Rick Tomlinson Photography / www.rick-tomlinson.com

New French weapon claims offshore race

The latest from the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup

Tuesday July 22nd 2014, Author: James Boyd / www.sailingintelligence.com, Location: France

Stronger winds and reaching conditions resulted in a shorter than anticipated offshore race that allowed crews to sleep in their own beds rather than spending a night at sea in the highest scoring race of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.

The course took the boats west out of the Solent, southeast down to a virtual gate 26 miles northeast of the Cherbourg peninsula, returning north to the New Grounds Buoy off the Nab Tower, then west to Bembridge Ledge buoy before a final beat to the finish line, just south of Gosport's Gilkicker Point.

The wind being further west and stronger than forecast resulted in a fast reach down to the virtual gate and it was the powerful reaching machines such as the Ker 40s and the brand new French Archambault A 13 Teasing Machine, that relished the conditions.

"We had 20 knots - a good five knots more than forecast," recounted Nick Cherry, one of the two 'pros' on Robert Lutener's Ker 40 Cutting Edge, sailing in GBR Red. "We even had a mini broach out on the changeovers between helms. We were on the hottest angle we could hold the A2."

As forecast, the wind did drop and veer into the north as the boats sailed back towards the Nab Tower, but it never disappeared altogether and pre-race fears of a midnight park-up off Bembridge proved unfounded.

Among the Ker 40s, the first boat home was the turboed Catapult of the Irish team, finishing at 22:26:32 BST. "It was a very nice race, a Ker 40 race, which is always fun," said American owner Marc Glimcher. "We messed with each other a little bit on the upwind which was enjoyable." In the final legs to the east of the Isle of Wight, before the finish, the wind dropped off to five knots momentarily but, as Glimcher put it: "It was a lot easier than we thought. We did not get stung."

Glimcher has brought Catapult over to Europe to join the Irish team from her usual base in Newport, Rhode Island. "It is fantastic. I have been hearing about this event for many years. This seemed like serious racing to us and it is very exciting. And the team racing side - you can screw it up and someone else can come to the rescue!" he said.

While the three Ker 40s claimed most of the top spots, the outright winner of the offshore race was Eric de Turkheim's mini VO70-like Teasing Machine, which finished two minutes six seconds ahead of Cutting Edge on corrected time. The delighted owner, Eric de Turkheim, commented: "We got the boat on 20 June and we've done very little testing in terms of speed and set-up, so today was very good because we had no idea of what our speed would be versus the Ker 40. Fortunately it was good enough..."

He praised his navigator, leading French Figaro sailor Gerard Veniard. "Gerard did an excellent job on the way down and on the way back, when we sailed fairly high knowing that it could be a bit tricky at the end."

According to Veniard, en route to the Nab Tower mark they saw the wind drop from 17 knots to 7 and veering from 275 to 345°, as their shore based routing expert Christian Dumard had predicted, but the wind had been more consistent than forecast.

"We call the boat 'fat booty'," said Veniard, nodding towards Teasing Machine's powerful transom. "From the beginning we thought that the race was ours because there was a lot of reaching. It was tactical - on the two long legs, it looked like straight line, but it was not. We sailed 7-8° higher and there was more wind on the west side coming back."

While there were fears for the smaller boats, with the wind forecast to drop and the tide turning foul, in fact the last boat to finish, Iain Kirkpatrick's X-37 Fatjax did so at 01:54:18.

Generally the boats suffering most were those better at windward-leewards, such as Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39, Antix; the winner of both Sunday's inshore races finished in an uncharacteristic 20th position. Despite this and the offshore race carrying a 2.5x co-efficient, thanks to the performance of her team mates, Catapult, and Michael Boyd and Niall Dowling's Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8, Ireland has retained her overall team lead.

A similar type boat to Antix was James Neville's Corby 36 INO racing in GBR White, which also struggled on the reach down to the virtual gate. As navigator Nat Ives described it: "We were looking forward to the run, but there was very little running, it was quite reachy from the start. So that leg was really difficult for us with our lack of form stability on a relatively tight spinnaker leg. We were sailing at 100% of our polars, but the J/109s were going quicker."

Thankfully, according to Ives, they pulled a bad result out of what would have otherwise been a terrible one between the virtual gate and the finish, initially setting up to the east where there was better wind for the smaller boats. "We were sailing the boat well there and we started to claw back into boats, people like Yeoman of Wight, which we overtook there and the Farr 30 [Eric Basset's Motivé in France Green] which had flown down from the Needles."

Later INO gained by not going into the shore at Bembridge, where the foul tide was stronger. "We sailed solidly then and a lot of the boats around us were slow, so we picked off six or seven boats in the last piece from New Ground up to the finish," concluded Ives.

Racing at the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup continues tomorrow (Wednesday) with one inshore race.

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