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Commodores' Cup - Dramatic action Round the Isle of Wight

by Trish Jenkins on 28 Jul 2012
Xcentric Ripper (Team Benelux), EFG Bank Mandrake (Team Hong Kong) and Team Ambush Quokka 8 (Team Hong Kong) passing The famous Needles off the Isle of Wight © Rick Tomlinson http://www.rick-tomlinson.com
Commodores' Cup race management today bravely pushed forth with the scheduled course anti-clockwise around the Isle of Wight. The seven teams in this international event for amateur crews got their money's worth. The race proved to be one of the most dramatic laps of the Isle of the Wight we have followed, including some monstrous snakes and ladders, for some boats the most wind their crews had seen all week and the whole gamut of conditions (or up to 18 knots at least) culminating in the latter two thirds of the fleet being becalmed on the final approach to the finish.

Despite this, day six of the regatta was the first where one team managed to put in a consistent performance with all three boats in RYA Team GBR Red finishing in the top five. From being 10 points ahead at the start of the day, they are now 55.5 points ahead of the GBR White. This leaves them in good shape going into tomorrow's final double points scoring inshore race.


Starting at 0830 to catch the last half of the ebb tide, the race got underway from the Squadron line in very little wind, before the breeze filled in half way down towards the Needles. Rounding South West Shingles buoy, Andrew Pearce's Ker 40 Magnum III was leading sistership Jonathan Goring's Keronimo, but with the Benelux team's First 47.7 Moana, the longest boat in the race, holding her own in third place on the water.

Passing the Needles and heading down the southwest side of the island there was a significant split in the fleet. While the majority headed inshore, Magnum III and the French team's Beelzebuth 3 remained offshore.

As Keronimo's tactician Kevin Sproul observed: 'It was a really strange thing that happened. We had loads of breeze in under the cliffs, but nothing a few 100ms off and nothing out to sea. We reckon it must have been coming right over and dumping straight on to the water under the cliffs. It was a very unusual situation and the guys who were obviously coming along behind us saw what was happening to us.' Most of the fleet closed in on Keronimo, but avoided the hole by staying to seaward. Suddenly the mighty Ker had all the lowest rated boats in the fleet alongside her, fortunately including their own GBR Red teammates on CNBC.


As the boats inshore were trapped in wind holes, Magnum III made massive gains offshore and approaching St Catherine's Point, she was almost two miles ahead of the competition. In this fleet such a lead would normally be considered unassailable.

On board Keronimo they could do nothing but watch Magnum's progress until she disappeared off south as they concentrated on defending their position from those catching from behind. Sproul observed: 'We saw Magnum going out to sea - she went to leeward, we knew we couldn't get down there and it looked like they had good pressure on port tack all the way, while we were running out of wind. The last time we saw them they were well ahead.'

Meanwhile after passing St Catherine's Point, Magnum III was beginning to struggle offshore.

Tactician Andy Beadsworth said they had made the decision to avoid the south coast of the Isle of Wight to ensure they stayed out of the wind shadow in the northerlies to the extent that they set a waypoint two miles off St Catherine's. 'It looked terrible for a while, but we stuck to our guns and got offshore and eventually it came super good for us and we must have been two miles ahead.'

But as Magnum was edging along a band of light wind, the breeze filled in for the inshore boats approaching St Catherine's. They found themselves enjoying not only more pressure, but also sailing a substantially shorter course as matters worsened on Magnum. 'We ended up being headed, so we were diverging even more while they were all being lifted. Having set ourselves up two miles offshore, we ended up four miles away from them at one point. We went from first to last in a very short period of time. I've had a lot better days...'

While the boats off St Catherine's were making good progress in winds of up to 18 knots, the most Magnum III saw for the duration of the course was 12 and in less than an hour, the GBR White big boat was firmly in last place.


Coming into Bembridge, Keronimo was holding the lead on the water, with the Ker 40 sisterships Peninsula Signal 8 and the Benelux team's Baraka GP in hot pursuit, along with the 11 year old Moana, sailing the race of her life, still mixing it up with the brand new speedsters.

On to the northeast side of the island and exiting the bay at Seaview bound for a port rounding of No Man's Land Fort, the Benelux Ker 40 slipped past Keronimo. Of this move Baraka GP crewman Dirk de Graaf said: 'About a mile from the Forts, we found a patch of wind and sailed over Keronimo. That was the lucky shot of the day. So that was pretty cool and we had some tough bits here at the end because we had wind and no wind, a header and a lifter and no wind...'

Despite Mother Nature throwing everything at them, from there to the finish, Baraka GP managed to hang on to first to win the handicap battle between the Kers.

Towards the finish the race appeared to be favouring the smaller boats. However this all changed at the finish when after the first three boats made it in, the wind off Cowes died completely. As a result on handicap the Ker 40s Baraka GP and Keronimo ended up on top, with the French team's Grand Soleil 40 Beelzebuth 3 putting a solid performance to end the day third with GBR Red's two other boats, Dignity and CNBC completing the top five.

Star performer of the day was certainly the Benelux team's Moana, the First 47.7 owned for the last 11 years by the Goubou family from Ghent, including father Francois, mother Michele and sons Laurent and Mathieu. It is likely that they would have been leading on corrected during the race, and the highlight was overtaking Keronimo on the water, until the park-up at the finish. But still they finished sixth on handicap.



Helmsman Mathieu Goubou said of their day: 'We had a great start and that made a big impact on our race because it was a story of the rich getting richer, but then we also had a lot of re-starts between the Needles and St Caths, where it was very very difficult sailing and the pack compressed. We had to be very careful to look on the water to see what was happening. It was really difficult for us because we are very heavy and we need a lot of time to accelerate. But we had 15-18 knots of wind heading up to the Forts although coming back into the Solent got more and more painful.'

The Benelux team's boats all finished in the top ten and this has caused them to pull ahead of the Hong Kong team overall.

This complex day on the water ultimately belonged to RYA Team GBR Red which holds a powerful lead going into tomorrow's final race, but in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, as past experience has painfully proved, there is no such thing as an unassailable lead.


Commodores Cup website
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Provisional Results

 

Team Name

Team Points

Team Place

GBR Red

222.5

1

GBR White

278

2

France

284

3

GBR Blue

310.5

4

Benelux

317.5

5

GBR Black

321

6

Hong Kong

352

7