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France Blue blasts back

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Start of Class 1 on Wednesday. Photo: RORC/Paul WyethThe Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup race course took on a different complexion today. A front passed through early morning leaving behind it a lumpy sea further kicked up by a strong eastbound tide. Conditions gradually abated and the sea flattened in the afternoon, but it made for a brisk start to day four of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event for three boat teams sailed by Corinthian crews.
For the first time today's courses were set in the western Solent, with the committee boat moored close to the Beaulieu river and the weather mark off Hamstead on the Isle of Wight shore.
The lively conditions created one casualty before the start gun had ever fired. On the biggest boat in the race, the Goubau family's Beneteau 47.7 Moana (Flanders North Sea), the mainsail suffered a severe luff to leech rip during a pre-start gybe. Fortunately the Belgium team had its delivery mainsail back in Cowes and raced back to fit it, but in doing so scored maximum points for missing race five.
As Moana helmsman, Mathieu Goubau recounted: "It was very stressful. We had to get back, so we went as fast as we could, but we just made it back in time for the second race."
With the strong flood tide and the southwesterly wind, all the boats immediately tacked after the start and then short tacked up the mainland shore until they had to make the long trans-Solent starboard tack across to the weather mark. As Tanguy Caradec, navigator on the Prietz family's Ker 39 GOA (France Blue), winner of today's first race, described it "by the shore the tide was a knot or less. In the middle when you had to cross, it was about 2.5 knots. The laylines were very hard to call."


Fleet of Class 2 downwind on Wednesday. Photo: RORC/Paul WyethThe first beat saw the race's second casualty as Simon Henning's modified Mumm 36 Alice (GBR Red), struck the bottom while short tacking up the mainland shore. She retired from that race and tonight is behind hauled out to assess any damage.
GOA's win, with an okay result from their small boat Daniel Andrieu's Sun Fast 3200, Cifraline 4, was enough for France Blue to regain the lead.
The second and final race of the day was a giant round the cans affair in the western Solent, finishing off Egypt Point. This saw the France Blue big boat, Eric de Turkheim's A13 Teasing Machine, claim honours ahead of Andrew Williams' Ker 40, Dan, Israel (Keronimo), enough to consolidate France Blue's first place on 110.5 points, 12.5 ahead of France White, with Flanders North Sea just another two points back.
Sunrise on Wednesday at the top mark. Photo: RORC/Paul WyethThe best performing boats of the day were in Class 2 where Noel Racine's offshore race-winning JPK 1010, Foggy Dew (France White) posted a 2-1 and Tom Kneen's JPK 1080, Sunrise (GBR Blue) posted a 1-2.
Kneen explained: "The first race we made a good call to go on a Code 2 and not a Code 3, but mainly we've worked out that if we worked together properly and we didn't make any major mistakes we could win. And we did! And the boat is incredible. It just all came together."
The second race was more hair-raising when Sunrise's tactician Rob Gullan chose, rather than to tack after the start, short tack up the mainland shore before making a long starboard across to the weather mark, to do this instead in reverse, short tacking up the island shore, etc. Sunrise was alone in doing this.
"It was quite frightening to follow at the time - we spent the first three quarters of the race wondering if it was going to pay off, but we arrived at the top mark in the middle of Class 1," recounted Kneen. "Unfortunately then our tack line broke on the Code Zero, so we lost time on the first downwind but we managed to fend off the rest. It was a shame as we would have won otherwise."
Shaitan at the top mark on Wednesday. Photo: RORC/Paul WyethJock Wishart's JPK 1080 Shaitan, racing in the Celtic team had her best day yet, posting a 3-8 in Class 2. "We had one good race and one where luck wasn't on our side," said the intrepid Scottish adventurer. "The second race we had a very good start and were in a good position, but then we blew a car and we were stuck out in the tide and had to work our way back. We just keep on trying."
Three races are scheduled tomorrow with a first start due at 10:30 BST.