After a two-hour postponement, the first race of Skandia Cowes Week got underway at 1315 this afternoon when a light breeze filled in.
In bright sunshine 874 boats made their way out to the Squadron start lines and waited patiently while race officer Malcolm MCKEAG ignored technology suggesting a south-easterly and opted for the seaweed suggestion of a Western Solent breeze. Accordingly he made the decision to send the fleets off to the west against the strong flooding tide. Fortunately for Malcolm and everyone else the seaweed won and those out on the water saw a breeze as high as 15 knots out of the west by close of play.
The 1720s and Laser SB3 Sportsboats, sailing for the first time in their own separate classes, were first off the line and immediately made their way to the Cowes shore in an effort to avoid the strong tidal stream. Hot off the blocks in Laser SB3s, not surprisingly, were Olympic Gold Medallists Shirley ROBERRTSON, sailing the Henri-Lloyd boat, and Ben AINSLIE in Yachting World, with Matt SHEAHAN(Yachting World's Technical Editor) as middleman. A close race ensued on the first downwind leg with Robertson and Ainslie lying in third and fourth respectively.
Ainslie managed to sniddle his way through Robertson just after the leeward mark and, with slightly better speed upwind, managed to hold on to third position to the finish. Colin SIMONDS in Stress Bunny kept his cool and managed to hold off Ainslie and Mark RICHARDS sailing Full Chat in second.
Ainslie commented: "After a reasonable start at the Squadron end of the line we got stuck in the pack but managed to pull through and enjoy a great battle with Shirley. I think our extra weight on the rail when the wind increased was a great advantage."
Shirley added: "Yes, we couldn't quite catch him, he definitely had the speed edge upwind. But we had really good fun and it's a good boat to sail. It would be great to sail here again but both Ben and I are heading off to Athens in a couple of days' time to the pre-Olympics so I think that's probably about it for us at Cowes this year."
Glenn BOURKE, helming the 1720 Yachts and Yachting, also started the week as he means to go on by claiming the first race win beating Team Proctor Winning Masts by just 15 seconds having occupied second place for the majority of the race. Bourke commented: "Procter Winning Masts led for three-quarters of the race but on last leg got a wine-glass in their kite. We sailed past them but caught a lump of weed on the rudder. We had to sail upwind and heel the boat over to get rid of it and it cost us 40 seconds on our lead -- hence the close finish."
With a strong east-going tide and light breeze it was tempting to overshoot the start line; IRC Class 2 yachts pushed their luck which resulted in the first general recall of the week. The second start created plenty of excitement too with several boats being boxed in on the port end of the line. The Hunter 707s were another class to overestimate the strength of the tide and ended up with a general recall for their enthusiasm. On their second start they were clean away and enjoyed the usual 707 close battles throughout the race.
The sportsboat fleet also produced some extremely close racing with the likes of Bull 7000s, J/80s, a Beneteau 25 and John ROBERSON's Fremantle battling it out within their handicap class. Roberson, who's been attending Cowes for many years as a regular from Australia aboard his Fremantle 8, was chosen as a member of this year's Skandia Squad as Skandia Contribution. Roberson commented: "We had a really great time out on the water today despite our lack of concentration on the first leg. We didn't wake up until the first mark; we were too concerned with the start and didn't look around and see what the tide was doing so we were pretty ordinary. On the downwind leg however, we got it right, we read the tide and wind and made up a lot of ground on those around us, in fact on all the downwind legs we made up a lot of ground. It's a great start to what I reckon will be a brilliant week."
The winner of the fleet sailing Abstension II, a Trip 26, was Kevin DOWNER.
Hooligan, the Sigma 33 that finished third overall at last year's Skandia Cowes Week, returned to top form today with a well-deserved first place beating Jeff WORBOYS' Workout by over two minutes. Steve SAULT (owner and skipper) said of the first day's racing that "the race officer set us a good course but it was very tactical with the tide on the nose. There was basically no room for error. Interestingly we had a crew on board today relatively new to each other because we have a rotation of about 30 people on a time-share basis. The navigator was two steps ahead of us all of the time which is just what you needed out there."
In the J-Spirit fleet Camilla GREEN, sister of GBR Challenge starting helm Andy GREEN, was running the foredeck today on the J/92 Big Wednesday. Speaking with Cowes Radio's Steve ANCSELL she said that the day's start had been slow, with everyone "sitting around and swimming."
If the same conditions prevail tomorrow as promised by the forecast, Big Wednesday's crew are threatening to take a set of beach games with them although the reality is that there is some scheduled work this evening trying to improve sails that were not entirely satisfactory today. The J/92 class is simultaneously holding its nationals until Tuesday and light airs races is their likely fare, so every last scrap of efficiency will be required. Big Wednesday placed fifth today; David MOORE's Vampire took class first ahead of Neilson Redeye skippered by Pip TYLER.
In the IRM class that is racing for just the first three days of the regatta, Tony DE MULDER's Farr IC45 Victric was top Euro Prix 45. North Sails' Neil MACKLEY, who was on board as trimmer, said: "It was a great start to the regatta. The race committee made a good decision to postpone until the wind filled in. And as a result we had a really good sail in 14kt on a windward/leeward course in the Eastern Solent."
Elsewhere in the fleet it was a close finish for archrival Farr 52s Bear of Britain and Chernikeeff II, owned by Kit HOBDAY and Peter HARRISON respectively. The yachts finished within 16 seconds with Bear first across the line and the IRM positions favoured Chernikeeff on corrected time by the same margin. Hardly surprising given that both have been deliberately modified so that they both have identical IRC ratings, weigh within 5kg of each other and carry close on the same sail area. Both will be competing in extra-curricular match races off the Marine Parade in the evenings between Tuesday and Friday this week (more information can be seen on the Skandia Cowes Week website).
Results day one
Class 0 IRC 1 Flirt (R Matthews & J Alvarez) 2 Aera (N. Lykiardopulo) 3 Hexe (Norbert Plambeck)
Class 1 IRC 1 Minnie The Moocher (Anthony Richards) 2 Desperado (Richard Loftos) 3 Independent Bear (Drink Dependent Bears)
Class 2 IRC 1 Holmatro (J J Meijer) 2 Yes! Murphy & Nye (Adam Gosling) 3 Centurion / Ray Marine (Jimmy Paliun)
Prima 38 1 Longbow (S Sgt Stuart Smith MBE) 2 Firestorm (Jon Perry) 3 Fat Diva (Roger Lee)
Class 3 IRC 1 Salvo (Mr and Mrs Peter Morton) 2 Shockwave (Dr Nick Lutte) 3 Eximius (Marsh - Paul Fuller)
Beneteau 40.7 1 Shockwave (Dr Nick Lutte) 2 Beam On (Stuart & Jane Hemingway) 3 First Challenger (Matt Jess)
Class 4 IRC 1 Flair IV (Jim MacGregor) 2 Deliverance (Russell Hodgson) 3 Capitali$M (Tim Harrington)
HOD 35 1 Capitali$M (Tim Harrington) 2 Zarafa (Major Peter Scholfield) 3 Owl (Peter Bruce)
Class 5 IRC 1 Great Scot II (Eurof Phillips & Barbara Mackay) 2 Evelyn R (Jon and Karen Yorke) 3 Beluga II (Steve Thompson)
Class 6 IRC 1 Sod - Spirit Of Defiance (Mark Jephcott) 2 Jumbo J (Nick Goodhew & Rob Goodhew) 3 Prime Cut (Peter Parker)
Class 7 IRC 1 Mandarin (Louise Morton) 2 Mikado (Michael Briggs) 3 Disko Trooper (Rob Garlick, Will Hamilton & Jules Hall)
Class 8 ISC 1 Associate (Chris Russell) 2 Antilope (Willem Wester) 3 Hotwatch II (David Clementi)
Class 9 ISC 1 Witchcraft (David McDonald) 2 Drakes Drum (Terry Rowe) 3 Tudor Rose (Richard Cooke)
IRM 1 Chernikeeff 2 (Peter R Harrison) 2 Bear Of Britain (Kit Hobday and Tim Louis) 3 2Xl (David Murrin)
Euro Prix 45 1 Victric (Tony De Mulder) 2 Timberland Euro Prix (Edward Leask) 3 Faster K-Yote 2 (Mr David Meagher & Prof O'Connell)
J-Sprit 1 J Spirit (Mrs Marie-Claude Heys) 2 Jazolo (Robert Shaw) 3 Alice Of Five Star (Five Star Sailing)
J-92 1 Vampire (David Moore) 2 Neilson Redeye (Neilson Active Holidays) 3 Jammin Of Poole (Mike Riley)
Contessa 32 1 Blanco (Ray Rouse, Terry Vanner & Dave Richards) 2 Drumbeat (Eldred Himsworth) 3 South Haze (John Holloway & Stuart Paton)
Mumm 30 1 E1 Business / Mumbo Jumbo (Geof Gibbons) 2 Pogo Bogo (David Knight) 3 Bushfire (Cian O'Carroll and Tom Hill)
Sigma 33 1 Hooligan (Steve Sault) 2 Workout (Jeff Worboys) 3 Honey Of Bosham (Joanna Brigg)
Sigma 38 1 Rapscallion (Pete Diamond) 2 Mefisto (Kevin Sussmilch) 3 Red Macaw (John & Jackie Edwards)
Sunsail 37 1 Sunsail 65 (BDO Stoy Hayward) 2 Sunsail 80 (Polypipe plc) 3 Sunsail 45 (Hire Car 2)
Sunsail 36 1 Sunsail 40 (Team Sunsail) 2 Sunsail 13 (Team Endeavour)
X332 1 Crikey V! (Nigel Theadom) 2 Brightwork (Graham Fairhall) 3 Tundra - Specsavers (Donald Sharp)
1720 1 Yachts And Yachting (Glenn Bourke) 2 Proctor Winning Masts (Robin Kenyon) 3 Hurricane Lenny (Bob Llewellin & Virginia Phillips)
Daring 1 Dionysus (Bruce Huber) 2 Decanter (Jeremy Preston) 3 Doublet (Robin Richardson)
Hunter 707 1 Charlie Fish (Iain May) 2 Doh! (Andrew Aldwinckle & Tom Davidson) 3 Chilli Chaser (Ian Southworth & Nigel Smith)
International Dragon 1 Supremacy (Richard Cullen) 2 Chaotic (Richard Jordan) 3 Saphire (Neil Payne)
International Etchells 1 Festina (Mike Till & Howard Sellars) 2 El Toro (Messers Hayden, Watson & Williamson) 3 Gelert (James Howells)
International Flying Fifteen 1 Cruella (Jonathan Hill) 2 Funny Enuff (John Mander) 3 Fritillary (Mike Boll & Gil McCutcheon)
Laser SB3 1 Stress Bunny (Colin Simonds) 2 Full Chat (Mark Richards) 3 Yachting World (Matthew Sheahan)
National Sonata 1 Sequoia (Philip Williams) 2 Tiger Rag (Sandy Woodward) 3 Pizzicato (Tom White)
National Squib 1 Artful Dodger (Nick Emery) 2 Kew Dee Three (Mrs Margaret Barsby) 3 Firestreak (Miss Sarah Everitt)
National Swallow 1 Darter (Tony Glover) 2 Migrant (Richard & Carol Thompson and Charles Fisher) 3 Curlew (Malcolm Green)
Redwing 1 Lady Laetitia (William F Clegg, William H Clegg & Erik Cole) 2 Avocet (Mr Michael MacInnes & Mr Rupert MacInnes) 3 Toucan (Peter & Lynne Romer Lee and Colin & Becky Samuelson)
RS K6 1 Quesito (Neil Austen) 2 Take Two (Jonathan Calascione) 3 Fat Face (Paul Rudling)
Seaview Mermaid 1 Sirena (Noel Dobbs, Richard Dobbs & Alexander Dobbs) 2 Bluebell (Nigel Proddow) 3 Scuttle (Randall Family)
Solent Sunbeam 1 Danny (Roger & Jacky Wickens) 2 Polly (Jonathan Money) 3 Daisy (Mike Moss & Mike Law)
Sonar 1 Sinful (Steve Sleight & Sara Coombes) 2 Dolphin (Andy Cassell) 3 Scintillate (R A H Perkins)
Sportsboats 1 Abstension II (Kevin Downer) 2 Redshift (Edward Fishwick) 3 Solite Cose... (Augusto Viansson Ponte & Marcos Vivian)
Victory 1 Unity (J R Lear & S Spraggs) 2 Zephyr (Hugh & Philippa Pringle and John Scammell) 3 Woozle (Nigel Sefton-Smith & D Price)
X One Design 1 Blue On Blue (Willy McNeil & Andrew Tredrea) 2 Palassie (Peter Baines) 3 Catherine (Stephen Lawrence)