Once again on the opening day of the 2013 Coutts Quarter Ton Cup, there were more glamorous classes, modern classes, undoubtedly more expensive classes, but you would have to go a long way to find a class that offers more spectacularly close racing and bang for your buck than the Quarter Ton Class. Where the pace was fast and furious and four different boats claimed a race victory.
Daybreak brought hot sun, but not a breath of air and wisely Race Officer Rob Lamb promptly announced a three hour postponement giving the 26 teams time to relax, drink coffee, bimble on their boats and top up their tans. Right on time the breeze filled in and racing got underway at 14.00, as anticipated, in a relatively stable west-south-westerly breeze of 8 to 12 knots.
Louise Morton's Espada drew first blood with an excellent start and first beat to lead the fleet around mark 1. Despite plenty of challengers she sailed a text-book race to win by 51 seconds on corrected time from Willy McNeill and Mike Pascall's Illegal Immigrant with Rickard Melander's Alice II in third. Peter Morton's Bullit, helmed this week by Morty's son-in-law Ashley Curtis as Peter is unable to race due to pressure of work, took fourth, and Ian Southworth's Whiskers fifth.
Race two took three attempts to start with the first being postponed in the closing moments of the sequence due to a wind shift. On the second attempt the fleet misjudged the tide and were recalled so the race officer went to black flag for the third attempt, which kept everyone behind the line. This time it was Rob Gray and his team aboard Blackfun who took an early lead and again successfully defended to the finish. It was a tough battle though with the top nine boats all finishing within a minute of each other on corrected time with Bullit second by just seven seconds, Espada third, Illegal Immigrant fourth and Alice II fifth.
After another recall the black flag came out of its holster once again for race three, but even that wasn't sufficient to hold everyone back and Blackfun, Edward White's Joker, Jan Thirkettle's Olivia Anne VI and Paul Roberts and Jo and Sarah Assael's Bad Toad all found themselves forced to wait it out on the sidelines as the fleet raced away from them. Now it was Whiskers who rose to the top of the heap with Alice II second. Bullit and Pierre Paris' Pinguin Playboy tied for fourth place on corrected time and Diamund Foley's Anchor Challenge took fifth.
Whilst Quarter Ton racing is always incredibly close the quality of the sailing is truly exceptional and it's rare to see significant contact. Unfortunately a relatively short fair tide first beat in race four meant that the bulk of the fleet arrived at the weather mark together and mayhem ensued. Blackfun led in from the port layline while Phoenix, owned by the Welch, Fulford, Manser & Fleming partnership, came in on starboard with Bullit hard on her heels. Blackfun clearly thought they had room to squeeze in, but sadly they misjudged it and, with nowhere to go, Blackfun sailed full tilt into her transom, breaking the carbon spinnaker pole and gouging a hole in the stem. Behind them Bullit luffed hard to avoid ramming Phoenix, but unfortunately the force of the impact had caused Blackfun to spin to weather and Bullit was unable to avoid them too, making the second contact of the day. Initially Blackfun did turns but on realising later that serious damage had occurred they retired from the race.
The bumper cars theme continued at the second mark although fortunately with less serious consequences. Phoenix initially held their lead but without a spinnaker pole it was tricky to hold off the pack and on the second run they dropped back. The fleet was spread across the course on the final run, but it was Alice II, Espada, Whiskers and Illegal Immigrant that got the best of the leg by sticking to the middle of the course. The four boats rounded within seconds of each other for the final short beat to the finish. On corrected time Alice II claimed victory by seven seconds with Whiskers snatching second from Espada by a single second. Illegal Immigrant and Phoenix crossed the line seven seconds apart, correcting out to a dead heat to share fourth place.
In the overall standings Rickard Melander's Alice II, a 1990 Phil Morrison design, now has a three-point lead over Ian Southworth's Whiskers, a 1979 Joubert Nivelt, and Louise Morton's Espada, designed by Bruce Farr in 1980, who both count fourteen points. There is also a tie for fourth place with Ashley Curtis aboard Bullit, a 1979 Faroux design which won the 1979 and 80 Quarter Ton Cups, and Willy McNeil and Mike Pascall's Illegal Immigrant, designed by Ceccarelli in 1991, tied on 18.5 points.
After racing the exhausted but happy crews enjoyed sundowners, a delicious bar-b-que and a spectacular Solent sunset from the Royal Corinthian's terrace.
Tomorrow's forecast indicates we can expect another sunny morning with little wind until early afternoon when a decent sea breeze if anticipated. Up to four further races may be sailed tomorrow and the regatta continues until Wednesday 17 July. Tomorrow evening the crews will gather for the legendary Coutts Quarter Ton Cup Gala Dinner at which Paul Larsen of Vestas Sailrocket will be the guest speaker.
Top Five After Four Races
1. SWE7744, Alice II, Rickard Melander - 3,5,2,1 = 11 pts
2. GBR902R, Whiskers, Ian Southworth - 5,6,1,2 - 14 pts
3. GBR50R, Espada, Louise Morton - 1,3,7,3 = 14 pts
4. FRA7891, Bullit, Ashley Curtis - 4,2,3.5,9 - 18.5 pts
5. GBR501, Illegal Immigrant, W McNeill & M Pascall - 2,4,8,4.5 = 18.5 pts
by Royal Corinthian Yacht Club
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2:40 AM Tue 16 Jul 2013GMT
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