Winds in the morning were more moderate than yesterday, at 10-15 knots, but a short shower that passed over Cowes at lunchtime heralded a rapid strengthening of the breeze. The mean wind peaked just above 20 knots, but gusts again topped 30 for a couple of hours before the breeze moderated a little in the early afternoon.
The larger boats in the Black Group classes starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron line headed east, with wind and tide behind, so a cautious approach to the start was essential. As with other classes, the Contessa 32 fleet was quick to set spinnakers after the gun. Eldred Himsworth's Drumbeat led away from the line, a good two lengths ahead of three boats that were neck and neck with each other: Michael Hill's Nimbus, Chris North's Andaxi and Ray Rouse's Blanco.
Jess Hoggarth's Corafin started a little further back and well to leeward, but sailing higher and faster. Within two minutes of the start she was rivalling Nimbus, who had broken away from the others, at the front of the fleet. However, by the end of the four-hour race Corafin had slipped to fifth place, while Drumbeat took her first win. Simon and Kay Porter's Equator was second and Blanco, winner on the first two days, third.
Gybe mark action
IRC Class 6 was approaching a gybe mark at East Bramble when the wind started to increase. Jim Cullumbine's Maxi 1050 Merhaba led the fleet at the mark, 45 seconds ahead of Stephen James' Swan 38 Jacobite. Chris Haworth's Half Tonner Beat & Run was next, at head of a tightly-knit pack of six boats. Rory Fitzwilliams' Three-Quarter Tonner Simplicity caught a gust to storm past to windward of Beat & Run, while Andy King's 80-year-old 30 Square Metre Gluckauf whisked past to leeward.
It wasn't long before the stronger winds started to create problems. Tony Mace's Carter 39 Saphir, for instance, was unable to rig the pole on the new side after gybing, her flogging spinnaker a severe hindrance for James Verner and Lisa Anderson's much smaller Impala 28 Nyala trapped in her lee.
In the Quarter Ton class, 19 year old Mark Lees' Team Echo pushed the small boat hard all day to take their first win. On the long beat home against the tide from Gilkicker, Lees stayed in the tidal lee to the east of the Bramble bank for longer than rival, the Welch, Manser, Flemming and Fulford team, on Phoenix, who made an earlier break for the Island shore. "We didn't know who would be ahead until we tacked towards the Island shore," said Lees, "but in the end we crossed well ahead." Oli Ophaus, who was borrowing Louise Morton's Espada as his own boat Cote was dismasted in yesterday's strong winds, was third.
In Class IRC 0 Charles Dunstone's Team Origin took his first win of the regatta, beating another TP52, Franck Noel's Near Miss, by more than five minutes on corrected time. "It was one of those days when everything went right," said Team Origin navigator Mark Chisnell. "We made no mistakes, got the right side of the windshifts, and extended our lead round the course. We saw marginally higher windspeeds upwind than yesterday, but today's downwind legs weren't as furious and exciting."
The smaller day boats headed towards the north shore after starting in a westerly direction from the Royal Yacht Squadron line. This made a start at the outer end of the line, followed by a quick tack onto port being the favoured strategy.
In the Sunbeam fleet Julian Money's Penny and Roger Wickens' Danny had the best starts, with Danny marginally ahead and faster, but to leeward of Penny. Money tacked onto port later than the rest of the fleet, but held a useful advantage to windward of the pack as they headed across the Solent.
After two hours of racing the bulk of the Daring fleet was impressively tightly bunched – and mingled with J/80s – as they dropped spinnakers and turned upwind at their sixth mark, Hamble Yacht Services. The front runners of both classes, however, had pulled out significant leads: in the Darings Giles Peckham, Milo Carver & Richard Romer-Lee in Dauntless, and Jeremy Preston, Mark Fear and Scott Macleod's Defender.
For many White Group classes, the beat from here to Stormforce Coaching buoy, at the entrance to Southampton Water, was followed by a tight spinnaker reach to East Knoll, just as the wind was gusting to maximum strength. The leading SB3s were first round, with the top three boats – Mark Stokes' Eau No!, David Cummins's Rumbleflurg and the Oppie Dads' Sponge Bob – well spaced out and enjoying a comfortable margin ahead of the fourth-placed boat.
This leg proved a problem for many of the Darings, which broached repeatedly in spectacular fashion before almost everyone dropped spinnakers. The SB3s and J/80s, in contrast bore away on the gusts for a super-fast downwind blast, before dropping kite and luffing up for a quick white-sail reach into the mark.
At the Daring's finish, Dauntless and Defender retained first and second places respectively, while J & J Hackman, A Babbington-Smith and J Matthews' Double Knot took third. Henry Bomby's Team Baltic was first J/80, more than two minutes ahead of Ian Atkin's Boats.com, while William Goldsmith's Team Exess was third.
The 145 boats in the XOD class raced on a windward / leeward course in the shelter of the Isle of Wight to the east of Cowes. In such a big fleet consistency is the key to overall success, but only three boats have top 10 results in both the races sailed so far: Adrian Summers, Ian Paton and Ed Fitzgerarld's Excalibur added a fourth place to their existing seventh; William Norris' Beatrix scored seventh today following a ninth in the first race; and Karl Thorne and Caroline Driscoll's Mersa has notched up two 10th places.
Extreme Sailing Series at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week
The talk of the day was a spectacular pitchpole by Aberdeen Asset Management, after the boat had scored a second place – her best result so far in the event. As the teams came ashore at the end of the third day of racing the overall standings were as follows:
1 Luna Rossa - 74 points
2 The Wave, Muscat - 68 points
3 Team GAC Pindar - 57 points
4 Groupe Edmond de Rothschild - 54 points
5 Red Bull Extreme Sailing - 52 points
6 Alinghi - 51 points
7 Oman Air - 46 points
8 Niceforyou - 35 points
9 Emirates Team New Zealand - 35 points
10 Aberdeen Asset Management - 31 points
11 Artemis Racing - 21 points
12 Team Extreme - 16 points
Report by Rupert Holmes