Breakfast time today saw some furious adding up to resolve the winning team in the high scoring offshore race for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event for three boat teams with Corinthian crews.
Initially France Blue, overall leaders after day one, looked strong with their two big boats, Eric de Turkheim's A13, Teasing Machine, and the Prietz family's JND 39, GOA, in front. As boats started finishing the Flanders North Sea team edged ahead. It wasn't until almost all the boats had finished that the roulette ball finally clunked home on France White, two slender points ahead of their European neighbours.
In fact France White cleaned up. Emmanuel le Men's First 40.7, Pen Koent, took honours in the big boat class while Noel Racine's JPK 1010, Foggy Dew claimed the small boat class. Sadly their third boat, Didier Gaudoux's JND 39 Lann Ael 2, didn't enjoy the same success leaving France White's offshore race score equal with that of Flanders North Sea, only bettered by France Red.
The offshore race took the 24 competing yachts initially east down the Sussex coast to a turning mark - the Royal Sovereign light house south of Bexhill - before returning west, passing south of the Isle of Wight to the finish off Milford on Sea, a course of 153 miles. In the westerly wind, this course became a long leeward-windward, especially tactical with Rampion Wind Farm (south of Shoreham-by-Sea), in the middle of the course both outbound and on the return from Royal Sovereign.
While the big boats seemed to have the upper hand, with James Neville's HH42 Ino leading the way, the tide turning foul en route to St Catherine's Point allowed the smaller, slower boats to catch up, time the larger boats were unable to recover. According to Teasing Machine tactician, Volvo Ocean Race winner Laurent Pages, the land breeze had caused the wind to go right further than forecast, causing them to make better progress than anticipated but out of sync with the tide. "We were sailing very fast angles, Code 0 at full pace, but we could still see some smaller boats behind us, that would normally be 2 knots slower, still catching up."
The French White crews of both Emmanuel le Men's First 40.7, Pen Koent, and Noel Racine's JPK 1010, Foggy Dew, in Class 2 were delighted by their new lead, despite barely having had any sleep.
Le Men commented: "I am surprised that the big boats didn't win on handicap after a long windward-leeward with some waves and some strong winds. It is very good to get these results. We had very good speed on the windward leg and we passed some boats that were bigger than us. We were on top until the end."
Foggy Dew won Class 2 by nine minutes. Skipper Noel Racine, looking good on just 20 minutes sleep, said that after spending most of the race fighting Cifraline 4, their break had come playing the overnight right shift. "It was in the bay before Selsey Bill when we came back. We were expecting a shift that came and we tacked immediately, before everyone."
The Flanders North Sea team generally did well with both Frans Rodenburg's First 40 Elke and their small boat, Benoit D'halluin's A35, Dunkerque-Les Dunes De Flandre, finishing fourth.
Rodenburg said they had had been fast exiting the Solent but soon after had parked, dropping them to last place. The downwind leg was good for them, but the subsequent upwind, better. "Generally upwind in wind and waves, the boat goes really well. Also we got on the good side of the shift. When it came it was 30deg and we tacked at the right time - that worked great."
Leading British boat was Andrew McIrvine's First 40 La Réponse which came home fifth, just ahead of their GBR Red team mates the Henning family's modified Mumm 36 Alice. According to Mike Henning, they had started badly, on the wrong side of the line in foul tide. Fortunately they managed to recover this lost time as they exited the Solent and then gained by staying inshore along the Sussex coast.
"Around Selsey Bill we had about 18 knots of breeze and we were surfing at 15-16 knots. The guys knew that the run was our strong point so all the crew were working hard to get the maximum out of the boat," reported Henning. "We knew that the beat was going to be our weak point." Sure enough they rounded the top mark among the fast 40 footers, but from then on were regularly suffering losses.
Racing continues tomorrow at the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup with two more inshore races scheduled.