Princess Anne firing the gun to start the XOD race. Picture by Rick Tomlinson.
COWES WEEKANDREW Shaw achieved a second successive victory and third of the week in X23 Phoenix.
This propelled him further into the overall lead after five races in the X One Designs, the biggest class competing at Aberdeen Asset Management (AAM) Cowes Week.
Yesterday’s (Thursday) special race marked the final day of a three-day 'regatta within the regatta’, the AAM XOD Class Centenary Regatta.
The much anticipated highlight of the week was the attendance of The Princess Royal when she visited the Royal Yacht Squadron platform to fire the gun to start the XOD race at 10am. The Princess also met a number of XOD owners.
The easterly downwind start, from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, watched by huge crowds of spectators, saw the fleet favouring the northern end, as they disappeared into a rather gloomy damp morning towards the windward mark.
Like the winner Phoenix, X119 Lone Star helmed by Stuart Jardine made sure that they got off the start line as early as possible, a seemingly obvious solution to staying ahead, but the only one in such a large downwind fleet.
The top five boats broke clear of the rest, led initially by X117 Relaxation (Tina Scott), with Phoenix, X166 Swallow (Simon Russell) and Lone Star close on their heels, enabling them to get a clean rounding at the downwind mark.
The course was set to give the fleet the best chance of gaining some comfort and shelter in the rapidly building breeze and sea state but a downwind approach to the first mark meant that the fleet, dozens abreast, competed for what little space there was to get around.
"It’s a good thing the leeward mark was inflatable," said Mark Jardine, sailing with his father on Lone Star which finished 4th out of the 119 starters.
"Otherwise there could have been a few sinkings!" From there the fleet then crossed the mid-Solent for a number of laps around Browndown, a mark of the course.
Much of the rest of the fleet sailed conservatively but the race was not without its casualties which included 18 retirements.
There were two reported dismastings, one of which was that of X131 Flying Fox, crewed by a young team in their early 20s including helmsman Oren Richards. The damage brought their AAM Cowes Week to an early end.
The course was shortened early to avoid clashes, since the sheer size and course direction of the XOD fleet had the potential to cause upset between them and the many other AAM Cowes Week classes.
"It was the right course and the right decision," said Chris Torrens, sailing one of the original 100-year-old XODS, X5 Madcap, echoing the comments of other competitors in praising the Race Committee.
Phoenix’s victory meant that they carried off not just the George Oliver Challenge Cup, the winner’s trophy of the day, but also a special Centenary Trophy, the Royal Motor Yacht Club Trophy.