Saturday, August 13, 2016

AAM Cowes Week Regatta Update

J70s sailing Cowes Week TEAM RAFBF SPITFIRE Wins J/70 Short Series!
(Cowes, IOW, England)- This year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, hosted by the Cowes Combined Clubs (Royal Yacht Squadron, Island Sailing Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club) has been providing competitors a wide-range of sailing conditions- mostly of the “shorts & shades” variety with plenty of wind and lots of sun!!  Who said the Solent can’t be a slice of heaven in mid-August!  Racing has been taking place starting on Saturday, August 6th and continues until Saturday August 13th.

The J/70’s completed their “Short Course Series” on Wednesday, with Simon Ling’s TEAM RAFBF SPITFIRE handily winning the class with four 1sts in their tally.  Second was JUST IN TIME (Gordon Nickel, Morten Nickel, Nils Färber, Nick Schlomka) with 7 pts, third ELIZABETH skippered by Claire Lasko with 18 pts, fourth J-CURVE skippered by Ali Hall and fifth YETI helmed by Jack Davies (who are currently leading the Under 25 Trophy for all of Cowes Week!).  Here are daily summaries from the first half of the week.

J/70 women's sailing team off CowesDay One- Saturday
Bright sun and tight racing in a glorious 14-16 knot sea breeze, with occasional stronger gusts, made for fabulous racing on the opening day of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week.

Racing got underway after a two-hour postponement to allow the breeze to build and by the first start of the day, for the J/70 class, it had filled in across the course at a consistent 10-12 knots from the west-south-west. By this time, the strong east-going flood tide was starting to ease and the west-going eddy close inshore off the Royal Yacht Squadron was well established in a narrow band close to the shore.

With the inner distance mark for the White Group classes starting on the RYS line approximately one boat length on the course side of the line, the first seven classes all had a handful of premature starters, but there was no need for a general recall. However, it was a different matter for the Black Group yachts starting on the Bramble line, where the new FAST40+ class was subject to two general recalls before the fleet finally got away under a black flag.

In the J/70 class, many boats were over the line in the last 45 seconds before the gun. While some were able to dip back to start correctly, six boats were recorded as being OCS. Gordon and Morten Nikel’s Just in Time, Jack Davies’ Yeti and Claire Lasko’s Elizabeth initially looked best placed at the very inshore end of the line, while Nick and Adam Munday’s J7T, along with Richard Jordan’s Juke Box, were the most offshore boats, around half way out along the line towards the outer distance mark.

This closely matched fleet saw frenetic action as they short-tacked past the Grantham Rocks and along the Green, with a number of close port and starboard incidents. There were also rushed tacks as boats ran short of depth, while most boats heading offshore on port tack were forced to duck big groups of starboard tack competitors. Five minutes into the race the Locke Family’s J7O had established a tenuous lead on Ali Hall’s J Curve, with the fleet now starting to spread out a little.

At the finish Simon Ling’s Team RAF Benevolent held a 39 second lead on Nick Phillip’s Chaotic, with Yeti in third place, ahead of J Curve. Along with the SB20 class, the J/70s have a mini series with eight races over the first four days of the regatta. Team RAF Benevolent won the second race, which was run from a committee boat start, ahead of Just in Time and Elizabeth.

J/97e sailing at Cowes Race WeekDay Two- Sunday
Competitors enjoyed a second day of sunny, stunning conditions today. The early starts saw the wind gusting an adrenaline pumping 25 knots, before the breeze settled down to 16-20 knots for the rest of the morning.

The larger Black Group yachts predominately sailed in the western Solent where they enjoyed sparkling conditions,

“It was just a great day at the races,” smiled one of the Black Group skippers. “We had a tough beat upwind, all the way to Hurst Castle. Then after over an hour of beating, we were rewarded with sensational downwind sailing. Sunshine, 20 knots of wind and close competitive racing. It was a very rewarding day on the water.”

The dayboats in White Group had a challenging downwind, down-tide start heading towards the east from the Royal Yacht Squadron line. Each fleet in turn congregated in the strongest favorable stream close to the outer distance mark, but different teams – and indeed different fleets – varied in their attitude to the risk of being swept over the line early. The first few starts, particularly the J/70s had a strong breeze that peaked with 25 knot gusts that saw them fly down the their first leg at double-digit speeds.

By 1055, the wind had moderated to 10-15 knots ahead of the tail end of a weak cold front that crossed the race area, before the skies cleared to once again bathe the Solent in bright sun. Thirty seconds before the start the fleet was mostly well back from the line and heading away from their first mark. With 20 seconds to go the first group of boats started turning downwind, with the first spinnakers being hoisted 10 seconds before the gun.

In Sportsboat Div 1, David and Kirsty Apthorp’s J/88 J-Dream took third place.

J/109s sailing at Cowes Race WeekDay Three- Monday
The Solent delivered a classic conditions, with a north-westerly breeze that varied from eight knot lulls to 25 knot gusts, giving varied conditions to challenge the 8,000 sailors on the water.

The Black Group yachts starting on the Bramble line first, headed to the east on a tight spinnaker reach. With the tide carrying competitors over the line there was much excitement at many of the starts, including a collision near the committee boat in the J/109 fleet.

The wind was down to 10 knots for the start of the 25-strong J/109 class; a fleet that has proved it remains capable for producing very close racing, with numerous entries throughout the fleet separated by only a few seconds at the finish. Jamie Sheldon’s Jolene had a good start, pulling away from the pack, with Robert Styles’ Diamond Jem overlapped to leeward and Nick Southward and John Scott’s Jynnan Tonnyx a couple of lengths astern. Diamond Jem slowly pulled further ahead in the early part of the first leg to create a useful lead. However, they had slipped to third place by the finish, crossing the line 17 seconds behind Neil McGrigor’s Boo. Nick Burns’ Team Mandrake won the class, by a margin of only 26 seconds over Boo.

By the time of the start of IRC Class 5 patchy cloud was moving in across the Solent, accompanied by stronger gusts, bigger lulls and a temporary wind shift into the north-northwest. As a result, there were plenty of thrills and spills on the first leg, with a number of boats broaching on their boisterous first leg to East Bramble buoy.

Robin Stevenson’s J/92S Upstart was first away from the line and quickly pulled away from the pack thanks to a slick spinnaker hoist. By the finish, Bob and Jon Baker’s J/97 Jaywalker took third place both on the water and on corrected time.

The White Group day boats, starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron line initially faced a very different challenge, short tacking against the tide along the Island shore. This led to a number of boats grounding on Grantham Rocks.

Monday was also UKSA Charity Day, with the activities of the regatta’s official charity, and associated fundraising drive, in the spotlight. The Cowes based organization is seeking £80,000 to enable more young people to change their lives through its ground-breaking youth development programs for disadvantaged and disaffected young people and young offenders.

J/70s starting off Royal Yacht Squadron start line- Cowes Race WeekDay Four- Tuesday
Today was one of civilized sailing in bright sun in an unstable and gusty north-northwesterly wind that produced gusts of 17 knots for the early starts, but also dropped to as little as 6-10 knots at times.

The conditions created a serious challenge for teams to judge time and distance on the fixed start lines. With the wind further into the north than yesterday the Black Group yachts starting from the Bramble line had a fast reach to East Bramble, their first mark. The boats equipped with Code 0s had an advantage over those who only had more conventional nylon spinnakers in their inventory.

In IRC 0 Class, it was one of the lowest rated boats in the class, Christopher Daniel’s J/122E Juno that earned a first place on corrected time, ahead of Alan, Bruce and James Douglas’ J/133 Spirit of Jacana.

The J/111 one design rules don’t allow for a Code 0s, so all boats opted to start under main and jib, rather than risking an asymmetric spinnaker. Dutch entry Paul van Driel’s Sweeny led the fleet into a perfect start, hitting the line at speed two lengths clear ahead of Simon Grier-Jones’ Snow Leopard, with Tony Mack’s McFly and Martin Dent’s Jelvis, the latter winner of the world championship in Cowes last week, in hot pursuit.

McFly led for much of the race, but Jelvis played the wind shifts well on the fourth leg and moved into the lead that they stretched to four minutes by the finish. “We have been enjoying really close nip and tuck racing all week, finishing within seconds of each other,” said Dent. “It really has been fantastic one-design racing. Today we got lucky, managing to pick up a lucky shift and snatch the lead from Tony Mack’s team on McFly.”

For the White Group, there was generally less wind closer inshore on the Royal Yacht Squadron line, where the White Group day boats also had a reaching start, albeit heading west against the tide.

The J/70 class completed their seven-race mini-series today.  It was an emphatic win for RAF Benevolent Fund Spitfire, ahead of Just in Time by a single point. Fourth place today for Claire Lasko’s Elizabeth put her in third place overall, two points ahead of another top woman skipper- Ali Hall’s J-Curve.

The J/80s start at 1045 coincided with a lull in the wind. Wally Walters’ Wild Wally was perfectly positioned, almost stemming the tide with her bow next to the outer distance mark, at the gun. She then accelerated away to take a one-length lead a little to windward of Kevin Sproul and Chris Taylor’s JAT. At the end of the first race JAT held a 105 second advantage on Jon Powell’s Betty, with Chris Body’s Mocking Jay taking third place one minute later.

Today was also “Slingsby Gin Ladies Day” at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, which celebrates women in sailing. On the water 80 women helms across varied classes raced for the Royal Southern Yacht Club’s Ariel Trophy.  Emma Toman (skippering the J/109 Judgment Day) took second place!  Sailing photo credits- Paul Wyeth/  For more AAM Cowes Week Regatta sailing information