The Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup leapt into action today and much to the delight of competitors and organisers, Mediterranean conditions prevailed. Two windward leeward races were held between Hill Head and Gilkicker Point in a six-ten knot south-easterly.
In relatively light conditions a significant factor today was the tide, which changed direction between the races, but not equally across the course.
After two races it is not the British A team, but the supposed British underdog team, GBR Black, that is leading after a consistent performance across their three boats, all finishing within the top eight of the 21 boat fleet.
In GBR Black, Mike and Seb Blair's King 40 Cobra was the third best individual performer of the day with a 10-2, a fine start in what is their Commodores' Cup debut. 'We are over the moon obviously,' said Mike Blair. 'It has taken a little while to get the boat going and I think new sails have made a lot of difference, so we are very encouraged and hope to keep going like this.' Cobra helmsman, Chris Walmsley, added that their new sails, optimised for slightly lighter conditions than they have experienced so far this season, had caused the boat to 'light up'.
Peter Morton, owner of the Corby 33 Salvo, the small boat in GBR Black, admitted he was 'slightly surprised', his team was leading. 'Now that the wind is down a bit, we feel a bit more comfortable with our boat relative to the others, otherwise we struggle a bit to keep our handicap. In this sort of wind strength, flat water, southeasterly breeze, we are quite happy, thank you. If we can keep this going all week, we will be alright.'
With the British Keelboat Academy crew on David Aisher's J/109 Yeoman of Wight rounding out their team, GBR Black ends the day on 44.5 points, 3.5 ahead of British favourites, GBR Red.
In the inter-Ker 40 championship (with four examples leading the fleet around the course), Jonathan Goring's Keronimo in GBR Red came out on top, winning both races on the water, despite being the lowest rated of the four alongside Andrew Pearce's Magnum III.
'It was superb - we had a great day,' said Goring. 'We had our tussles with the other Ker 40s which are sailed very similarly, but felt we found our pace and we managed to get to the right place. It was a good day at the office and Dignity had a good day also, so we feel that GBR Red has done okay.'
As to the tight racing between the four near one-designs, Goring said it was 'pretty knarly. In the second race we had three Kers finishing within 20 seconds of each other. It is fantastic racing.'
Also in GBR Red, Andrew Williams' Plymouth team on the Mills 39 Dignity won today's first race, but then got off to a bad start in the second, buried in the fleet at the wrong end of the line, rounding the weather mark second last.
'We worked hard and in fact we sailed better in the second race because we had to pull ourselves back up through the fleet,' said Williams. 'We're happy enough - very pleased with winning the first race. It is a good way to start a regatta.'
The best individual boat performance of the day came from the Hong Kong team's EFG Bank Mandrake, better known in the UK as RORC Commodore Mike Greville's Erivale. Chartered by Nick Burns and Fred Kinmonth, EFG Bank Mandrake posted a 3-5 today, just beating Neil Kipling's J/122 Joopster, in GBR White, by a point.
'We did well, so I am very happy. I wanted two firsts but that was pure imagination - the fleet is far too good for that,' said Burns, back for his second crack after Hong Kong finished second in 2010. 'We had a very good start in the first race and a terrible start in the second race.' Despite this they managed to pull into the lead (on handicap) but then lost it again tacking up the shore before the tide had turned. Burns compliment his tactician Phil Lawrence and helmsman Laurence Mead for their excellent work. 'I just sit there on main sheet doing what I'm told!'
At the end of day one, France holds third place behind GBR Black and GBR Red, 14.5 points off the lead.
Olivier Pesci's Grand Soleil 40 Beelzebuth 3 had a mixed day, 18th in the first race, when they suffered a problem with their spinnaker, but winning the second. Conversely Hervé Borgoltz' Grand Soleil 44 R Eleuthera had a better day overall with a 2-13. In the first race helmsman Jean-Philippe Cau said they spent most of it hanging on to the coat tails of Dignity. They too suffered problems with their spinnaker in this race, but for them it made little effect on their result. 'We made a big hole in our brand new spinnaker with the spinnaker pole, but fortunately the wind was not too strong and the hole didn't increase, though it was big - about 1m. After that everything was good.'
In race two Eleuthera were nailed when they too went up the wrong side of the first beat.
After two races Benelux are bringing up the rear among the seven teams. John van der Starre, skipper of the J/111 Xcentric Ripper admitted that they hadn't got off to a good start in the first race and their problems were compounded when they too ripped their genniker and for the next downwind leg had to use their smaller sail. 'And the second was even worse!' van der Starre said.
Tomorrow the fleet sets off on its offshore race, likely to head east out of the Solent. This is due to be of 24-36 hours duration. But the forecast is indicating very light winds overnight on Monday and into Tuesday morning.
Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup website
by Trish Jenkins
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5:34 PM Sun 22 Jul 2012GMT
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