The Etchells Gertrude Cup was 4 days of intense racing with 12 races scheduled and, despite the predominantly high pressure sitting over the UK, was successfully completed. By the final day, 4 boats were in contention for overall victory.
Initially the regatta was reliant on sea breezes to get the racing under way, and somehow PRO Phil Hagan seemed to predict its arrival with remarkable accuracy, arranging for the fleet to be towed to the race course with no breeze in the Solent, only for it to arrive as the fleet did.
Day 1, in breezes of never more than 12 kts, saw the Royal London’s Mark Lees win the leader’s Red Spinnaker. Lees used the strong ebb on the left-hand side of the course to good advantage with a first and a third in the 2-race day. However, the day wasn’t without incident as the strong ebb tide for one race changed the spreader mark into the windward mark, and only race leader Mark Lees spotted this resulting, as the fleet tried to pinch up to the “new” mark, in 3 boats ended up having to do penalty turns.
Day 2, after visiting yachtsman Pat Voss from the Royal Perth Yacht club easily won the first race, things didn’t go his way and it was the combined GBR/USA team skippered by Ted Blowers who won the Boat of the Day. The team’s wind calls and precise gybing saw Blowers move through the pack to give them 3 podium positions out of the days 4 races. Unfortunately, this was not enough to give Blowers the coveted Red Spinnaker, as Lees had achieved consistently good results in all 4 races
Day 3 saw the visiting USA youth team win their second race of the series, but the day’s stars were the Greig City Academy team helmed by Montel Fagan-Jordan, who scored 2 firsts and a second. Their 2nd first included a man overboard recovery, as just after rounding the bottom gate in first place one of the crew hiked too hard, and it was only the quick response of tactician Matt Reid pulling him in as he passed the stern of the boat that meant they only lost 2 places, but on the down-wind leg recovered their first place to win by less than half a boat length. The Series leader suffered gear failure but, with 2 discards now in place after 10 races, were able to maintain the leader’s Red Spinnaker into the last day.
Day 4 – final day – saw at last a true gradient breeze and conditions more akin to the Solent – a South Westerly at 12 Kts that slowly built to 18 Its, variable cloud cover giving good wind shifts – a race officer’s nightmare, yet Phil Hagen still managed to put on 3 fair races in the now more challenging conditions as the seas started to build. 4 teams could potentially win the event, but Lees needed a bad day to throw it away, and that he nearly did, but such was the overall quality and competitive nature of the fleet that none of the contenders could maintain 3 good race results together. Without doubt though, the top boat of the day was Annabelle Vose’s all-girl crew from the Royal Southern Yacht Club who scored only 9 points from the day’s 3 races with 2 podium positions.
Overall winner was helm Mark Lees’ Royal London’s team skippered by Will Bedford, ahead of USA Youth team Blue, Sean Cornell. Cornell won the Youth’s and Corinthian Trophy, a prize he was delighted to take back to the States. Lees said in his acceptance speech that teams coming to Cowes from around the world make this a special event, both on and off the water.