Ireland is in firat place in the Rolex Commodores' Cup after a strong performance by the three-boat Irish Cruiser Racing Association team in Cowes this afternoon. Two inshore races were sailed with five race wins and a second place scored by the team.
Class 1 entry Antix skippered by Team Captain Anthony O'Leary won both races, as did Rob Davies Roxy 6 in Class 3. Dave Dwyer's Marinerscove.ie swapped the lead narrowly in both races, winning the first race by ten seconds and placing second in race two by ten seconds.
The Irish team holds the overnight lead with a 16-point margin while the GBR Red and South Hing Kong teams are tied for second place on 23 points apiece.
"We are very pleased with the consistency of all three Irish boats and its obvious that the hard work and dedication of all involved is starting to pay off," said Barry Rose, Commodore of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association. "There is still a long way to go in the series and Tuesday's overnight race will be critical as the offshore races for one third of the points in the entire event."
Conditions on the Solent for the opening two races improved gradually as winds freshened to a brisk 20-knot breeze. The tides in the area are the biggest of the year, running at up to four knots. Together with very shifty northerly winds, tacticians had to be vigilant to maximise the changes.
Tomorrow's programme (Monday) sees two further inshore races with similar fresh conditions forecast.
Additional Report from Commodores Cup Press Office:IRISH SET FORMIDABLE PACE
Ireland grabbed the 2010 Rolex Commodores' Cup by the throat on the opening day. With two windward-leeward races held in the eastern and central Solent, the three Irish boats won in each of their classes in the first race. In the second race, the team's otherwise perfect scoreline was only tarnished by their mid-sized boat, David Dwyer's Mills 39 marinerscove.ie, posting a second. With six days of competition left, the Irish, on 7 points, already hold a huge lead over the defending champions, GBR Red and Hong Kong, tied on 23. Previous experience will not allow the Irish to get carried away just yet.
The Solent started out grey and miserable today but the sun broke through mid-morning with a 10 knot northwesterly and a strong eastbound tide. For race two the Race Committee moved the race area to just east of the Brambles Bank to minimise the tide and for this the wind had veered into the northeast and built, at times gusting up to 20 knots.
In this opening day of competition for mainly Corinthian crews, with only one or two professionals allowed on each boat, some cobwebs were being blown out with a number of sail handling errors evident and even a collision during a port-starboard incident in race two between two mid-sized boats - Francois Lognone's Nutmeg IV in France White and Paul Turner's Grand Soleil 43 Artemis in GBR Black. The French subsequently admitted their mistake – explaining that they lacked steerage to avoid the incident. While they came out unscathed, unfortunately Artemis was holed and is having to be repaired overnight. Both yachts retired from race two.
Followers of this event will know that Ireland leading after day one is a regular feature of recent Rolex Commodores' Cups. The Irish have been favourites going into the last three events, but they have never before made such a strong impression on the event so soon.
"We are delighted on a shifty day like today to make a start like that; you can't ask for anything better," commented Anthony O'Leary owner of the Irish team's 'big boat', the Ker 39, Antix. "This is our third time doing it. I said to the guys yesterday – 'we have never been as well prepared'." In the Irish team Antix and Dwyer's marinerscove.ie are both well campaigned while the small boat, Robert Davies' Corby 36, Roxy 6, was launched this year, but already has had much regatta experience. This year Antix for example has won the Irish IRC Nationals in Dublin and their class at the Scottish Series.
O'Leary, a Rear Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, says that they have been building up to this regatta all year and after so many strong, but ultimately unsuccessful Irish campaigns previously it would mean a lot to win this year. "But don't be thinking that after one day of low points racing," he warns.
Sailing aboard the Hong Kong mid-sized boat, Blondie IV, Jamie McWilliam was pleased with his team's opening-day performance; "I'd say we are in the hunt. It is a tough regatta to win, but everyone knows that and that's what makes it worth coming. It is interesting but it is always the case here, because there is the variation in the courses that you race and in the conditions you get over the week. Trying to get the rig settings correct is impossible by definition so sometimes you are going really well and sometimes you are getting stuffed. Also, the longer boats with lower rating, the more cruiser racer types, they really go in the flat water."
For the mid-sized Class 2 boat it ended up being a long day following three general recalls before race two got away successfully on the fourth attempt under the Z-flag.
France Yellow holds fourth place, largely due to the efforts of their big boat, Bernard Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor which posted a 2-2 today. Their mid-boat is Pen Azen, from Saint-Quay-Portrieux in northern Brittany, and for owner Philippe Delaporte this is his third Rolex Commodores' Cup, but the first aboard his J/122, that was RORC Yacht of the Year in 2008. Delaporte bemoaned their tactics today. "We had a 5 and 7 - we were not lucky in our choices of side. We have good speed, so the problem is us."
This was not an issue of tides – they have big tides in Brittany - but the unstable wind direction. "We didn't manage that very correctly."
Some post-race appraisal will be going on in the South African camp tonight, as after day one they are lying seventh out of ten. Their highest place in race one was that of the small boat, Rick Garratt and David Hudson's J/109 Inspara, with a 6, and even in race two the team's results were little better.
"I thought we were going to do really well, but we had a shocking day," admitted Andrew Cape, the much-capped Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup navigator, who is sailing on the team's big boat, Philipp Gutsche's Landmark 43, Windpower. "The 40 footers seem to be staying up with a 43 footer. I thought we were in for a shot after what we saw in Cowes Week." Cape competed in the first Rolex Commodores' Cup back in 1992 as part of the winning US team and hopes he can maintain his record. He regularly sails with Gutsche in South Africa. While there was a substantial cross-tide today, Cape believes this wasn't the issue. "It was the wind that sorted out the winners and losers today, not the tide."
The Rolex Commodores' Cup continues tomorrow with a further two inshore races. The forecast weather is for Force 3-4 from the north west, with more sunshine than today.
Top Five Teams - Provisional Positions 15/8/10
Team / Points / Place
Ireland / 7 / 1
GBR Red / 23 / 2
Hong Kong / 23 / 2
France Yellow /28 /4
GBR White / 36 / 5