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2021 Quarter Ton Cup - Day 2

by Andi Robertson 6 Jun 00:09 PDT 4-6 June 2021

After a marathon day of five races contested mainly in a sparkling 11-16kts sea breeze on the Solent just three points separate the top three crews going into the final day of the 17 boat Quarter Ton Cup.

A strong third and two wins from the last three races of the day sees Olivia Dowling and her crew of the 1984 Briand designed Catch sitting 1,5pts clear of three-times overall winner Louise Morton on Bullet with the defending 2019 holders poised third place, Ian Southworth and Team Hamble sailing Protis.

Dowling's Catch, which she has owned for ten years, typically showed a slight speed edge in the uprange conditions and this was complemented by near flawless work from the all pro-crew which includes mainsheet-tactician Paul Wilcox, Ineos Team UK's round the world racer Andrew McLean in pit, Freddy Shanks on bow and Anthony Haines up and downwind trim.

Catch's only minor error was brushing the mark with their kite which required them to take a penalty in the second race today while the strength of Morton's all-girl crew has been solid, allround consistency all across the wind range over the first two days of this three day championship.

Though the top three teams have stepped clear of the chasing pack, conditions are forecast to return to lighter airs for Sunday's showdown which could still see this hierarchy toppled.

Catch's South African ace tactician Paul Wilcox recalled, "We managed to recover to fifth in the second race of the day when we touched with the kite but otherwise we had a pretty good day. I think we have a pretty good upwind mode on this boat in pressure and so as soon as we are hiking hard we seem to have legs on most of the fleet. And today we worked out a nice downwind mode in the pressure. We have a lot of offshore experience, maybe that helps when the wind picks up!"

He adds, "The racing is so close it is unbelievable and the fleet is amazingly good. There are a lot of good sailors in this fleet Our boat is going well and hopefully there will be breeze tomorrow."

Dowling, who quipped that she maybe found the five race day longer than her rivals as is up during the night with her six-month old baby, is nonetheless buzzing to be going into the final day with a fighting chance of bettering the fifth place that she recalls as being her best Quarter Ton Cup finish so far, "When the wind gets up Catch gets in the groove upwind, downwind is a work in progress." She smiled, "But what makes this fleet so exciting is the differences between the boats in different conditions. And it is just great to be back sailing."

With the British Women's Open Keelboat Championship simultaneously enjoying the Solent's champagne conditions on the immediately adjacent race track today- their fast, exciting action and short sharp races giving the rising stars a chance to hone their close quarters skills - it was pleasing to see such a rich vein of flourishing talent racing nearby, which in time will find its way into many keelboat classes like the Quarter Tonners where the female helms hold the top two places.

At the heart of Morton's crew are Poole's Macgregor sisters Lucy, Nicky and Kate the 2018 Women's World Match Champions who are three times winners of the British Womens' Keelboat Championship. The Quarter Tonner is perfect for their small keelboat skills and together with Colette Richmond and Suzy Russell they are once again loving the sheer closeness of the competition. Indeed at the end of Race 6 regatta leaders after time correction Catch tied for the third placed finish while Bullet were next placed fifth a mere three seconds slower.

Bullet's 2012 Olympian Lucy Macgregor explains, "We have been pretty consistent. We have not made too many mistakes and we can always improve but we have mostly always had good starts. But we have all sailed for so long together that it is all very natural and that helps. We have such a broad mix of race winners in this class, there is such a depth of talent and experience. The racing is super close. We are always all still learning but I think a lot of us who have grown up racing small keelboats - especially at Olympic level - bring a real attention to detail. And on a long day like today when you come ashore with our brains fried then that counts towards consistency.

Still finding the fast modes after his boat was rebuilt through last winter is Duncan Peace whose Pacifist lies in 12th place. But the naval architect-turned- oil and gas businessman is deriving a unique satisfaction this week of racing a Quarter Tonner that he designed himself.

Peace was fresh out of Southampton University - a graduate of ship science - and working then with the late Ed Dubois who was partly responsible for the renaissance of the Quarter Ton Class and won it in 2006 with his own-designed and renovated Enigma.

He explains, " Yesterday in the lighter breeze we were competitive I felt. There is a lot to learn and we are just getting things sorted. It has been largely re-built by John Corby. I did the revisions to the design and we have a new deck as the old one was beyond repair. The hull was in good condition but has been refaired. The hull is quite a little bit fairer now than when it was built by Steve Etheridge To save money myself and a couple of mates faired the hull! I worked with Ed when he was doing boats like Police Car (ed note: 1979 Admiral's Cup top scoring boat) and Dynamo. These boats were probably then the first big boats to have fractional rigs and so it was an exciting time to be sailing these new boats. Now it is great to see these boats which have all been so beautifully restored and the fleet is so friendly and competitive. And the satisfaction is huge. It is also very satisfying to be a British designer in this fleet."

Racing is being run by the Royal Yacht Squadron and concludes Sunday.

Standings after Day 2: (top five, 8 races, 1 discard)

1 Catch, Olivia Dowling, 3,2,(10), 7,5, 3.5, 1, 1 22,5pts
2 Bullet, Louise Morton 1,4, (6), 4,4,5, 3,3 24pts
3 Protis, Team Hamble 4, (6), 2, 5,1,3.5,4,6 25.5pts
4 Black Fun, Kieran Hayward 2,1,5 (13), 2,7,7,8 32 pts
5 Per Elisa, Niall Dowling (6.5), 3,3,3,6,6,6,5 32pts

Full results at www.rys.org.uk/events/event-details/2021-06-04-quarter-ton-cup-3565

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