At 1000 on Monday, 23 July the 21 competing yachts set off on the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup 24 to 36 hour long offshore race, the most highly scoring segment in this series for international three boat teams with amateur crews.
While conditions this year have been mainly blustery, the start on Tuesday was in the same summery conditions as Monday, with brilliant sunshine but precious little wind.
The race management team has set up a complex course for the offshore race, taking the boats east out of the Solent and through the Forts, before heading south to a virtual mark 17 miles out into the Channel. Once round this the boats retrace their steps north towards the Outer Nab mark, before taking a long leg east to the CS1 mark, 15 miles south of Brighton and back. In total the proposed race is 154 miles long, but it seems highly likely it will be shortened.
"I think we will drift down on the tide and we'll drift back up on the tide with some intermittent kedging!" summarised Andrew McIrvine, skipper of La Réponse in RYA Team GBR Blue of how he reckoned the race would pan out. But he also observed that the prescribed route allowed the race management team plenty of scope to shorten course if required.
Mid-afternoon the boats were still struggling to make headway down to the waypoint out in the English Channel, due south of Bembridge. With the tide due to change from eastbound to westbound at 1430 BST, all the boats were getting their easting in early with La Réponse taking the most extreme easterly route south as the faster Ker 40s, anticipating an earlier rounding, were playing out a braver strategy on a shorter more direct route to the mark.
At 1600 BST Magnum III, Andrew Pearce's Ker 40, in RYA Team GBR White, was closing on 'Waypoint 1' with sistership Jonathan Goring's Keronimo on her hip and the Hong Kong team's Peninsula Signal 8 a little further behind.
The two lowest rated boats in the fleet - CNBC and the British Keelboat Academy on David Aisher's J/109 Yeoman of Wight, overall leaders RYA Team GBR Black - were also doing extremely well for their size and speed.
Assuming that the boats get around Waypoint 1 successfully, then they will have to sail north with a building easterly tide to get back to the Outer Nab mark before heading east to the CS1 mark. This will be a case of making the best of the tidal gates and the available zephyrs off the shore. Fortunately while the virtual mark is too far offshore for competitors to experience a sea breeze the legs east and back might be close enough to shore for the crews to see a land breeze overnight.
The boats are expected back into Cowes on Tuesday afternoon, 24 July.
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