A gusty and reassuringly warm south-westerly airflow averaging 16-22 knots, provided a perfect day of racing on the opening day of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, with the wind against tide conditions giving lively downwind sailing on predominately windward-leeward courses.
The first starts, heading east against a building ebb tide, were for the J/70 and SB20 classes, both of which completed two races today, marking a significant break with the event’s long-standing traditions.
In the J/70 class, Jack Davies’ Jugador was enthusiastic in approaching the line, crossing it 50 seconds before the start, but returning to the correct side with time in hand. At the gun Ruairidh Scott’s North Sails led the fleet at the outer end of line, half a length ahead of the pack. The bulk of the fleet gybed offshore as soon as possible, although a couple of boats – Simon Ling’s RAFBF Spitfire and Ian Atkin’s Boats.com among them – stayed inshore for longer. Before long the fleet was therefore split laterally across the course as they sped downwind.
Once they reached the long layline leading into the first mark, an inflatable buoy near Hill Head, Scott was ahead by a good margin. However, Django, sailed by Malcolm Jaques, Tristan Jaques, Naomi Rowbotham and Nix Brook, crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of Scott, in a nail-biting finish that saw Atkins take third place just 13 seconds later. Scott took the second race by a margin of over two minutes to lead overall, two points ahead of the Jaques family at the end of the first day, with Ling a further two points behind in third overall.
The next start, for the SB20 class, saw an impossibly large bunch of boats approaching the outer limit buoy from offshore on starboard tack. With many running out of space, several crossed the line prematurely, although all but one was able to quickly re-round the pin and start correctly.
For the rest of the fleet it was an incredibly close start from which it was impossible to pick a clear early leader. At one stage Tich Summers’ Chill Pill Plus and Phil Plumtree’s PP Projects, who both managed to get into clean air to leeward of the main pack, appeared to be well placed. However, by the time they crossed gybes it was Tim Saxton’s Slam, Jerry Hill’s Sportsboatworld.com, and Paralympic gold medallist Helena Lucas’s Volvo that took an early lead.
By the finish of the 75-minute race Joe Llewellyn’s Henri Lloyd/Forellheld a 52 second advantage over Hill, with Saxton in third place more than a minute later. In the second race Hill was first to finish, almost two minutes ahead of Llewellyn, with Saxton taking another third place.