#rorcbdcc – Anticipation has been building going into this morning's start of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial week-long Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.
This year's event features nine teams, comprising four from France, one from Ireland and four from Britain (including one from Scotland), two more than 2012. Over the last few days crews from the three boat teams have been putting the finish touches to their campaigns. The thundery conditions of the last 48 hours have provided some lively moments for boats being delivered to Cowes, with one French boat experiencing 55 knot winds as she crossed the Channel.
As ever the RORC's flagship event for national teams with amateur crews comprises a challenging mix of inshore and offshore racing.
The event kicks off tomorrow (Sunday 20th July) with two inshore races, the first warning signal at 1055 BST. Over Monday-Tuesday the boats head off on an overnight offshore race, the longest of the regatta (set to last 24-36 hours) and carrying the highest points co-efficient of 2.5. Inshore racing resumes on Wednesday and Thursday followed by a race around the Isle of Wight on Friday, with a 1.5 co-efficient, the event concluding on Saturday with an inshore race carrying a co-efficient of 2. In past years the event has gone to the wire, with the final outcome only decided on the last race.
Competing yachts are rated using IRC, with boats having a Time Correction Co-efficient of 1.020-1.230. Among each three boat team, only one boat may have a TCC of 1.150-1.230.
Going into the event it is very hard to judge which team is favourite. "Who is going to win? No idea!" says RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen. "The Irish are looking very strong with Antix having won the IRC Nationals. Marc Glimcher's Catapult has proven to be the strongest Ker 40 and Quokka won Cork Week last week with her Irish crew. I have to believe that they feel confident competitively. And the French are here with a purpose. They had one team two years ago and they said 'we want to win this event' and they have come back with four teams. We know some of their sailors but we don't know the quality of the boats - we'll find out tomorrow. We know they will be good, particularly offshore."
While the regatta is principally for amateur crew, each boat is allowed one ISAF Group 3 'professional' or two on the higher rated boats. Among the 'pros' are world class sailors including Laurent Pages, winner of the last Volvo Ocean Race board Franck Cammas' Groupama, Olympic sailors such as Peter O'Leary, leading sailmakers/sailors Kevin Sproul, Sam Richmond, Maurice 'Prof' O'Connell and Laurent Mahy, Olympic 49er/Volvo Ocean Race sailor Ian Budgen, and Figaro sailors Gerard Veniard and Nick Cherry.
"I think the most important thing when you talk to the competitors is how seriously they are taking this event," says Warden Owen. "The Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup is an important regatta to win, something that all the teams have put a huge amount of effort into."
Having good weather information is vital and all the teams are employing top meteorologists to help them - Chris Tibbs for Team GBR, Mike Broughton for the Irish, Christian Dumard for the French.
This week the tide isn't strong and the Azores high is edging across the UK, causing the winds to be light with little gradient pressure. So the RORC's new race management team led by former Etchells World Champion Stuart Childerley will be hoping for a sea breeze each day.
"The question is whether we will get northwesterly or northeasterly wind," says Dumard, a meteorologist and sailor of some 30 years standing, who was part of Corum's Admiral's Cup campaigns here during the 1980s and 1990s and prior to their winning campaign in 1991 spent one month surveying the Solent's winds and tides. Essentially the northwesterly is good for a sea breeze to develop, northeasterly less so, he says. "Tomorrow we should have a northwesterly wind in the morning filling in with the sea breeze from the southwest. I think tomorrow will be the best day for racing in the Solent."
According to Dumard the forecast shows adequate breeze for Monday's offshore race before the wind drops during Tuesday as an occluded front crosses the race course. Wednesday could prove the lightest day of the week, while on Thursday it will still be light, but a sea breeze is more likely to develop. "The race around the Isle of Wight on Friday is too far away to predict," he advises.
Stephen Ford, Executive Director of Brewin Dolphin commented: "Brewin Dolphin is thrilled to be back in Cowes this year, for our second regatta with RORC and the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. We are looking forward to an excellent week's racing with feisty competition from the French. We wish all the teams the very best of luck (especially the four GBR teams) and we have high hopes for a sunny and more importantly, breezy week.
"We and our clients are looking forward to an exciting weeks racing. With so many of our clients enjoying sailing, this is one of the highlights in our annual calendar and a week throughout which we will enjoy some highly competitive racing."