There is always a lot of great boat racing going on around the Solent, with battles taking place in a wide variety of classes, from big boats to small boats, and club racers to world champions. This coming May Bank Holiday will be no exception with 60 J-Boats battling it out in the J Cup from the Island Sailing Club, as well as the RORC fleet heading offshore to Plymouth and back.
Possibly the most competitive racing however will be in the Etchells class who will be competing for their British Open & National Championship, hosted by the Royal London YC. The entry list is stacked with awesome CVs and whoever wins will have to beat the very best. It’s also a very international regatta with competitors from Australia, Hong Kong and the USA flying in, with one crew coming down from Scotland as well.
On the basis of local knowledge and the form book a possible favourite is Lawrie Smith. Smith has been winning World Championships for 35 years, in his early days in the 505 and Fireball class where he regularly locked horns with current Etchells world champion Steve Benjamin. Smith was 2nd in the Miami Etchells series over the winter (Benjamin won!) has an excellent crew and is one of the finest helmsman in the world. Sailing an Etchells fast upwind is never easy but Smith squeezes out those last 2° of height all the time and is incredibly consistent. Smith has also previously won the Dragon World Championship and in a nice piece of symmetry current Dragon World Champion (and 2007 Etchells World Champion). Andy Beadsworth will be making his second appearance in the class this year as well.
Organised by the Royal Thames Yacht Club, in conjunction with the Cowes Etchells Fleet.
James Badenach's team representing the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, has won the fourth edition of the Gertrude Cup, after holding off a strong challenge from the USA Youth Team, led by Connor Needham. Bruce Huber's team, representing the Royal Yacht Squadron, recovered from a show-stopping collision on the second day, to claim third. Two youth teams tied on points for fourth, with the Grieg City Academy YC , led by Montel Fagan-Jordan, winning on countback, from the Royal London Yacht Club Youth Team, led by Ted Blowers.
Two races were held on the final day of the Gertrude Cup, taking the series tally to thirteen. Pewter skies with rain and sea fog, reduced visibility and air temperature, but did not dent the enthusiasm of the eleven international teams. A southwesterly gradient breeze built during the day, peaking at 20 knots, with the wind oscillating 20 degrees, producing a shifty race course in the Central Solent. Once again, the Royal Thames Race Management Team, led by PRO Phil Lawerence, produced windward leeward courses with slide rule precision, taking into account a strong tidal flow. Two teams shared top performance of the day. Bill Steele's team representing the Royal Perth Yacht Club, and Rob Tyrwhitt-Drake's team, representing the Royal Ocean Racing Club, both scored podium results.