Day 3: J Class adds to Bicentenary Spectacle

by Marina Johnson

Day 3: J Class adds to Bicentenary Spectacle

Today’s Race Around the Island, part of the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Bicentenary International Regatta, was the first chance for a long awaited sight of the three J-Class yachts getting together to race in the Solent. Patient spectators on the shore and in a flotilla of boats had to wait an extra 20 minutes beyond the scheduled start time, when the J-Class start was postponed to wait for a huge car carrying ship to exit Southampton Water and pass through the start line. But their patience was rewarded and the three yachts lined up for a spectacular downwind start, hoisting their huge spinnakers to set off to the east, clockwise around the Island.

The Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron, Christopher Sharples, took the helm of Ranger for part of the race. “We had perfect conditions with a good stiff breeze and a few bumps in the wind against tide conditions off St Catherine’s (the southernmost point of the Isle of Wight),” he said. “It was a great atmosphere to be on such an iconic yacht surrounded by spectator boats, a very special experience.” Read more about the J-Class in Andy Robertson’s report here.

The Js weren’t the first starters however. The first slot was at 8am and it went to the three grand Classics, Zybnek Zak’s Eleonora, Mariquita and Sumurun, owned by A. Robert Towbin. The Fife designed 1911-built Mariquita’s elapsed time of 06:39:51 secured her first place of the three classics.

Mariquita had a great ride around the Island,” said co-owner John Caulcutt. “We had to beat Sumurun by 27 minutes and we did that so we were very pleased! Tactically I don’t think we made too many mistakes and the conditions were great, although we were beating into quite bumpy water around the St Catherine’s Point area.”

Sharing their start line was an MOD catamaran Concise 10, a bit of a wildcard in the race. “We had a lovely jaunt around the Island,” said the 26 year old helmsman and Class 40 champion Ned Collier-Wakefield. “It was a little bit less breeze initially than we had hoped for and then a little bit more so at the finish. We came back up from Hurst Castle through the western Solent to the finish doing a top speed of 32 knots.” Concise 10, not surprisingly, was line honours boat, finishing at 11:41:56, with an elapsed time of 3h and 32m.

Next off was Class 1 IRC. George David’s 88ft mini-maxi Rambler streaked ahead of her nearest rivals on the downwind legs finishing in an elapsed time of 04:15:46, although the beat around the back of the island allowed rivals including Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou and Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente to catch up. Class 1’s day, however, belonged to the TP52s. Despite finishing an hour behind Rambler, Tony Langley’s Gladiator took corrected time with Sorcha in second place. Neal MacDonald, dinghy champion and Volvo veteran is mainsheet trimmer on high performance 60ft day racer Spectre, which was amongst the fleet. He said “We had a nice sail but the bigger boats with the longer waterline lengths were doing well up the long beats. We had a nice play amongst the TP52s, overtook Piet Vroon’s Tonnerre 4, then they took us back, so there was plenty of action out there!”

In Class 1A Sir Keith Mills’ new Ker 40+ Invictus overcame an OCS involving a climb back uptide to the line, but she nevertheless managed to claw her way back to victory. The classics in Class 3 had their work cut out too. “There was a bit too much sea for us off St Cats,” said Sean MacMillan, skipper of the immaculate Spirit 52 Flight of Ufford. But we had a good start, and our symmetric spinnaker paid off down to the forts. The whole thing was great fun.”

The Bicentenary Regatta was going on elsewhere in the Solent too. The 8 metre class finally got out onto the water after two days of cancellations to enjoy a round the cans race. Alexandre Geoffroy was no doubt delighted to beat Saskia into second place in his Enchantement having declared at the beginning of the week that he never expected to get past them.

The Level Rating class, each crew competing from the clubs invited from around the world by the Royal Yacht Squadron, had a long day on the water with two windward leeward races and a round the Solent cans longer race.

Filippo Maria Molinari, Captain of the Italian team from Yacht Club Costa Smeralda said “The racing is very nice, very tough. We are pleased with our performance today. Conditions were perfect for us with a good stiff breeze, and flatter water. We unfortunately had a bad third race as we seemed to have something around our prop, but otherwise the boats are very evenly matched.” The Italian team, like many of their competitors have been training hard in Sardinia. “We have sailed as a team and have done for a long time.” Molinari is the Team Racing Captain of the YCCS. “Of course we would be team racing but we are too old!” he jokes referring to the aged-30 limit for the Bicentenary’s team racing class.

Laurence Mead has brought his team from Hong Kong, which includes his daughter, Lauren. “The boats are very evenly matched,” he said. “Our team are regular sailors, in fact we are two Hong Kong crews merged together as one, and mostly Etchells sailors.” Both Hong Kong and YCCS need to beat the team from Gran Canaria, over the next couple of days helmed by Jose Maria Ponce Fernandez, which scored two firsts and a third today.

The team racing fleet also got some good racing in today. Jacopo Pasini’s YCCS heads the leader board today after two Round Robin series’.