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Royal Cork's Paul Gibbons' Anchor Challenge is Fourth at Quarter Ton Cup

14th September 2017
Start line action at the Coutts Quarter Ton Cup 2017 Start line action at the Coutts Quarter Ton Cup 2017 Photo: Paul Wyeth

The second day of the Coutts Quarter Ton Cup delivered spectacular, though challenging, racing on a glorious day that saw three different race winners and six boats scoring at least one podium result. Sam Laidlaw's Aguila, which initially was scored with a perfect run of second places, appeared to be the most consistent boat on a day that saw many competitors yo-yoing up and down the leaderboard. Download results below.

However, a protest saw Aguila disqualified from the first race and therefore thrust well down the overall results until the discard kicks in. Ian Southworth's Whiskers therefore leads the fleet after the first four races with a score of 10 points, including two race wins, while Tony Hayward's Blackfun is second overall on 13 points. Behind them, Mark Richmond's Cote holds third place with 23 and Royal Cork's Paul Gibbons' Anchor Challenge fourth on 27 points.

The day started with a west north westerly wind of 17-20 knots, which decreased gradually through the afternoon, but there were significantly stronger gusts that produced plenty of the spectacular broaches for which the class is notorious. The class is also renowned for close racing and today proved to be no exception. In race three, for instance, a group of 12 boats crossed the finish in a period of only 65 seconds.

All starts today got away cleanly, with Terence Dinmore's Captain Moonlight and Tom Hill's Belinda looking best placed towards the pin end of the line in the first race. The fleet quickly split between those who continued on starboard tack and those who put in an early tack onto port to gain relief from the adverse tide in the shallow water close to the north shore of the Solent.

Having started in mid-line in clean air, Whiskers was first to round the windward mark, with a clear lead ahead of Blackfun. Given the advantage of being inshore on the beat, it seemed likely that there would be a tendency for boats to overstand the windward mark. However, the fleet consistently underestimated the strength of the tidal stream setting onto the buoy. Suffice to say, not all rounded successfully, including some very well known sailors.

On the first run Whiskers extended her lead over Blackfun, while further back in the fleet others were having fun dealing both with impressive broaches and the challenge of getting the headsail up and the spinnaker down before reaching the bottom mark. Whiskers held her lead to the finish and saved her time to win on corrected time. Blackfun looked as though she was going to be second on the water, but failed to hold off a challenge from Aguila at the end of the run into the finish line, with the latter crossing the line just one second ahead. After Aguila's disqualification in this race at an evening protest hearing, Blackfun rose to second and Anchor Challenge third.

By the fourth race most teams had their starting strategies worked out, but many had failed to take account of changing circumstances. As with the previous two starts the fleet strongly favoured the committee boat end of the line, followed by an early tack towards the tidal relief inshore. Blackfun, Aguila, William McNeil's Illegal and multiple Quarter Ton Cup Champion Peter Morton's Innuendo all favoured this strategy, even at the risk of starting late and moving slowly within a big bunch of boats.

However, race officer Robert Lamb had moved the pin end of the line upwind to encourage competitors away from the committee boat. This allowed others to take advantage of the favourable bias at the pin end, including one boat that crossed the fleet on port tack.

Mark Richmond's Cote, with Land Rover BAR America's Cup sailors Nick Hutton and Paul CJ Campbell-James on board, was best placed among the starboard tack boats and stayed mid-right before tacking onto port, as did Innuendo, who appeared to be tacking more frequently in the many windshifts than the boats that were still determined to make the shallow water. This paid for Innuendo and also for one of the Corinthian entries, Pierre Paris' Pinguin Playboy, which rounded the windward mark in second place behind Cote.

However, a brief squall that hit the fleet on the run with gusts in the upper 20s shook the order up. Boats at both the front and back of the fleet spiralled out of control, one of them appearing to complete a full tack with the spinnaker up. Paul Gibbon's Anchor Challenge was first across the line, 24 seconds ahead of Oliver Ophaus's Bullet. The lower rated Aguila finished 12 seconds later to take second place on corrected time, knocking Bullet down to third.

Four more frenetic 45-minute races are planned for the final day of racing tomorrow, with more gentle conditions of 8-10 knots promised.

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