13 August 2014
RS Elite racing at Cowes Week has delivered its famous mix of glamorous conditions, huge atmosphere ashore and afloat, plus racing that is not over until it's over. With full-on breeze from Saturday until Wednesday and everyone racing in short sleeves and sunscreen, the competition has been fierce, although the results hide the epic the battles. Fresh from more National Championship success, Jono, Lyn and David Brown in Aeolus have a string of wins through taking the lead when it matters - at the finish. But they've not had it all their own way, with Chris Preston's local team in Limelight leading for extensive periods and the Wadhams in Kiss winning on Sunday and very nearly again on Tuesday, seemingly locked in combat with Aeolus every day. Throughout the fleet place changing has been continual, with every team having some "snakes" through rock hopping, wind holes and even grass growing on the hull.... and "ladders" in the form of great starts, fast moments and tactical triumphs. The general RS Elite Cowes Week format of a late morning start, a full-on race with the sea breeze building to a climax at the finish, followed by a beer or three at the Island SC while dissecting the race and watching all the big boats pour back into Cowes, then getting ready for the evening's social engagement is a winner with the Class. It's relentless and simply the best place to be. With the National Championships due to be hosted by the Royal Lymington YC just ahead of Cowes Week in 2015, this will give many Elites from the further flung fleets the perfect opportunity to tick this awesome lifetime in sailing box. Race by race: Race 1 - With a fetch along the Green after the start it was crucial to hit the line on the gun with pace. E'Tu, and Limelight made a good job of it; while Aeolus gave themselves work to do at the leeward end. Kiss had her bow in front but soon discovered why everyone else had been laughing before the start, as their dirty hull left them completely off the pace. Aeolus pulled through to win ahead of Limelight and Wombat. Race 2 - The first downwind start of the week saw the now clean Kiss pull ahead on the first leg and a three-hour match race with Aeolus commenced. At one stage Limelight and Soak Therapy picked the best strategy upwind and Limelight grabbed the lead at a windward mark, but Kiss and Aeolus recovered and their battle continued with Kiss taking the gun by 17 seconds and Limelight and Soak Therapy taking 3rd and 4th. Race 3 - A class Cowes Week foul tide beat up Green got proceedings underway, with Limelight and E'Tu once again starting brilliantly. Kiss closed the gap then hit a rock (after tacking out from the shore!) dropping them back behind the pack. E'Tu touched but bounced straight off and took the lead, only to lose it after misidentifying the windward mark. Aeolus pulled into a lead they extended steadily and Kiss closed up to Limelight at the finish, but expert defending meant they couldn't pass. Usain Boat earned a well deserved 4th. Race 4 - Starting downwind again, Kiss pulled into a lead that they held all around the track, defending hard over Aeolus upwind in shifty conditions and then extending downhill. After the final top mark the wind banged in and Aeolus motored over the Kiss lightweights down a full-on tight 3 sail reach to win again, with Kiss 2nd, Limelight 3rd and E'Tu scoring another 4th sailing two up to be the busiest team in the fleet! Race 5 - Usain Boat read the tide right and led at the first mark from Limelight and Kiss. On the beat Limelight pulled into the lead, but the biggest gainer was Aeolus climbing to 2nd , from 2nd last. On the last beat Aeolus battled until they crossed Limelight and covered tightly until Kiss came within a whisker of getting bow forward and able to cross them both in the final minutes, only to be dropped back by running into traffic while Aeolus made no more errors and covered carefully. Wombat re-found their speed to finish 4th after pumping out half the Solent the night before, shipped after a shunt up the back and a cracked transom seam! RACE 6 & 7 Abandoned - Unfortunately races 6 and 7 were adandoned due to lack of wind. A great weeks racing was unfortunately bought to an early end due to lack of wind. This left Jono Brown in Aeolus with a commanding lead and his first Cowes Week victory to add to his impressive haul of Nationals silverware. Chris Preston in Limelite achieved an impressive second and Martin and Amanda Wadhams finished third in Kiss.