Champagne sailing makes for a vintage Cowes Week
Eight days of racing were delivered in spectacular solent conditions
The 2016 Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week was one of the most enjoyable for years. Breaking with what was starting to feel like tradition, Cowes Week had neither its customary day of gales and rain, nor its usual flat calms. Not a single day’s racing was lost as champagne south-westerly sea breezes and more variable north-westerlies allowed a full series of races to be completed for everyone from IRC Zero to the XOD fleets.
Behind the scenes, it was a week of change. It was the first event for Phil Hagen in his new role of regatta director, and the last to be sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management. The investment management group had originally ended its support after the 2015 week, but it stepped back in as sponsor for one final year. Organisers are seeking a new backer for 2017 onwards.
This was also the send-off for Artemis, sponsor of the Cowes-based Figaro squad and the Artemis Challenge race around the Isle of Wight, held on the Thursday of Cowes Week. The challenge this time was something of an exhibition race, with the MOD70 Phaedo3 blasting around with only an M32 match-racing catamaran for company.
Despite the loss of two major backers, investment in sailing was evident on the water, most obviously in the Fast 40+ class. The headline fleet of the week, the class was a showcase for the return of high-tech big-boat racing on the Solent, with 13 teams taking part, each privately owned and owner-driven. Four different designs shared the wins. Peter Morton’s Carkeek 40 Girls on Film, launched this year, took the overall prize.
Adam Gosling claimed the Black Group prize for top ‘big boat’ for the fourth year in a row. In his latest Yes!, a new JPK 10.80, he scored six race wins in IRC 3.
Explaining the new boat, Gosling told us: “We had a very good three-year campaign with the Corby 36 Yes!, but there was a bit of people saying, ‘The boat’s not beatable’, so I looked around for a new challenge.”
Gosling said he was attracted by the reaching performance of the JPK 10.80, but Cowes Week was always the target. “I love it for many reasons. There are so many elements that you just don’t get sailing in any other places around the world.”
The White Group prize went to Nigel Grogan’s Rehydrated, which continued the Squib design’s dominance of the overall trophy in the keelboat classes.
The regatta’s largest fleet, however, was once again the XOD class, with 56 entries. John Tremlett’s 1948-built Lass retained the Captain’s Cup trophy for the class win.