Monday, August 5, 2013

Cowes Race Week Preview

J/97 sailing Cowes Week on the Solent (Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week is a key part of the British sporting calendar taking place in early August each year. These dates result from early traditions when the great and the good came to Cowes between Goodwood and the Glorious Twelfth – day one of the grouse shooting season. The event is a great mix of competitive sailing and a vibrant social scene and has evolved enormously since the early days; it now attracts up to 1,000 competing boats, around 8,500 competitors and over 100,000 visitors.

Hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Cowes Combined Clubs, the sailors are treated to incredibly challenging, fun sailing; especially when each day dawns with a new course on the famous Solent-- full of capricious currents and shifty, gusty breezes.  The event puts a premium not only on boat-handling and boat-speed, but on the navigational capabilities of the crew to find all the marks and make it back to the extraordinary finish line immediately off the flag deck onshore lined with massive cannons at the Royal Yacht Squadron.

There is a combination of IRC handicap racing as well as a multitude of J/One-design classes participating.  Starting with the one-designs, there will be J/70s, J/80s, J/109s and J/111s sailing.  In the nine boat J/111 class, a number of veteran Cowes regatta and race winners will be present, including SHMOKIN JOE (Duncan McDonald), J-DREAM (David & Kirsty Apthorp), MCFLY (Tony Mack), JEEZ LOUISE (James Arnell) and JITTERBURG (Cornel Riklin).  In addition, new teams participating in Cowes Week include Sebastien de Liedekerke's team from Belgium will be sailing DJINN, ICARUS sailed by Andrew Christie and John Scott, SWEENY skippered by Kees van Vliet from The Netherlands and TOE IN THE WATER led by Capt Lloyd Hamilton MBE.

The J/109s are showing up in force with twenty-three boats, many with new teams aboard sailing their first Cowes Week on 109s.  Amongst the veteran teams that could be a factor include DESIGNSTAR 2 (Roger Phillips), INSPARA (Tor Mclaren), J2EAU (Jean-Yves Tabourot and entered by Williams F-1 Racing Team), JAZZY JELLYFISH (Anthony Eaton), JUMPING JELLYFISH (David Richards), JUMUNU (Jamie Sheldon), JUNO (Ross Walker), JYNNAN TONNYX (Owain Franks and Jean Lockett), ME'JULIE (Hedley Aylott), SARDONYX IX (William Edwards) and STALKER (Steven Tapper).

Fresh of their participation in an enormously difficult J/80 World Championships in Marseilles, France, some teams are still licking their wounds while others have bitten the bullet and are going for it at Cowes Week!  Nevertheless, while entries are down for the J/80s, the thirteen teams are looking forward to some excellent sailing and a number of top teams will be in attendance, including FREDDO (Shaun Priestley), J.A.T. (Chris Taylor), JABBA (Vladimir Phillips), JUICY (Donald Suter), RASCAL (Jamie Diamond), SWALLOW (Chris Body) and WILD WALLY (a family affair with Robert Walters, David Walters and James O'Neill-- J/39 owners).

J/70 one-design sailboat- Team Spitfire sailing off CowesThe field of eight J/70s are certain to see some of the match-ups get heated up again that took place at the J/70 UK Nationals earlier in the year at Cowes.  Certain to be tough sledding for many as virtually all the boats have had their flashes of brilliance over the course of the summer.  Amongst the leaders could be NORTH SAILS (Ruairidh Scott), BOATS.COM (Ian Atkins), TEAM SPITFIRE Powered by SLAM (Wing Commander Simon Ling RAF) and JENGA 8 (Paul & Marie-Claude Heys).  However, since many of the new teams are racing up the learning curve, don't be surprised to see these teams in the front row, including DJANGO (Malcolm Jaques), JUGADOR (Jack Davies), PHEEBS (Simon Cavey) and WILSON COVERS (Ian wilson).

The world of IRC handicap racing will have J teams distributed from IRC 3 Class (J/122s and J/133s) down to IRC 7 Class (the classic J/24s).  Starting at the top, there will be strong competition between the three J/133s and the J/122 duo.  Yves Grosjean's JIVARO, Ian Dewhirst's JUMP and Angus Bates's ASSARAIN IV are all J/133s that have been accustomed to winning offshore and around the cans.  However, the J/122s like JACOBS LADDER and MINT JULEP (David Cule) have also proven they're tough competitors.  The proverbial "fly in the ointment" could be the J/120 EL OCASO, that famous American navy blue boat that eclipsed the Caribbean winter circuit, she will be well sailed by Mike Caldwell and crew.

Yet another J/120, RHAPSODIE V, sailed by the French team led by Jean Jacques Godet will be sailing with a somewhat optimized IRC rating. She'll be challenged by the recent IRC UK Nationals Champion, the J/35 BENGAL MAGIC skippered by James Chalmers-- would be interesting to watch this one from the bleacher seats!

IRC 5 Class is the domain of the champion J/97's and the rest of the 35 foot J's (like the J/110 SHADES OF BLUE sailed Ed Holton) and a veritable armada of J/105's.  Looking into the J/105 ranks you'll find a cadre of offshore and course-racing champions like KING LOUIE (Fiona & Malcolm Thorpe), FAY-J (Stan Fenton) and JOURNEYMAKER V- Chris Jones.  Giving them a run-for-the-roses will be JIN & TONIC (Charles Nicholson and Neil McGrigor), MOSTLY HARMLESS (Natalie Jobling), JACANA (Paul Wood) and JOS OF HAMBLE (Roger Williams).  The J/97's will be well represented by JACKAROO, JIGGERY POKERY (Rob Orr), JET (James & John Owen) and INDULJENCE (Nick & Adam Munday, recent winners in the IRC UK Nationals, too).

Another J/97 configured for a lower IRC rating is sailing in IRC 6 Class- Charles Ivill's ETB TYRES JIGGERY POKERY.  They will be accompanied by some fast J/92s's like past winners WHO'S TO NO (Richard Sparrow) and J'RONIMO (David Greenhalgh).  Also sailing is a the fast, beautiful J/32 cruiser-racer, DOMAINE, skippered by Chris Burbidge.

In the small boat IRC 7 class, two J/24s will be dueling for class honors, including VINYL SOLUTIONS skippered by Simon Lack and JUPITER helmed by Edmund Gatehouse.  Sailing photo credit- Rick Tomlinson.  For more Cowes Week sailing information