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Seconds count as 17 white hot Quarter Ton Cup crews muster in Cowes

by Andi Robertson 4 Jun 06:32 BST 4-6 June 2021
2019 Quarter Ton Cup startline action © Paul Wyeth /

Over the next three days on the Solent out of Cowes Ian Southworth and the Team Hamble crew of Protis will do their best to retain the Quarter Ton Cup title that they won on the same waters in 2019, the last time the coveted trophy was raced for.

If they can achieve this and come out top of the white hot 17-strong fleet that includes three owners who have between them shared the title ten times over the 15 editions contested since the class's top trophy was rejuvenated back in 2005, overall victory would be an appropriate way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their boat winning a breezy Quarter Ton Cup in Marseille, France.

"Given the chance we would have liked the opportunity to stage a suitable big celebration ashore here but the way things still are that seems unlikely, so meantime we will have to do our best on the water. But it is worth remembering the boat is the youngest of us." sagely notes Protis' Led Pritchard, who along with Southworth, Lincoln Redding, John Santy and Mike Stannard dominated the nine race 2019 championship.

"We are so looking forwards to this regatta. Everyone is." Southworth comments, "We have done all we can, theoretically, but so has everyone else. But the title could go to any one of six boats."

Recent preparations did not go completely to plan for Protis, which was built for Bruno Trouble as a development of the Jacques Fauroux designs which won the Quarter Ton Cup three times consecutively from 1979. During the recent windy Vice Admiral's Cup they lost their rudder and had to withdraw and hastily seek a replacement in order to be ready to race this weekend.

Two times winner Sam Laidlaw and crew of BLT laid down a marker when they won the class at the Vice Admiral's Cup two weekends ago, although the windy conditions were very much to the liking of their boat which is also a beautifully restored former Fauroux Bullit which originally won the Quarter Ton Cup in 1980.

Winds on the Solent are expected to start out light at least for the first couple of days of the event for which the ambitious target is up to four races a day over Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Peter Morton and Louise Morton, husband and wife rivals who are longstanding stalwarts of the revived class, have four and three Quarter Ton Cup titles respectively, although Louise' boat actually won in 2011 when she was sidelined with a broken leg.

Peter 'Morty' Morton will race the Gonzalez designed Cote this time. If he were to win it would be his fourth different boat to triumph with, after Espada (Farr) in 2007, Anchor Challenge (Farr) in 2009 and Bullit (1978 Fauroux) in 2012 and 2014. Morty has been making some modifications to Cote over recent weeks and races with Volvo Ocean Race winner Jules Salter, a long time Quarter Tonner fan - with Salter's two sons Fred 15, and Edward, 18 and Annabel Vose.

"It is just great to have Jules racing with his sons, an experience they will enjoy. This is still the best racing around. It is incredibly close. It is all about how you sail and how you do things and there are so many good boats and crews. It is just too hard to guess who will come out on top. Really there are many boats that have different strengths on different days." Summarises Peter Morton.

After victories in 2013, 2015 and 2016 Louise Morton will be looking to win for a fourth time. Racing with her very successful Bullet all-female crew comprising Lucy Forester Coles (nee Macgregor), Nicky Walsh (nee Macgregor) Kate Macgregor, Suzy Russell, Colette ichmond (nee Blair) Morton finished runner up to Southworth in 2019 and has been one of the most consistent performers over recent years.

Making its debut after an extensive refit in Cowes will be Duncan Peace's 1981 Pacifist, a boat he actually designed himself. Peace originally worked with the late Ed Dubois before diverting into different business avenues. He has recently bought the boat he designed and has had it restored with a new deck.

Competition in the Quarter Ton class is extremely close and exacting. With small time corrections under IRC over a race with a target duration of 45 minutes, winnng deltas are usually down to a few seconds here and there. And family rivalries, especially between partners competing on different boats, always add spice to the competition. As well as the Morton household rivalry Niall and Olivia Dowling race Per Elisa and Catch respectively, Andrew Walsh races on Per Elisa while wife Nicky races Bullet, Tom Forrester Coles races on BLT while wife Lucy is also on Bullet. Sam Richmond races Per EIisa and Collette his wife is on Bullet.

"It certainly keeps it all extra interesting." Smiles Louise Morton.

British Vendée Globe solo racer Pip Hare is also a huge fan of the Quarter Ton Class and has raced at the Quarter Ton Cup since 2013. Despite a tight schedule, heading to Cascais, Portugal where she will join Louis Burton's team on The Ocean Race Europe, Hare will race today (Friday) on her usual position on Tom Hill's Belinda.

"It really is the absolute best of British racing. It is scarily close and so much fun I am so sorry not be able to race all of the regatta." Hare comments.

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