Ireland firmly in control after the opening day of the 2010 Rolex Commodores' Cup
With two windward-leeward races held in the eastern and central Solent, the three Irish boats won in each of their classes in the first race. A second excellent performance of the day in race two produced two firsts and a second from their mid-sized boat, David Dwyer's Mills 39 marinerscove.ie. With six days of competition left, the Irish, on 7 points, already hold a huge lead over the defending champions, GBR Red and Hong Kong, both on 23. Previous experience will not allow the Irish to get carried away just yet.
Winds gusting up to 20 knots at times, all crews were put to an early test with a number of sail handling errors evident and even a collision during a port-starboard incident in race two between two mid-sized boats - Francois Lognone's Nutmeg IV in France White and Paul Turner's Grand Soleil 43 Artemis in GBR Black. The French subsequently admitted their mistake, explaining that they lacked steerage to avoid the incident. While they came out unscathed, unfortunately Artemis was holed and had to head in for overnight repairs.
Followers of this event will know that Ireland leading after day one is a regular feature of recent Rolex Commodores' Cups. The Irish have been favourites going into the last three events, but they have never before made such a strong impression on the event so soon.
"We are delighted on a shifty day like today to make a start like that; you can't ask for anything better," commented Anthony O'Leary owner of the Irish team's 'big boat', the Ker 39, Antix. "This is our third time doing it. I said to the guys yesterday - 'we have never been as well prepared'." In the Irish team Antix and Dwyer's marinerscove.ie are both well campaigned while the small boat, Robert Davies' Corby 36, Roxy 6, was launched this year, but already has had much regatta experience. This year Antix for example has won the Irish IRC Nationals in Dublin and their class at the Scottish Series.
O'Leary, a Rear Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, says that they have been building up to this regatta all year and after so many strong, but ultimately unsuccessful Irish campaigns previously it would mean a lot to win this year. "But don't be thinking that after one day of low points racing," he warns.
Sailing aboard the Hong Kong mid-sized boat, Blondie IV, Jamie McWilliam was pleased with his team's opening-day performance; "I'd say we are in the hunt. It is a tough regatta to win, but everyone knows that and that's what makes it worth coming. It is interesting but it is always the case here, because there is the variation in the courses that you race and in the conditions you get over the week. Trying to get the rig settings correct is impossible by definition so sometimes you are going really well and sometimes you are getting stuffed. Also, the longer boats with lower rating, the more cruiser racer types, they really go in the flat water."
For the mid-sized Class 2 boat, it ended up being a long day following three general recalls before race two got away successfully on the fourth attempt under the Z-flag.
France Yellow holds fourth place, largely due to the efforts of their big boat, Bernard Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor that posted a 2-2 today, but in the South African camp there was much post-race appraisal as they are lying seventh out of ten. Their highest place in race one was that of the small boat, Rick Garratt and David Hudson's J/109 Inspara, with a 6, and even in race two the team's results were little better.
"I thought we were going to do really well, but we had a shocking day," admitted Andrew Cape, the much-capped Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup navigator, who is sailing on the team's big boat, Philipp Gutsche's Landmark 43, Windpower. "The 40 footers seem to be staying up with a 43 footer. I thought we were in for a shot after what we saw in Cowes Week." Cape competed in the first Rolex Commodores' Cup back in 1992 as part of the winning US team and hopes he can maintain his record. He regularly sails with Gutsche in South Africa. While there was a substantial cross-tide today, Cape believes this wasn't the issue. "It was the wind that sorted out the winners and losers today, not the tide."
The Rolex Commodores' Cup continues today with a further two inshore races.
Top Five Teams - Provisional Positions 15/8/10
Team / Points / Place
Ireland / 7 / 1
GBR Red / 23 / 2
Hong Kong / 23 / 2
France Yellow /28 /4
GBR White / 36 / 5
Full results and team lists are available at http://commodorescup.rorc.org/