The Etchells fleet racing for the Gertrude Cup was kept ashore for the fourth day of the regatta, waiting for a sea breeze to develop.
At midday the fleet was towed out to Hill Head, in anticipation of wind, and soon after arrival in the race area, a fresh breeze rapidly kicked in from the southwest delivering classic Solent sea breeze conditions. The master class of race management, produced by PRO Phil Lawrence and his team from the Royal Thames Yacht Club, was further demonstrated with three superb races, with fine tuning of the course length and axis for each race.
James Badenach representing the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, retained their lead for The Gertrude Cup, but it was far from straight forward, exemplified by their 6-1-9 scoreline for the day. The USA Youth Team, skippered by Connor Needham, scored the best set of results, 1-3-5. The team are all from the East Coast of the United States, and sail out of the Shelter Island Yacht Club, established in 1886, one of the oldest clubs in North America. By contrast team tactician Hannah Polster, is one of the youngest sailors racing at the Gertrude Cup, having just finished College in Boston, MA.
“I have done a lot of college sailing, mainly 420s, and I am a dinghy sailor, this is my first keel boat regatta.’ commented Hannah Polster. ‘The regatta has been a lot of fun, and it has been interesting for me to race as part of a bigger crew. My role as tactician means that I just keep my head out of the boat and focus on the racecourse. This is something that I have really enjoyed, and it is new to me, because in the 420, this is not my role. Today the current was a big factor, and there were also a lot of shifts on the racecourse. So upwind we were focusing on staying in phase, but taking opportunities to get left for current. Downwind every inch matters, so we were really fighting for it. Both here and in the U.S, we have older sailors in the Etchells fleet, but they are really talented as well, and it is really cool to sail with a different generation, because you learn so much. Also in this regatta we have four youth teams, two from U.S. And two from England, and we were challenged to come here, and that is a lot of fun too.”
The Royal Yacht Squadron Team, skippered by Bruce Huber, is third for the regatta, and sailing well. The RYS team include, Edmund Peel and Angus Hemmings, two great characters. Every regatta has its stories, and one of them from this year’s Gertrude Cup deserves a mention, as David Franks, Cowes Etchells Fleet Captain, explains: “We should have an award for sportsman-like conduct, and there is no question whom it would be, and that is Robert Drake (RORC) and his team. After a collision on the first day, they gave up their boat to Bruce Huber, who went on to win the next race, which is absolutely fantastic.”
Congratulations should also go to the young team from the Royal Thames Youth Academy, skippered by Chris Eames, which finished the day in style, winning their first race of the regatta. Whilst some of the crew of the team have sailed Etchells, this was the first time Chris Eames, had done so. “It has ben a steep learning curve, especially how to set up the boat, and we really appreciate the help we have received from Graham Sunderland and all of the Etchells fleet. In the last race, everything seemed to come together and we had a bit of luck, and we are delighted to win a race.”
It was an unfortunate start to the day for David Anastasi’s team, representing the Royal Malta Yacht Club. A broken halliard forced their retirement from the first race. However the team showed great tenacity, scoring two podium finishes, and just missed out on a race win, in the photo finish for the last race of the day.
The Medina Marching Band opened proceedings for a Champagne Reception and Gala Dinner, held at the Royal Yacht Squadron Pavilion. A succulent three course plated dinner was served with fine wines. The marching bands repertoire included the theme tune for The 1960s TV Series, The Champions. The 2017 Gertrude Cup concludes today, Wednesday 26th July.
by Louay Habib