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Six Metre World Championship 2023 at the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes - Day 1

by Fiona Brown 4 Sep 2023 21:55 PDT 31 August - 8 September 2023

Scoundrel and Silvervingen rise to the top

Glorious sun, a steady south-easterly breeze of 10 to 15 knots and a stunning fleet of thirty-four International Six Metres made for the perfect start to the Six Metre World Championship in Cowes. The Royal Yacht Squadron's Race Officer Peter Saxton set the fleet two windward/leeward courses over the Bramble Bank and got racing under way on time at 11:30. For the most part the fleet behaved well, although it did take three attempts, the third under black flag, to get the Open Division away for race two.

In the Open Division Jamie Hilton's USA126 Scoundrel, a gleaming varnished 1989 Ian Howlett design, built by Paul Litton and sailing for the New York Yacht Club, got the regatta off to a great start with a confident win in the opening race, followed by solid third, putting them into a three-point lead.

Scoundrel's Hilton gave credit to his boat after racing saying, "I think the racecourse, the venue is fantastic, the race committee work is fantastic, and Scoundrel is a great boat. She's from here originally and she seems to like the breeze and likes it at home. The idea amongst the crew is to let the boat do the work and the boat is doing great work.".

Violeta Alvarez at the helm of GBR112 Stella, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian, built by Astilleros Garrido Shipyard in 2017 and sailing for the Royal Yacht Squadron, began with a fifth and then took second in race two to put her into second Open Division overall. Filling third place with a third and sixth in the opening races is Eugenio Galdon Brugarolas' 1987 Pelle Petterson designed ESP70 Maybe XIV, which was built by Båtbyggarna Ab in Sweden and is based at the Real Club de Regatas de Cartagena. Maybe XIV is racing with an all-amateur crew so she also heads up the Open Corinthian Division too.

The winner of the second Open Division race was Jan Eckert's SUI140 GinkgoToo, built in 2020 by Nene Gallardo to a Javier Cela design and sailing for the Societe Nautic Geneve, but with a fourteenth in the opener he finds himself in eighth overall. A total of eight races are scheduled and a single discard will only be introduced once six races are completely.

Speaking after racing Ginkgo Too's Torvar Mirsky said "We've been in all the different positions in the fleet today. In the first race it was tricky, the two races today were in a transition of current and the current is as strong as it gets at the moment. I'm new to this area and I felt like we had a good plan, but it wasn't a good plan! The guys who went left on the first upwind of the first race did really well, we went right, and it wasn't so pretty. The fleet is really strong, it's really good racing. We're really happy to win the second race, it's a big milestone for our team to get this boat up to speed and to win a race here at these world championships is a great thing for us and we're looking forward to the week. Obviously tough with this first race, but it's going to be fun."

For defending Open Champion Dieter Schoen and his team aboard SUI142 Momo, the 2022 Vroelick design built by Wilke and sailing for the Sailing Club St Moritz, the regatta got off to a mediocre start with a ninth in race one and a fifth in race two, putting them on seventh overall, but there's a lot of racing ahead and one would be unwise to discount this hugely consistent team this early.

The famously tricky Solent tide was turning during the races and several teams struggled to get to grips with its vagaries. This was particularly obvious in the Classic Division where the results were a much more mixed bag. Top Classic performer was Simon William's new team aboard GBR31 Silvervingen, a 1939 Tore Home design built by Hägerstens Båtvarv and sailing for the New York Yacht Club. Since her acquisition by Williams, Silvervingen has undergone a significant refit in preparation for this event. His team may be new to Sixes, but they certainly don't lack experience, with a crew that includes double Olympic Gold Medallist Shirley Robertson and British Tornado Olympian Mark Bulkley. A steady seventh followed by a third puts them into a two-point lead overall in the Classics.

The points in the Classic Division are very close with the top nine boats separated by just four points. In second by a single point thanks to a race two win is Mauricio Sanchez-Bella's ESP72 Titia from the Real Club Nautico de Sanxenxo, a 1952 design by David Boyd, built by Woodnutts at Bembridge, that represented Britain at the 1952 Olympics.

Mauricio Sanchez-Bella noted, "Its been a very special day because we have done a tenth and then a first. I think it represents how difficult it is to sail in these waters. The currents can make you finish in front or last and it's quite interesting because it's kind of a different sport because you have to take care of the current so much, but it was fun and a fantastic day, sunshine and very good wind so happy! Who knows who is going to prevail at the end, because as we have seen today anything can happen and it's very open to all the boats in the fleet. It's nice to have this tension until the end.".

With just a single point delta on Titia sits Saskia II, Rainer Muller's 1934 William Fife design skippered by Pierre Geux. A second and eleventh on their card put them into third Classic overall and first Classic Corinthian team. Saskia's achievement is all the more impressive when you note that she lost her mast during warm-up racing and has had to borrow, rerig, measure and step a new mast in just 48 hours.

The defending Champion, Louis Heckly's Dix Août, on loan for this regatta to top French offshore and Dragon sailor Géry Trentesaux, got her defence off to a great start with a win in race one, but then fell foul of the changing tides and found herself down in fourteenth in the second race. It was also a mixed day for Heckly too, who this year is sailing Fun, a 1937 Olin Stephens design sailing for the RYS, who was pleased with a third in the opener but understandably disappointed with a twelfth in the second, which leaves him seventh Classic overall.

Six Metre sailors love nothing more than an opportunity to talk about their beloved boats, and the regatta social programme has been perfectly crafted to facilitate that. On Sunday evening the teams came together at the Royal Yacht Squadron in the presence of His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain to enjoy delicious champagne and canapés, catch up with old friends and make new ones, and look forward to an exciting championship to come, all set against a spectacular Solent sunset.

On behalf of the Royal Yacht Squadron Commodore Sir James Holman noted the club's very long-standing relationship with the Sixes, which began when the class was first introduced in 1907, and expressed the club's delight that over a century later that link is as strong as ever. "The Royal Yacht Squadron are privileged and delighted to welcome the Six Metre class to their first Worlds in the U.K. for fifteen years. There is growing excitement as these beautiful and classic boats and their outstanding crews gather in Cowes from throughout Europe and Northern America, and we look forward to some close and thrilling racing."

After sailing today, the teams gathered at the waterside Cowes Yacht Haven race village where they enjoyed a hog roast and made to order cocktails courtesy of Tipsy Wight's horsebox cocktail bar.

The weather forecast for Wednesday is for very light airs and so the Race Committee has announced that on Tuesday it will bring the start of racing forward thirty minutes to 11:00 and they plan to race three races. Once five races have been completed the championship will be secure and after the sixth race a single discard will be allowed. Championship racing continues until Friday 8 September with up to eight races scheduled.

Provisional Results after Day 1: (top five)

Open Division
1st Scoundrel, USA123, Jamie Hilton - 1, 3 = 4pts
2nd Stella, GBR112, Violeta Alvarez - 5, 2 = 7pts
3rd Maybe XIV, ESP70, Eugenio Galdon Brugarolas - 3, 6 = 9pts
4th Sophie II, SUI132, Hugo Stenbeck - 2, 10 = 12pts
5th Battlecry, GBR89, Jeremy Thorp - 8, 4 = 12pts

Classic Division
1st Silvervingen, GBR31, Simon Williams - 7, 3 = 10pts
2nd Titia, ESP72, Mauricio Sanchez-Bella - 11, 1 = 12pts
3rd Saskia II, SUI19, Rainer Muller - 2, 11 = 13pts
4th Hanko III, GER96, Thomas Kuhman - 12, 3 = 14pts
5th Nirvana, GBR33, Andy & Lisa Postle - 6, 8 = 14pts

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