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Cowes Classics Week 2018 Day 1 - Stunning conditions open the racing

by Cowes Classic Week 23 Jul 20:37 BST 23-27 July 2018
45 XODs fill the Solent on day 1 of Cowes Classics Week © Tim Jeffreys Photography

Henry Bagnall and his crew were celebrating their hard fought win in the 45 strong XOD class today on the opening day of Cowes Classics Week in spectacular sunshine and perfect south westerly 15 knot breezes.

Explaining how he triumphed over such a large one design fleet Henry who was racing Fury, kindly loaned by Jonathan Clark, said "We were in the mix the whole way round but on the final beat we worked hard to sail the shifts keeping up the middle of the course, which really paid off and we just slid into the lead in the last 30 seconds."

Christian Brewer, sailing on Stuart Jardine's Lone Star, only a handful of boats further behind reported "Racing was incredibly tight amongst the XODs. Several 10 and 15 degree wind-shifts turned parts of the fleet inside out."

As racing got underway for the majority of the fleets in the mid-Solent today the XODs were the largest class amongst the 160 yachts that have entered Cowes Classics Week this year.

The tried and tested system of race course management provided one shoreline start for the regatta's cruiser classes and vintage one-offs plus four committee boat race areas set across the central Solent for the remaining classes of one-designs. All the yachts taking part meet the qualification of being built to designs drawn up before 1968 or in the spirit of tradition.

Amongst the cruisers lining up on the Royal London Yacht Club's shoreline were some true beauties in the 'Red 1' class including three classic 8 metres Helen, Athena and Njord who blended perfectly with Tim Gaukroger's elegant 1972-built Swan 55 Kira, Jamie Matthieson's S&S Two Tonner Opposition and the 51-year-old One Tonner Sunmaid V whose owner Lawrence Wride and crew were to take her to victory in today's race. David Parsons' Athena was top scoring 8 metre.

Also racing from the shore line was an eclectic mix of historic classics in 'Red 2' including Andrew Pearson's 10 metre Bojar, built in 1937 which triumphed over her class mates today beating Richard Hargreaves' 30 Square Metre (1972) Aeolus into second place and Martin Thomas's 8 Metre Cruiser Charm of Rhu into third.

In shoreline class 'Green' three Contessa 26s enjoyed some great racing. George Smith, whose 1973 built Brizo reported the ideal breezes that they encountered in the West Solent. The fact that George and all his crew of school friends are under 18 years old, younger than most of the competing boats, makes their second place in class behind Mike and Barbara Harrison's Jiminy Cricket all the more impressive. George adds "We hope to encourage a few more Contessa 26s to this event next year as well."

Also in the process of growing their fleet are the Nordic Folkboats, which had their own class start for the first time in this year's Cowes Classics Week. Seven of the designs from the 1940s (although largely built in this millenium) raced around a fixed mark course west of Cowes. Legendary helm Ado Jardine, who took Jeremy Austin's Tak to first place, commented "It wasn't an easy win. We didn't make a very good start, and we swopped positions several times with The Otter, finally getting into the lead on a lift on the leg to the finish."

Further north near Hill Head committee boat windward leeward courses were testing the skills of the other competing classes including the four restored Vintage Dragons who were led to the finish by Bill Daniels's 58 year old Mistress, and the oldest of which Aurora was built in 1938. New to Cowes Classics Week this year as a class is the Etchells and entries are also expected to grow in future years, while the well-established ten-strong National Swallow class was won today by Mike Wigmore in Gwaihir, a modern glassfibre take on a 1946 design. Meanwhile Mike Dixon's Flying Fifteen fflashback triumphed in their class

The Solent Sunbeams also fought closely over a windward leeward course. "We had a nice clean start," reported Race Officer Peter Dickson. "There was quite a choppy sea on our race course caused by the wind against tide so we hosted the 'Y' flag to indicate crews should wear lifejackets. We then set our finish line close to the entrance to Cowes so the boats could sail straight in after racing." The Solent Sunbeams are a highly competitive class, based in Chichester Harbour, so Richard Pearson's win in Penny was well deserved.

The organising club, the Royal London Yacht Club, is supported by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Royal Victoria Yacht Club, Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club and Island Sailing Club. The famous RLYC tea parties are once again taking place every afternoon and there is a full calendar of evening social events. Racing continues tomorrow until Friday,

Cowes Classics Week is supported by sponsors Charles Stanley Direct, Winkworth, Red Funnel, Cowes Harbour Commission, Kendalls Fine Art, Clare Lallows boatyard, Classic Boat magazine, Zhik clothing and Robert Oatley Fine Wines.

For race information visit www.cowesclassicsweek.org.

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