Mark Mansfield, the recently appointed UK Sailmakers Ireland Racing Consultant, reviews last week's Quarter Ton Cup in Cowes in which he sailed as tactician on Ireland's fourth placed Anchor Challenge skippered by Paul Gibbons
This year's Coutts Quarter Ton Cup event was reduced to two days after the first day was blown out with gusts of close to 30 knots. But the two following days provided great sailing and very testing conditions in the Hill Head Plateau off Cowes, Isle of Wight. In the end, it was Sam Laidlaw's Aguila which was the deserving winner, with Ian Southworth's Whiskers taking second, Mark Richmond taking third on the Chartered Cote, and Paul Gibbons from Royal Cork Yacht Club taking fouth on Anchor Challenge. Paul's crew for the Event were all from Cork, myself, Mark Mansfield, Killian Collins, Joe Bruen and Grattan Roberts.
Aguila has been the form Quarter–Tonner this year and has won most of this year's events. They have tried a number of times to win this event, but failed in the past at the final hurdle, often to Louise Morton's Bullit. This year they left no stone unturned and prepared the Boat immaculately and spent up to ten weekends practicing and competing in Quarter Ton class events in Cowes in preparation for the Quarter Ton Cup. They were worthy winners and took all three races on the final day to win easily in the end. They did, however, have a disqualification due to a protest Lodged by Anchor Challenge for an on–the–water incident on day one and so had to be very careful not to have a bad race or an OCS as they had already used their discard.
The first day of racing was cancelled so four races were scheduled and completed on day two in brisk 20 to 25 knot winds that witnessed some spectacular broaches. Two race wins from Ian Southworth's Whiskers took him to the top of the leaderboard, just ahead of the Paul Lees steered Black Fun, with the Mark Richmond steered Cote next and Anchor Challenge, with one race win, in fourth Place. Sam Laidlaw had dropped to fifth overall but counted a DSQ, which he would be looking to discard.
Day two had very different condition with a light seven knot breeze out of the Northwest. Four races were scheduled but this would always be an ask as the final race had to start by 14.30. Sam Laidlaw made no mistakes and from the off was the one to beat, finding very good speed in these lighter conditions. Ian Southworth tried to stay in contention and was only two points back going into the third race of the day. A tenth in that race scuppered his chances and with the wind dying and the 14.30 timelimit approaching the OOD, Rob Lamb, signaled an end to the Day and the Regatta. Paul Lees, 2nd going into the day overall had a 16th and a 14th to drop him to fifth overall. Cote had solid results as did Anchor Challenge.
Anchor Challenge could possibly have taken a third overall as she had to divert behind a ship coming in the North Channel in race six which took her from third to tenth in that race and in the end she missed out on the podium by three points. She had very good speed in the breeze and was solid in the light and was definitely one of the fastest boats in the fleet. However the level of time put in by San Laidlaw seems to have taken him up a notch and he was the deserving winner this year.
Going into the event, other favourites were class President, Louise Morton's Bullit which had won the three previous Quarter Ton Cups, but unfortunately Louise did not find any form this year and had to contend with 10th overall, three places ahead of her husband Peter Morton on Innuendo who finished in 13th Position. Peter is the current Fast 40 One Ton Cup Champion on Girls on Film.
3 newly updated Quarter tonners were in evidence this year, Oliver Orphaus has a beautifully prepared job done On Bullet, a Near Sistership to Buttit. Oliver finished in 9th Position. Tom Hill had John Corby prepare his Belinda and she was looking immaculate and clearly was one that everyone wanted to see do well. The stronger winds on Thursday were not to his liking but the boat performed very well in the lighter conditions to finish in 12th overall. Finally Barry Arts from Holland had the Beautiful Stephen Jones Designed Wings in immaculate condition, however he could not find much speed and finished down the fleet.
Clearly the event is going from strength to strength with 23 entries and nearly all of these are now fully restored with new rigs and new keels. Of the 23 competitors, 16 had at least one professional and some had up to four pros on board. The class has an owner driver rule with no limit on professionals. Some eyebrows were raised when a driver in the fleet was allowed to compete who was not an owner and in the past such applications had been declined. Going forward the class will need to keep an eye on the way this rule is observed if it wants to attract owner–drivers.
So how do Quarter Tons compare to Half Tons?
Having finished fourth in this year's Half Ton Cup with Michael and Richard Evans, The Big Picture, it is easy to see that the Quarter Ton class is still more competitive than the Half Ton class, but not by much, and the gap is closing. The Quarter Ton class favours no limit on professionals whereas the Half Ton class is likely going to set a limit on professionals.
I would say there are likely more Quarter Tonners that can win races whereas in the Half Ton Class, it is only about six at the moment at the top level. The Quarter Tonners behave more like a dinghy whereas the Half Tonners are more cruiser like. This can be seen downwind where the top Quarter Tonners will reach much higher speeds in a breeze than the Half Tonners.
Much of this is due to the weight of the boat with the Halfs having inboard diesel engines, whereas the Quarters only have small outboards. The rigs would be set up similarly in each case, though most Quarter–Tonners have just one set of spreaders, whereas the Half–Tonners have two sets of spreaders, requiring a bit more care in the set up.
The sails are quite similar except that the Quarter Ton rigs are much more flexible and so the rigs on these need to be adjusted all the time. Extra turns on the forestay and upper and lower shrouds in the breeze to straighten the forestay while still allowing a decent amount of backstay to be used before the mainsail runs out of luff round and no further backstay can be used.
The Half Tonners, with their stiffer masts allow a lot of backstay use and rarely run out of luff–round.
Next year, The Quarter Ton Cup will return to its normal June slot and up to four events are planned in advance of this June event, to allow competitors to prepare for the event. Clearly Sam Laidlaw has set a marker on what level of time and preparation is needed if you want to win the Quarter Ton Cup.
Mark Mansfield is a four time Olympian in the Star Class and a Racing Consultant with UK Sailmakers Ireland