If yesterday conditions allowed crews to ease gently into the 2008 Rolex Commodores’ Cup, today’s conditions proved that much more testing. With the wind having backed around to the southeast overnight, racing was held off Hill Head, in the Central Solent, in more breeze, occasionally gusting to more than 20 knots and a short chop making for a wet ride.
Once again two windward-leeward courses were held with different teams moving into the lead after each one. After the first race it was the turn of Ireland Green to move ahead with a comfortable 4.5 point margin over GBR Red, Monday’s leaders France Blue relegated to third place after all three boats in Gery Trentesaux’s team posted fifth placed finishes.
The results from this race were particularly good for the Irish with Ireland Green’s medium boat, Eamonn Rohan’s Blondie IV, winning her class while Eamon and Alan Crosbie’s small boat, Teng Tools/Voodoo Chile won the small boat class for Ireland White.
Sail maker Neil Mackley, the Category 3 pro and mainsheet trimmer, on board Blondie IV described what they had got right: 'The first race was a one-sided race track which favours us because we are a fast boat and we got out clear and then had our own race to sail as opposed to fighting with everyone else.'
The strategy in both races was, on the upwind legs, to take a long starboard tack across to the Hill Head shoreline in order to get out of the tide. Boats that could get a nose ahead off the start line benefited from having more opportunity to pass ahead of the on-coming deluge of boats once they’d tacked back away from the shore.
'We were just fast enough this morning to get clear and to tack across the whole fleet which was nice,' continued Mackley. 'In the first race it was that first tack and getting your lane, that made the biggest difference. It was proved in the second race in that we didn’t get out far enough and we couldn’t cross the first of the boats and then had to tack back underneath them and then all of a sudden you are into that melée of boats and tacking and water calls and dipping. It is so easy just to throw a boat length here or there away and you can’t do it at this level.'
On board Teng Tools/Voodoo Chile, Eamon and Alan Crosbie’s team had a similar story to tell. 'We just stayed clean and everything clicked and it was good,' commented son Alan. 'There were really good calls from the back of the boat and everything was nice.' Crosbie has Stefan Hyde and Ruairidh Scott making the calls. He also says they have been forced to up their game for this Rolex Commodores’ Cup, but then everyone else has too. Aside from these new crew, they have optimised their Ker 11.3 by fitting a new keel and rudder, refairing and repainting the top, bottom and deck.
While Crosbie’s Dublin-based team won race three, they were doing well on race four until in the gusty conditions they suffered a problem with their spinnaker when the guy accidentally looped the end of the spinnaker pole. They finished eighth as a result which combined with a disappointing result for Conor Phelan’s mid-sized boat Jump Juice saw Ireland White lose fourth place to the Hong Kong team.
Teng Tools’ crew were by no means alone in making handling errors with their spinnaker today, with all manner of wraps, knots, trawling and peculiar drops observed throughout the fleet. If there is an ethos for winning the Rolex Commodores’ Cup, as observed by one time Olympic sailor and sailmaker Jeremy Robinson, the Cat3 professional on board Jerry Otter’s Erivale III in GBR Red, it is consistency and scoring no dud results. Consistency is exactly what the GBR Red team showed in today’s second race with each boat scoring a second place. The best showing was that of the big boat John Shepherd’s Fair Do’s VII which after a fantastic start in the first race today, led around the course to win that race, following this up with a second in the second race – a fine showing after her backstay problems yesterday.
'The first race we had a good start,' recounted Shepherd. 'It was good positioning and keeping out of trouble. We did well on the beat coming up the shore ahead of everyone else. That worked well for us today. I think teamwork was good. I think that we managed to play it pretty well around that first mark. We avoided all the dog fights as all the other boats came in. Then we had to play the shifts coming down to the leeward mark.' However tactically it is difficult sailing Fair Do’s VII, a boat with an asymmetric spinnaker, when most of their competitors sail boats with conventional kites.
'The second race start was more problematic,' continued Shepherd. 'The wind was a little different and the tide was changing. Again we played the same game of coming up the beach and trying to get into as shallow water as possible.'
While France Blue’s performance was lacklustre in race three, the team more than made up for it in the final race today with Gery Trentesaux’s big boat Lady Courrier winning Class 1 and Marc Alperovitch’s Prime Time taking victory in Class 3. These results enabled them to regain second place.
The real acid test though will take place tomorrow with the offshore race which is designed to be of 24-36 hours duration. The Race Committee this evening have chosen a course starting tomorrow morning at 10.30 BST from the Squadron line off Cowes that will send the boats off on a multiple leg course between the Needles and Portland Bill and out into the Channel.
As is the case with the racing to date the distance of the offshore race will vary between the Classes with the big boats sailing 191 miles, Class 2 173 miles and Class 3 137 miles. Top Five Teams - Provisional Positions 1/7/08
Team / Points / Place
1 GBR Red / 40 / 1
2 France Blue / 43 / 2
3 Ireland Green / 43.5 / 3
4 Hong Kong / 67 / 4
5 Ireland White / 68/5
6 Netherlands / 92 / 5