The boats collectively made another spectacular sight as the fleet split around both ends of the Trinity House ship Galatea, facing south towards the river Medina. The dozen most windward boats made it round her bow, gaining a clear advantage over the rest of the fleet as they sped towards Fastnet Insurance, the first mark.
"We were quite clear what we wanted to do at the start and it unfolded perfectly," CARVETH said after the race. "Most of the fleet did the other extreme so we were in a nice position half-way along the line. We knew we could just get round the nose of the Galatea with the kite up - that's what we did and at that stage we led the pack from the windward side."
However, the wind then eased and shifted aft, handing an advantage to the boats to the north, leaving CARVETH sixth round the first mark. "We were happy with that because at Cowes if you just start working the boat speed and tactics it all comes good." By the final downwind leg, from Flying Fish to Royal Southern, CARVETH'S team was second to Guy JACKSON'S young crew on Team Solent/Helly Hansen. "We completely split angles from them", CARVETH continues, "catching them a lot ...before picking up some good pressure that helped us to nail them."
All the Black Group classes starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron line were sent on a marginal spinnaker reaching course to Burgess Salmon. With the first mark a quarter of a mile closer to the offshore end of the line than to the south, the northern end was strongly favoured. Competitors starting here were also well placed to move into the shallow water of East Knoll to avoid the strengthening adverse tide in the eastern Solent.
In the 51-strong IRC Class 3 jim MACGREGOR'S Elan 410 Premier Flair, Peter SCHOLFIELD'S HOD35 Seatrack, and John HOWELL'S Dehler 36 Alaris were best placed at the start, leading the fleet from the northern-most extremity of the line. All three set spinnakers just before the gun, arguably leaving the hoist a little late - although all three kites were drawing, none were fully hoisted.
Premier Flair, the highest rated yacht in the fleet, was first over the line, more than five minutes ahead of the J/90 Joe 90. She was able to save her time on handicap to take the overall class lead from Jonty LAYFIELD'S J/39 Sleeper by a margin of just one point.
In the First 40.7 class Peter ROBSON'S Playing Around, started neck and neck with Paul MCNAMARA and Tony LOWE'S Incognito, followed by Richard OSWALD'S Little Emily and Peter NEWLANDS' Anticipation. Despite the bias on the start line and the clear evidence from earlier starts showing the favoured end, the fleet was spread well across the Solent, with those starting mid line having no hope of catching those who made the right call. It was no surprise that this was reflected in the final results, with Playing Around taking first blood ahead of Incognito and Anticipation.
With the inner distance mark a few boat lengths behind the start line the overwhelming majority of competitors were very line shy - almost every start in the sequence saw some competitors still crossing the line two minutes after the gun. But there was no risk of Jo RICHARDS, skipper of Stephen FEIN'S Full Pelt in Class 4, being among them. Starting alongside the committee vessel he was the only boat on the line - a full three lengths ahead of his nearest rival - and had the kite perfectly trimmed with the boat at full speed. Just one minute into the race he had an impressive 20-length advantage on ROBERT MARTIN'S First 34.7 Kratos. Steve DYKE'S Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 Ingwe was third off the line, 15 lengths behind MARTIN, with the trailing pack a similar distance astern.
Full Pelt's skilful start paid off - as well as taking line honours, more than three minutes ahead of Peter MORTON'S First 34.7 Salvo, she saved her time on Adam GOSLING'S Corby 30 Yes! to win on corrected time by just four seconds.
The bulk of Class 5 started closer to the line than competitors in earlier starts, but was slower to hoist spinnakers. Ian BRAHAM'S MG346 Enigma, last year's overall Black Group winner, sneaked her kite up outside the genoa 10 seconds before the gun and was first away, followed five lengths astern by Paul and Marie-Claude HEYS' new J/97 Jenga V. Rory FITZWILLIAMS' 33-year-old Three-Quarter Tonner Simplicity was third off the line.
Jenga V led the fleet home to finish in three hours 13 minutes, an impressive 13 minutes ahead of Engima, the second boat on the water. It was a big enough lead for Jenga to save her time on Simon CORY'S Cory Yachts 290 Cool Blue by six minutes, but CORY beat BRAHAM into second place by just 39 seconds on corrected time.
Tons of fun
There's huge enthusiasm for the revived Quarter Ton class which consistently offers very close racing and attracts some of the UK's best sailors. Michael DIXON, sailing Roger SWINNEY'S Ayanami, made the best start of the fleet right next to the committee boat and a good three lengths clear ahead of Louise MORTON'S Espada. MORTON already had her spinnaker set, but did not have enough of a speed advantage to overhaul Ayanami before she hoisted her kite. Paul KELSEY and Peter WILLIAMS' Runaway Bus was third off the line, but stayed with white sails for longer than others, allowing Howard SELLARS and Mike TILL'S Bullet to overtake.
Four minutes into the race Espada had pulled clear ahead of Ayanami, so when DIXON broached in the increasingly gusty breeze his boat rounded up clear astern of MORTON, allowing Espada to consolidate her lead on the water at this stage of the race.
However, in a nail-biting finish it was Rob GRAY'S Aguila that took line honours, just five seconds ahead of Bullet, with Espada crossing the line 17 seconds later. Aquila's narrow lead was insufficient to save her time on Bullet, who won on corrected time, 16 seconds ahead of Runaway Bus.
A huge container ship, the MOL Competence, passed through the line at 10:30, forcing the start of Class 6 to be postponed by 10 minutes. To minimise disruption to the starting sequence her pilot was in close consultation with the Trinity House pilot on the RYS starting platform, and she made a perfectly timed approach to the start area at a sedate 12.5 knots.
When Class 6 got away, George THOMSON'S Dehler 29 Chablis of Wight led away from the line, several lengths ahead of one of the lowest rating boats in the class, Ed DONALD'S hugely successful Folkboat Madeline, with her diminutive spinnaker drawing strongly. Next was Gareth MORRIS' Hunter Impala Curved Air.
Mikado, Sir Michael BRIGGS' 105-year-old William Fife designed classic, had a second-row start, but she revelled in the conditions. Heeled just enough to extend her effective waterline length to the full, and, with her towering rig setting a 1,200 square foot spinnaker, she quickly powered through to leeward of the leader pack.
At the end of the 16.4 mile course Mikado took line honours, nearly a minute ahead of Richard HOLLIS' X-95 Crakajax, and second place on corrected time. First prize on handicap went to another Impala, Robert LEGGETT'S Monkey Business.
iShares Cup final result
Oman Sail Masirah has won the UK round of the iShares Cup at Cowes Week to take the overall lead in the series at the halfway stage of the six-round European circuit.
yann GUICHARD and Loïck PEYRON battled hard to the end, clinching the final race to take second overall on the UK podium. Watching the racing TV presenter and extreme adventurer, Ben FOGLE, said "This is the Formula 1 of sailing - I can't remember the last time I saw so many people along the shoreline watching - I loved it!"