Gertrude CupThe Royal Thames Yacht Club’s Etchells Invitational Gertrude Cup was completed on Wednesday August 3rd after a nine-race program  which saw incredibly close racing amongst the 14 teams competing, teams from 13 different yacht clubs around the world. Like the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup the Gertrude Cup is an invitational event open to international teams who are each provided with a fully sorted and race prepared Etchells, each boat having matched sails to make the fleet as one-design and standard as possible. Now in its third year the Gertrude Cup is established as a key event in the Solent one-design scene.

The last day began in a building 9 to 10 knot SW breeze with the front runners in the fleet sharing the top five positions in the morning race. A win for Tom Carruthers (San Diego), second place for Chris Hampton (Melbourne) and third place for Jan Muysken (Abu Dhabi) meant that there was literally nothing in it overall, with a multiple teams tied or within a point of the lead at the top with one race to go. Amongst that group were multiple World Champions and Olympic sailors and even in the boats without titles to their name the depth of experience sailing Etchells was incredibly deep. The morning race had seen a very even first beat with a couple of boats coming out of the right hand side but the majority of the leaders coming from the left hand side. With the flood tide just on the turn there was an early outgoing ebb tide on the south side of the Bramble Bank and that seemed to be key. Carruthers had been in the first two or three early on among the leaders at the top of the  first beat  and then comfortably led after having chosen the correct gate at the bottom of the first run.

For the second race race officer Phil Lawrence put a bit more committee bias on the start line to try and offset the probable building advantage to the left and this worked a treat with the left-hand boats gaining on the tide but only just having enough in hand as they got to the port tack layline to offset the line bias. 

Defending champion Mark Thornburrow from Hong Kong was continuing his see-saw series and led this one after a disappointing seventh in the morning race but down the first run the top five were all virtually overlapped. Of the leaders overall Chris Hampton was the only boat missing and his possible regatta win depended on others slipping backwards rather than on his own race result. Tom Carruthers had made another poor start and was working his way up through the fleet but the beneficiaries of these hard luck stories were Tim Grattan and his  academy youth team from the Royal Thames who were scrapping it out in the first three and leading the regatta if things stayed that way. 

J C Strong from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron was having her best race of the series and having found a little shift on the right they came back on starboard, tacked under Mark Thornburrow and put themselves in second in the race. Round the last windward mark of the series Gratton had sneaked into the lead but Seamus McHugh from Societe Nautique de Geneva got the first part of the last run right, gybing early ( a tactic which seemed to pay off a lot all week) and sailing over the top of both Thornburrow and Strong. 

These four battled it out up the last beat but in a very nice piece of symmetry the eventual winners of the first race Tim Grattan and his youth crew were hounded up the last beat of the last race but they were never headed and they took the last race and the Gertrude Cup. In another piece of symmetry the Royal Thames Yacht Club whose team won last years New York Yacht Club Invitational   Cup now have another major international invitation trophy to sit in their trophy cabinet at the same time. 

A great win by Tim Grattan and his young team of Emily Wiltshire, Jack Davies, Lilly Carlisle (average age 22 years) and and a tribute to the RTYC Youth program and to David Franks and Ted Fort OBE who established the Etchells fleet youth program in the first place and are both members of the Royal Thames and supporters of the Academy.

Here’s the Winning Team’s Report: The Royal Thames Yacht Club Youth Academy:

A Royal Thames Academy team consisting of Emily Wiltshire, Lilly Carlisle, Jack Davies and Tim Gratton headed to Cowes this week for the always competitive Etchells Invitational Regatta for the Gertrude Cup. There was a good mix of backgrounds in the boat, although three of the team had only sailed an Etchells for one week previously. It was therefore with uncertain expectations that we went into the event, looking for a respectable result and as many learning experiences as possible.

Over the practice day, we worked hard at getting a good approach to the start line as well as some solid boat handling routines that we could build on throughout the week.

Given our inexperience in the boats, we were somewhat surprised to find ourselves leading the first race, having had a great start combined with some fast sailing and smart tactics up the first beat. We held onto the lead in this race and posted a 4th in the second, before some mistakes in the building tide saw us slip down the fleet for a 10th in the third. Going into the second day in third overall, we were keen to keep putting in consistent results near the front of the fleet. The team worked really well together to achieve this, despite having to dig deep to recover from a bad start in one race. This saw us move up second overall, joint on points with the leaders.

Racing on the  Tuesday  was canceled due to the high winds, so  all the teams proceeded to David Franks' house for an excellent lunch. This was followed by a superb gala dinner at the Royal Yacht Squadron, marching band and all!

Going into the last day, we knew that the racing would likely be curtailed early due to a building forecast and the tide changing to increase the sea state. However with the results at the top of the fleet so close, it was all still very much to play for. In the first race, the team fought back from an average start to finish in 4th place. This meant that we were still very much in with a chance going into the last race. A great start and first beat saw us leading the second race, before slipping into second on the final run. However with an upwind finish, our boat speed and tactics combined with some extra hard hiking saw us overtake within the final hundred metres and win what would be the final race of the event. 

Upon arriving ashore, the results confirmed that we had won the Gertrude Cup by a narrow margin in a highly competitive and international field.

Full credit must go to the team for their superb efforts this week - everything clicked together really nicely in the boat which made for a thoroughly enjoyable week. Thanks also to the event organisers, in particular David Franks, the boat owners for their incredible generosity, and the Royal Thames, not only for putting on the event, but also to the Academy for giving us this incredible opportunity. 

For daily results from The Gertrude Cup: