International Etchells Cowes Fleet Southern Area Championship
With an entry of 21 teams, the Southern Area Championships saw the highest Cowes Etchells fleet turnout since the beginning of the pandemic. With the racetrack tucked behind the Bramble Bank, wall-to-wall sunshine at points and a westerly to south westerly wind direction, this all made for a classic weekend of fun Etchells racing. From the outset, the Race Committee, led by Phil Hagen and the Royal Thames Yacht Club (RTYC), decided to bring one of the Sunday races forward to Saturday which was the breezier forecast of the two days.
Day 1, which generally favoured the left-hand side of the course throughout, saw superior upwind pace and tactical strength from James Howells’ Gelert. A scoreline strung with ones and twos meant a well-deserved Regatta win. In Race 1 it was Gelert that rounded the windward mark first, followed closely by the Childerley’s Polaris and Razmilovic’s Swedish Blue, going on to keep the lead for the race win.
By Race 2 the wind was already exceeding its forecast. Razmilovic’s Swedish Blue had the pick of the starts, winning the pin end. A well-timed tack into clear air that followed meant a low-fuss path to round the mark first and choice of an early gybe to chance at extending their lead. By the second downwind Gelert made keeping this lead a very difficult job, but it is a testament to Swedish Blue’s patience that they held on.
The leaders of Race 3 had a different look with a leading pack of Polaris, followed by Gelert, Ward’s Eat Sleep E Repeat and Smith’s Alfie. However, it was Polaris that deservedly prevailed.
Having best played the tide and the wind, Warwick’s Audrey led at the top mark this time for Race 4, breaking away from the bunch with Gelert on the first downwind. Gelert elected for a split leeward gate rounding; this was the turning point of Audrey’s lead challenge. From this point the lead of the race swung away from Audrey handing the result to Gelert, with Goddard’s Rocketman chasing the two race leaders down in third place.
Day 2 was the chillier and less breezy day, while the predicted drizzle never materialised. In Race 5, Polaris escaped the fray and sailed the tidiest first beat, followed by Stagg’s China Wight. Polaris continued to extend this advantage making the final downwind a toss-up between the likes of Gelert, Eat Sleep E Repeat and China Wight. It was a last-ditch manoeuvre from Eat Sleep E Repeat to force China Wight into a gybe outside the finish that put Eat Sleep E Repeat in second place on this occasion.
Race 6 saw the leaders come from the port end of the line with several boats from that end also called OCS. However, I think that Anthony Parke might like me to mention that theory doesn’t apply with Sumo given he started on port tack from the committee boat end yet made fifth! By the first mark the fleet was very packed but, helped by a big right-hand shift that took effect on the downwind leg, it was China Wight that was best able to take the long tack into the second top mark, then creating a convincing gap over the rest of the fleet for the later upwind finish. Notable mentions in this race go to Gelert, Alfie, and Offord’s The Plant Hunter that also finished in the leading pack.
Congratulations to the Regatta winners, James Howells/Ruairidh Scott/Jamie Lea of Gelert (RORC/RSrnYC), who were followed by Stuart Childerley’s Polaris and Lawrie Smith’s Alfie.
The Corinthian prize (fully crewed by World Sailing Category 1 sailors) was won by Ante Razmilovic/Brian Hammersley/James Downer of Swedish Blue (YCCS) (6th overall), followed by Rob Goddard’s Rocketman (7th) and Jon Warwick’s Audrey (8th).
The first Youth Academy boat was Anthony Parke/Tom Collyer/Cossie Lewis/Will Birchall of Sumo (9th overall).
Well raced all!
Many thanks to the Race Committee, led by Phil Hagen and the Royal Thames Yacht Club, and all the class volunteers for making events like these happen. Particular appreciation goes to Rob Goddard for coordinating the race tracking, which can be found here.
Article by Will Birchall