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Westward Cup - Day 3: on board Eleonora in a day of sensational racing

Following a fabulous dinner party at the RYS for owners of the fleet and their guests sponsored by Boat International Media the morning of Day 2 brought grey skies and little wind. The race officers at the RYS took the decision to abandon racing for Day 2 but probably should have made it a postponement as later in the morning a princely breeze set in and two of the yachts, Mariette and Mariquita decided to use the breeze for a practice day, without any rain!

With the weather forecast promising a good breeze and some sunshine for Day 3, there was a flurry of activity and anticipation as I boarded Eleonora at 8am. The race officers again took a strange decision to cancel the round-the-island race which the owners had all been very excited about the previous evening. In retrospect this would have been perfect with winds from the East and an early breeze which would have pushed the boats round before the heavy winds of the afternoon set in.

Two races were forecast for the day, both in the Eastern Solent, covering a combined distance of just over 40 miles. The courses were in my opinion too long and with a strong tide and rising wind there were too many short tacks needed for these big boats.

Having said that, yesterday was a sensational day of sailing. Twenty-four youngsters from the three yacht clubs RYS, NYYC and the YCM were crewing Eleonora under the strict command of the captain and first mate and the day started off with some great sailing and a breeze that quickly built to 20 knots. As the three yachts thundered under full canvas past Osborne House, the Forts and back down to Gunard via the outside of the Bramble Bank spirits were high.

Eleonora, Mariette and Mariquita made a spectacular sight against the ageless canvas of the Isle of Wight and conversation amongst guests on board was about how little this must have changed over the 100 years when Big Class yachting came to Cowes....although we all agreed that we would rather be wearing Mustos and hats than blazers, ties and long skirts.

The youngsters on board Eleonora were set to crew the yacht with supervision from team leaders stationed in five different areas of the yacht. Young girls hit the winches and pulled the halyards along side athletic young men and the camaraderie was infectious. With owner Mr Zak at the helm the yacht was singing as she lifted her skirts to the building breeze, now taking us up to 20 knots. Dodging ships, the Sunsail fleet and a dredger under tow the excitement was building and so was the wind.

By the end of Race 2 the wind had piped up to 26 knots and the waves were building and breaking – Mariquita decided it was enough, leaving Mariette and Eleonora to fight it out. With the leeward rail almost constantly in the water and the crew in charge of the runners getting a pasting from the waves as Eleonora powered ahead, it was a wet and frantic race. A couple of mistakes were made as the soaked crew started to get very cold. The decks of Eleonora resembled a slow, flowing waterfall when we tacked and gybed, and it seemed a long way to the finish line.

Mariette gets the gentleman’s award for the day. Rounding one of the buoys she called us up to tell us that with the tide on the ebb there was not enough water for us to clear – a very gentlemanly radio call which is essential for this type of racing. Please take note RYS race officers, the keels on the Big Class yachts are over 5 metres deep, refer to your tide tables!

Day 3 results

Race 2

Mariette

Mariquita

Eleonora

Race 3

Mariette

Eleonora

Mariquita DNS

Overall results after 3 races
Mariette = 3 points
Eleonora and Mariquita = 8 points

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