Day 6 - Close fought fight around the Wight
20-25 knot winds and glorious sunshine made for one of the most memorable races around the Isle of Wight on record for the penultimate day of the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. With a win for Eric de Turkheim's A13, Teasing Machine (despite destroying a kite), and a second for Daniel Andrieu's Sun Fast 3200, Cifraline 4, France Blue have leapt ahead in the overall results, now holding a 35.5 lead margin over the second placed Flanders North Sea Team.
France Blue's position is strong, but victory remains far from assured with two more inshore races tomorrow, the last scoring double points.
Today's anti-clockwise lap started from the Squadron line with a favourable ebb tide, but into a southwesterly that kicked up a short chop once into the western Solent building into large exhilarating sea at the Shingles. From there it was a tight spinnaker reach to St Catherine's Point, a run down towards Bembridge, before a port tack fetch back to Cowes.
Once again Andrew Williams' Ker 40 Dan, Israel (ex-Keronimo), led the charge down the Solent ahead of the faster HH42, Ino XXX, locked in battle with Teasing Machine.
Williams described it: "We had a really difficult beat trying to play the tide and keep the boat speed and obviously there were a lot of shifts on both tacks. It was very lumpy out near the Shingles." Between the big boats the decisive moment came when the more stable Teasing Machine held her spinnaker all the way to St Catherine's Point while both Dan, Israel and Ino had to peel to Code 0s.
"It got up to about 26 knots, which was good for us," Williams continued. "Once we got round the forts it was follow my leader. Ultimately it was a quick rounding - just five and a half hours."
Sadly Dan, Israel ended up seventh in a race which, aside from the exceptional performance of Teasing Machine, mostly favoured the slower rated.
Of the eight teams France Red excelled, thanks to Andrew Hurst's JND 39 Stamina and Jean-Yves le Goff and Alexandre Korniloff's A35 Realax respectively finishing second and third in Class 1 and Marc Alperovitch's JPK 1080 Timeline coming third in Class 2. They have double jumped Israel and GBR Red and are now fourth overall, 10.5 points off the podium.
Seahorse editor Andrew Hurst enjoyed the race, although this week has been a learning exercise. "It was fun, but we have this problem that we can't wind the runners on enough, so our headstay is all over the place, but in those big waves it wasn't such a big deal because you were steering round them and the boat's really fast."
Unusually Realax, France Red's lowest rated boat, is in the big boat class. "We made two little mistakes, but in general we had a good race and good preparation with the current and the wind, so it wasn't bad," said tactician Francois Blossier. Jean-Yves le Goff said they lost time at the start but made this up by steering a good course through the rough seas approaching Southwest Shingles.
Realax last competed in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup in 2010. Le Goff says he enjoys the competition: "We like the place, it is very technical with the current and the organisation of the racing is very good. Sailing for France puts some pressure on us but the racing is very fair."
Stand-out boat in Class 2 and across the entire fleet is Noel Racine's JPK 1010 Foggy Dew. A seasoned campaigner in the RORC's offshore program, this is his first Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup and today was his first race around the Isle of Wight. "It is a very nice course - you can see all the cliffs and the Needles. And we had great conditions today with 20-25 knots and sun - it was perfect."
Sadly British hopes this year are fading with deep results today. RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine's First 40 La Réponse in GBR Red was going well until blowing up a spinnaker as they heated the boat up approaching St Cath's. However; subsequently hoisting their old heavy spinnaker paid "because the wind increased even on the run and we were still pretty stable."
Generally of the race around the Isle of Wight, McIrvine observed "That was the second fastest I've ever done it. It was great for the foreigners because it was the best sort- sparkling sunshine and great scenary. It was a really tricky first beat because it was rough, especially around Bridge. I was pleased we had two drivers. It was a really good sail."
Racing on the final day of the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup begins tomorrow at 1030 BST.