A game of tactics and steady nerves was being played out on the English Channel last night as the high-scoring offshore race in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup was fought out.
All eyes were on the three Irish boats as the 27-strong fleet started off the Royal Yacht Squadron line in West Cowes yesterday morning.
And the trio did not disappoint.
With a four-knot ebb tide to overcome the light north-west breeze, the front-runners reached Hurst Castle at the western end of the Solent with all three in leading positions.
Marc Glimcher’s Catapult from the United States, sailing for the Irish Cruiser Racing Association team, was quickest off the line, though played nip and tuck the whole way west with British entry Cutting Edge.
After crossing into the narrow lane of the Needles Channel, Ireland held second on the water for Catapult with captain Anthony O’Leary on Antix in sixth and the Boyd/Dowling-partnered Quokka 8 just behind in seventh.
Later in the long, hot day Catapult again pulled into the lead but was constantly under pressure from Cutting Edge.
Significantly, the smaller boats in the fleet were still in touch with the leaders on the long downwind leg to the turning-mark on the French side of the channel and with the handicap standings favouring smaller entries a major upset could be on the cards. However, the consensus amongst the weather experts across several teams was that the breeze would die overnight, affecting the smaller boats first and eventually leading to a ‘park-up’, with boats likely to anchor on long lines to avoid being swept backwards on the tide.
Predictions of finishing times ranged from 10.30pm last night to 7am today, with the bigger boats likely to benefit most from the new breeze near the finish off Portsmouth.
As this 118-nautical mile race counts for 2.5-times normal race points, the series could be opened up again in the lead-in to Saturday’s final.
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