Day 4: Hat Trick Velsheda in Command in Cowes
Velsheda took both winning guns for the J Class today at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Bicentenary International Regatta to remain unbeaten at the historic event, setting themselves into the strongest position to win the class outright.
The dark hulled K7 was on imperious form on what might be considered ‘home waters’. Only at the first mark of the first of today’s two races in the Eastern Solent were they headed by Ranger, otherwise Velsheda lead at each mark of the two, very similar courses of 14 and 13 miles respectively.
As racing moved inside the Solent, after yesterday’s Around the Island Race blast, there was no mistaking the fact the three J Class yachts were the centre of attention for the shoreside spectators and the flotilla of chasing boats. Racing may have been cancelled on the first two days of the regatta, but conditions were to order today, sparkling sunshine brisk 12-16kts NW’ly breezes blowing off the mainland shore. The courses took the J Class east off the RYS start line on a reach to different leeward turning marks, for a short, sharp windward-leeward circuit before reaching back to finish back at the Royal Yacht Squadron.
Ranger made the better start as the signal for the first race sounded. They were able to break away from Velsheda while Lionheart put themselves at an immediate disadvantage on both starts, trailing the other two Js on both occasions.
Early on the first beat Velsheda were able to rise from their slightly leeward position to converge to Ranger and ultimately bounce their opposition off to the right. Within a few minutes, working further left into better pressure Tom Dodson and the Velsheda afterguard had opened out a winning margin. From the 30 second lead at the second turn Velsheda were over one minute ahead of Ranger on the finish line.
Velsheda worked their game plan to perfection off the second start, better position to leeward and therefore able to push through the line first, they were immediately able to move clear ahead of Ranger for a steady reach. Only once did the Velsheda crew make an obvious error, a stray sheet catching in the winch ruining an otherwise impeccable Kiwi kite drop. That they coped quickly and lost only a few seconds meant Ranger made little impression on the Velsheda lead which was, again, around one minute by the finish line.
Now Lionheart and Ranger are likely to have a match race for second, whichever one of the two adversaries, beats the other on Friday should finish runners up. "It was a shame the courses were the way they were, you really needed to get off the start line to compete and we didn’t on both races." Rued Lionheart’s John Cutler.
Hamish Pepper, Velsheda’s strategist, reflects the pleasure that the crew – many Kiwis – have taken in racing at Cowes and on the Solent: "It is special to be here. The Bicentennial is a fantastic event for the Royal Yacht Squadron. For us to come from our little Kiwi islands to come and see the Club has been around for 200 years is really something special, it is a bit hard to fathom and we are really honoured to be here."
Pepper continued: " It was a good day for the Vesheda crew, just great." " Ranger got the better of the start in the first race but on the first beat think Ronald on the helm, Don Cowie and the trimmers did a fantastic job to sail the boat really well and sail a little bit higher, better boat speed and squeezed them out. That was the race. Ronald was sailing the boat really well. The second race we started better. We wanted to start to leeward of the bunch and we were much closer to the line and we were able to keep our ear forward of Ranger and we were able to sail a slightly better angle and that was it. That was a big part of the race, after that it was a bit of a leader’s track. It still required us to have a really good boat handling throughout and we had that. We had a sheet hooked over the winch at the bottom mark which was a bit of a freak one, but the guys recovered really well. It is a nice feeling. The boat is prepared very well and we have been sailing it well I think."
Racing concludes Friday with one final race scheduled.