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Trail blazing Vice Admiral's Cup opening day

by James Boyd on 19 May 19-21 May 2017

The Solent laid on perfect conditions for day one of the Vice Admiral's Cup with brilliant sunshine, and wind that increased from 10 knots to 20 through the afternoon. This built up a steep chop that was enough to cause crews to struggle to keep boats beneath rigs.

Among the seven fleets competing at the Royal Ocean Racing Club's annual regatta for invited one design and level rating classes, it was Ben Meakins on Polly that ended day one with the best scoreline, winning all three races among the seven Impala 28s.

Meanwhile Martin Dent on Jelvis repeated his World Championship-winning form posting a 1-3-1 to lead the J/111 Class, but by just one point from Cornel Riklin's Jitterbug. Simon Perry and the crew on Jiraffe did one better to lead the J/109 class with a 2-1-1 scoreline, which Perry reckoned was the best his team had ever managed, albeit coming straight out of a win at Warsash Spring Series: "We're savouring the moment. What we enjoy most is sailing with a good group of boats."

In the eleven-boat FAST 40+ fleet the day ended with Stewart Whitehead's Carkeek 40 Rebellion tied with Tony Dickin's modified former GP42, Jubilee. However the day really belonged to Whitehead's team and their green hulled flying machine after winning today's first two races before being beset with jib halyard problems on their run into the start line of race three. They had to send a man aloft to retrieve the halyard and once racing again only recovered to 10th.

"Overall we're happy," concluded Whitehead. "Paul Willcox [tactician] got us off the start line well in the first and second races." The mods made to Rebellion over the winter, that include a new stiffer keel fin similar to the latest Carkeek design, also seem to be paying. "Now we have reasonable pace. We just need to put ourselves in the right place and sail well."

With Jubilee winning today's final race, so the form in the FAST 40+ class seems to be markedly different to last season. "It is great," confirms Whitehead. "All of the boats have made modifications and the difference between them is relatively minimal now. In our third race - before we might have expected to take back three or four places. Now that is nigh on impossible."

The fastest boats on the race course today were the Diam 24od trimarans which, as the wind and sea picked up, were hitting 20+ knot speeds, their crews frequently engulfed in balls of spray. Three different boats won today, but the scores show a two horse race with Matthew Muhlenkamp's Diam 24 Charter leading UK importer Paul Wakelin's Fluid Boat Services, Buzz by a single point.

This is also the case in the SB20s where Richard Powell's Marvel leads by one point from David Chapman's Aussie team on Export Roo. It was former World Champion Jerry Hill on that claimed the first race, despite sailing a boat only launched yesterday. All was going well until the second race: "We got the leeward gate all wrong and had to unwind ourselves," admitted Hill. "Plus our rig was all over the place. Otherwise it was nice weather and great to shake the cobwebs out."

Some of the stiffest competition was in the Quarter Ton class where already the favourite, Sam Laidlaw and Aguila, have pulled out a four point lead after scoring 2-3-2 today. There were three different winners with William McNeill's Illegal Immigrant claiming the first race and Ian Southworth's Whiskers enjoying the brisk conditions in race three. These two boats are tied on 11 points with former Coutts Quarter Ton Cup winner Louise Morton's all-female crew on Bullit, winner of the second race.

"It was a lovely day on the water - 15 knots, bright sunshine - what's not to like?" said Lucy Macgregor, former Match Racing World Champion, who is calling tactics on Bullit. "We had some great racing today, the best so far this season and all of the top boats are out." Bullit won race two by getting a good start and then benefitting from a good layline call into the top mark. Bullit's all-female is on rotation this week with Paralympic Gold medallist Helena Lucas on board tomorrow.

Other VIPs in the Quarter Ton class today included Ian Walker sailing on board Tom Hill's Belinda, currently lying 10th. Today the double Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race winner found himself second from the front. "I got wet feet - and blisters! And I had to go up the rig to change the D2!" he complained once ashore. "But It is good close racing - the standard is good."

Racing continues tomorrow with some round the cans courses in the western Solent at the early start time of 1030 BST.

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