The second day of the inaugural Etchells Invitational Cup in Cowes delivered four tight races in sparkling conditions, with a 10-knot north westerly breeze. The racing saw plenty of adrenaline fuelled boat-on-boat action, with the four on-water umpires handing out numerous penalties.
With six races now completed the top two boats overall are helmed by women: yesterday’s overall leader, Jeanne-Claude Strong of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, had a consistent day with a 5,4,5,7 scoreline to remain at the top of the leaderboard on 18 points. Places two to four overall are all tied on 24 points, with Shannon Bush of the New York YC holding second on count back thanks to her two wins today. Seamus McHugh of Societe Nautique de Geneve is third on countback, and Ian Dobson of the Royal Thames YC fourth.
Today’s first race saw Thorp, crewed by Stuart Childerley and Mark Andrews, take a commanding lead, ahead of Jan Muysken of Emirates Palace Yacht Club, Abu Dhabi, and Bush. The next race saw the fleet get away cleanly, tight up to the start line, with Bush winning the pin and continuing well to the left hand side of the first beat, hiking hard in the gusts. Although some 70 per cent of the fleet took the right hand side of the course, Bush emerged at the top mark first, a couple of lengths ahead of Chris Bull’s team from the Yacht Club de Cannes. Bush then held her lead right to the finish, crossing the line ahead of Thorp and Muysken.
McHugh, crewed by former Etchells world champion Andy Beadsworth and Nick Gibbons, started the following race at the pin, where a left-hand wind shift allowed them to tack onto port clear ahead of the fleet. Five minutes on it looked as though the boats on the right were well lifted, but the fleet was very closely bunched at the first top mark.
Similarly, the end of the first run saw a third of the fleet arriving almost simultaneously at the leeward gate, accompanied by much shouting and waving of protest flags. On the run to the finish the all-girl team from the Royal Southern YC of Annabel Vose, Amy Prime, Hannah Peters and Emily Nagel found a line of pressure to power across the finish into third place. Strong, who rounded the top mark well back in the fleet went out on the left hand side of the course, picking up four places to cross the line in fourth.
Race six saw the fleet split up the first beat, but they again arrived at the windward mark in a tight bunch that kept the umpires busy as red-flagged competitors desperately searched for space to complete their penalty turns. On the final run Bush gained a place on McHugh, to take her second win of the series, with Chris Bull following gaining third place.
One of the most consistent helms of the day was Seamus McHugh, who apart from an 11th place, scored two seconds and a fourth, leaving him in fourth overall and on equal points with Bush and Ian Dobson. “We had good results from our three decent starts, plus one where we were the last boat off the line but picked up to mid-fleet by the finish,” McHugh said. “The top third of the fleet here is top class, with four or five world champion helms, and it’s really tough to hold position in the top five in each race.”
At the half-way stage of the event the competition is equally tight further down the fleet, with Thorp in fifth place, just two points adrift of the three boats tied on points in second to fourth place. Similarly, places 6 to 12 are separated by only 9 points.
– Rupert Holmes