Today’s opener of the series races of Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week 2015 could not have been in greater contrast to yesterday’s one-off and somewhat drizzly warm up race for the Trinity Cup, when the four-day event got off to a flying start in brisk winds and sunshine.
The Winkworth and Royal Victoria Race Day offered truly champagne sailing conditions to the five one design classes and the other classic handicap divisions today, all of whom qualified for the event as a design that was introduced before 1970.
The XOD class was clearly keen to get away on the first start, resulting in a general recall, but a U-flag ensured a clean second start and the fleet split wide as they beat upwind to the first mark. As the fleet closed in Michael O’Donnell’s Lightwood X64, emerged as the frontrunner, with Paul Woodman’s Ibex, X32 snapping close at her heels. Several fell foul of the tide, hitting the first mark which cost them valuable places. Ibex managed to overhaul Lightwood to take a first in the first race, with O’Donnell settling for second place. In the second race of the day, the pair swopped places and now sit in joint first place. Stuart Jardine, who won yesterday’s Trinity Cup XOD Race, didn’t manage to repeat his performance today, settling for a 15th overall today, and seven places behind twin brother Ado.
Michael O’Donnell has only sailed two seasons in the XOD. He said “We got a really good start in the first race which helped, but had to fight our way back from a bad start in the second. Our tactician Steve Lawrence is a magician! And the boat is still 45kg overweight!”
Conditions suited the XODs perfectly on their committee boat windward leeward courses. Steady winds of around 16 knots provided some lively sailing in the fleet which goes from strength to strength, this week standing at 60 entries, up by 10 from last year.
Classes were divided between four separate committee boats which were spread throughout the eastern Solent to give each group plenty of room for their predominantly windward leeward courses. Further to the east of the XODs the Solent Sunbeams, whose fleet makes its annual crossing from Itchenor Sailing Club to the event, were establishing a firm pecking order, with the first three places going to the same yachts in each of the two races. Cathy Burnie’s Fleury won both races, with the two seconds going to Roger Wickens’ Danny and the two-thirds to Tim Hill’s Query.
Two elegant classes, the Darings and the six metres shared a race course further to the south-east. The six metres, six of whom were back after a gap of several years, were dominated by Fenton Burgin in Sioma who took both the day’s races. The wind topped 20 knots by the middle of the day, pushing the sixes hard in the second race, heeled well over pressed by their huge overlapping genoas.
Bobcat was a welcome addition to the six-metre fleet. Only a week ago the yacht was being repaired in Holland following a collision, but owner Andrew Webster completed the work and trucked her to the Solent just in time for the event.
The Squibs made a special one day only appearance at the Cowes Classics. Easily spotted by their brown sails and small spinnakers, the class was dominated by Roly Wilson in Bachante VIII with three firsts, and Acrobat helmed by S Warren-Smith with three seconds. Eyes were also on a trio of 15-year-old brothers, indeed triplets, Charlie, Harry and Tom White, which raced Alice into a highly respectable eighth place.
It was John Deacon’s day on the Bembridge One Designs with two firsts as well.
With just one race per day in their programme, the historic Old Gaffers enjoyed a mid-Solent round the cans race. “The course suited us perfectly”, says co-owner Tim Redburn, of the fully restored Beeleigh, which is 102 years old. “Gaffers are not known for their upwind sailing, and some great fetching legs were ideal for the design.”
Many other vintage yachts including the Nicholson 32s, SCODs and Twisters are also taking part in the event in two Classic Cruisers divisions while the Flying Fifteens and Swallows are competing in the Classic Dayboats class.
The Classic Cruisers use the KLR Formula handicapping system which originated in Germany in 1994 and is favoured by traditional cruising yachts.
The plan is to get a series of eight races in between now and Friday when the event finishes. Racing continues tomorrow (Wednesday).