose crew includes French match racer and Olympic sailor Christine BRIAND calling tactics and Erwan DUBOIS navigating, as well as TRENTESAUX's two sons, Antoine and Nicolas. "It is a good beginning."
With the wind in the first race peaking at around 18 knots, conditions were good for TRENTESAUX's 45ft Beneteau although he says he would still prefer more wind. "Our starts weren't so good. It is quite difficult with the tide. On the first race we had the tide with us and on the second it was against us. I will be better tomorrow!"
With Lady Courrier's perfect scoreline and with reasonable performances from their team mates on Cyrille LEGLOAHEC's Batistyl and Marc ALPEROVITCH's Prime Time, so France Blue has pulled into the lead overall, just half a point ahead of Ireland Green.
Batistyl's Sebastien EON said he enjoyed the day's tough racing. "It was a fighting race. There were many tacks and many gybes and each boat passed over the second and third one, so it was very interesting for the tactics and strategy".
However skipper Cyrille LEGLOAHEC pointed out there is still six days left in this regatta and he didn't want to make predictions until he had seen how the other boats had performed in different conditions. "And it is a team race, so we have to consider our tactics and strategy."
With Ireland Green on 23.5 points, GBR Red is holding third place on 27. On Tuesday, two more windward-leeward inshore races are scheduled. The weather forecast shows the wind backing to the southeast, light to moderate in strength.
Results - click here