Two race wins and a third place for the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) team at Cowes have extended Ireland's lead by ten points overnight as the event reaches its penultimate phase tomorrow with the Round Isle of Wight Race. Strong winds gusting to 25 konts are forecast and the team is focussed on avoiding damage.
Ireland has a 40.5 point lead over second placed Hong Kong and 49 points over third-placed France Blue.
Team Captain Anthony O'Leary on Antix won Class 1, continuing his consistent form of race wins and second places this week. Roxy 6 skippered by Andrew Creighton benefitted from an apparent navigational error by Hong Kong's Rockall III that was leading comfortably in Class 3 until a course change was missed and the Irish team boat won the race. Dave Dwyer's marinerscove.ie placed third in Class 2 in a race dominated by British boats La Reponse and Quokka 8.
"We have a very workman like approach to prepararing thoroughly for the 50-miler tomorrow," commented Barry Rose, Commodore of ICRA. "The course has lots of complicated corners and we expect it to be breezy. Its a big challenge that we're taking day by day; our plan goes on as it has from the beginning, concentrating on every detail to be as prepared as we can."
The race around the island counts for 1.5x bonus factor and will be especially tough in the forecast conditions. "The race around the Isle of Wight is going to be pretty long and pretty tough for the small boats," Maurice O'Connell, mainsheet trimmer on Roxy 6. "We're just going to keep doing what we're doing and hope that it all comes good."
A grim overcast start and lumpy wind against tide conditions gave way to brilliant sunshine and a summery finish off the Royal Yacht Squadron for the Rolex Trophy Day inshore race at the 2010 Rolex Commodores' Cup. Today's one race was held around multiple marks in the central western Solent starting in 18 knot southwesterlies with a wet beat through short chop before the tide turned and the wind dropped gradually through the race, ending at below 10 knots .
It was another solid day for the Irish team, leaders since the opening day of the regatta last Sunday. Their big boat, Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix and their small boat, Robert Davies' Corby 36 Roxy 6 both won their classes today while David Dwyer's marinerscove.ie posted a third. No other team was close to being as consistent today.
In the small boat class Roxy 6 came out on top partly thanks to a navigation error on the Hong Kong boat, Christopher Opielok's Corby 36 Rockall III [at the time of going to press this was subject to a protest for redress]. "We were very lucky," said Roxy 6's helmsman Andrew Creighton. "Rockall went to a wrong mark and they were ahead of us. With them making that mistake it obviously pushed us into first, although one of the French guys, Goa, came very close to us, but we had them by about 25 seconds."
Roxy 6 was only launched in April, but has had an intensive season at regattas throughout the UK and her native Ireland. Designed by Cowes resident John Corby, the 36 footer relished today's conditions. "The short Solent slap suits this sort of boat," said Creighton.
Back at Cowes Yacht Haven, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Andrew McIrvine stepped off the boat he co-owns with Peter Morton in buoyant mood. His Beneteau First 40.7 La Réponse won the mid-sized class today by two and a half minutes on corrected time ahead of past RORC Commodore Peter Rutter's Quokka 8.
"We just went fast," said McIrvine explaining today's result. "Upwind we go higher and faster than we ought to for this size of boat if you consider it is a cruiser racer. Downwind we go quick too. It is a semi-standard production boat and it does go extremely well." McIrvine acquired the boat this year from past Rolex Commodores' Cup winner Géry Trentesaux and has changed the bulb keel back to a fin but kept the go-faster carbon fibre mast.
"Tactically we didn't make any mistakes. The crew are fantastic. All the gybe sets worked perfectly. There were no foul-ups on any of the manoeuvres. They are a very well tuned team now," added McIrvine.
Second behind Antix, Bernard Gouy's Inis Mor in France Yellow had their best day yet, making it a Ker 39 1-2 in the big boat class today.
"Our spinnaker legs were better today with the asymmetric [spinnaker]," stated Laurent Gouy, the owner's son. "We have some difficulty when it is really downwind and when it is wavy we can compensate to slide downwind a bit better."
Behind them in third, the Hong Kong big boat EFG Bank Mandrake posted their best result of the regatta today. "I thought it was superb," said Nicholas Burns, co-owner with Fred Kinmonth. "I think we sailed as good a race as we could have done. We tacked about 20 times on top of Antix and she still beat us! She is going very fast at the moment, so I think our tactics will change now. We'll just go for the best position we can and not try and knock the Irish back."
As to the regatta generally, Burns said: "Very challenging, superb sailing, all the competition is extremely good and we're really enjoying it. It is colder than we are used to. We are used to Asian temperatures of 29-33 degrees Celsius. We have lots of warm ski gear on, but it has been really good fun."
EFG Bank Mandrake, a Mills 40 design, previously raced at the Rolex Commodores' Cup in 2006 as an Irish entry under the name Tiamat. She was shipped to the UK from Palma especially for this regatta and will head to Hong Kong afterwards. "It is great fun," says Burns of the regatta. "It is nice to have a team race with three boats in different classes. It is a really good idea. You feel you are sailing some of the best sailors in the world which is challenging."
At the end of play today the Hong Kong team lies second to the runaway Irish, but have been knocked back due to their small boat Rockall III's mishap, causing her to finish ninth (depending upon the outcome of their protest). From being 30 points astern of the Irish yesterday, the Hong Kong team is currently 40.5 points behind them. However the regatta is far from over with a race around the Isle of Wight coming with a x1.5 points co-efficient tomorrow (Friday) and a double points scoring inshore race to conclude the regatta on Saturday.
As RORC Commodore Andrew McIrvine puts it, "although the Irish have got away there is still almost half the points to play for. The weighting keeps the whole thing open right to the end of the event. At a lot of regattas by this stage it is signed sealed and delivered. We have still got a long way to go."
Conditions for the race around the Isle of Wight look set to be brisk with southwesterly winds gusting up to 25 knots forecast.
Crews competing at the Rolex Commodores' Cup will return to offshore mode tomorrow. The Irish will look to consolidate their dominance, whilst those chasing, particularly Hong Kong, will look to take advantage of any errors by the all but impeccably sailed leaders.
Top Five Teams - Provisional Positions after completion of 6 races
Team / Points / Place
Ireland / 47 / 1
Hong Kong / 87.5 / 2
France Blue / 96/ 3
GBR Red / 103 / 4
France Yellow /110 / 5