Day 1: It was a classic day on the Solent on Sunday, July 31 as the Cowes Etchells fleet invitational event for the Royal Thames Yacht Club's Gertrude cup got underway. This event which provides equally matched actuals to competitors from around the world is based loosely on the New York yacht club invitational event and as such each competitor is given a set of North sales which are all matched and they rotate boats each day to ensure fairness in equipment. This, combined with the incredible one design racing in the Etchells fleet led to last years event seeing three teams tied for the lead after 11 races, all being split by a tiebreak.
After the first three races, one of those teams led by Tom Carruthers from San Diego yacht club holds a two point lead over Seamus McHugh from Geneva with the Royal Thames yacht club's own youth Academy sailor Tim Gratton holding third. Carruthers is preparing for the Etchells world championship in Cowes in September and had a very strong score line of 2, 3, 6.
After a two hour postponement on shore the predicted SW seabreeze came in and as that steadily increased throughout the day the fleet had some incredibly tight racing which was conducted in a tidal transition from the last of an ebb tide to the first stages of a flood tide. This made the tidal component relatively small but did produce differences from side to side.
Gratton took the bull by the horns winning the first race and finishing fourth in the second race. His score card was marred in the third race as he hit the windward mark on the first lap and then on the second lap took a further penalty for a minor infringement at the windward mark. Nonetheless his starts and boat speed have been excellent and he is undoubtedly firmly in the mix.
Rounding out the top three is Seamus McHugh who won the last race seeming to gain up the first beat by being slightly left of the early leaders thereby having less adverse current from the first of the new flood tide (running to the east) The leading pack had sought refuge behind the bramble bank but in line with Graham Sunderland's pre-race tidal presentation there seemed to be more adverse current running down the southern edge of the bramble bank than there was a little further out into the main channel.
Defending champion Mark Thornborough from Hong Kong was in the top three of this race, adding it to his second place in race 2 but this was before his jib halyard parted on the first beat eventually forcing him back into eighth place at the finish. Lying in sixth-place Thornborough is eight points off the lead and will be looking for a more consistent second day.
The sun shone, the wind blew and the fleet had some incredibly close racing and the top 10 are currently all within 11 points of each other. The forecast is for more of the same on Monday, day 2 of this 4 day, 11 race regatta.
For daily results from The Gertrude Cup: http://www.yachtscoring.com