All the White Group Racing Fleets in Cowes were cancelled on Wednesday as gusts up to 40 kts were recorded over the “Brambles Bank” by mid-afternoon…  So no Dragon racing…

However, yesterday (Thursday) the wind moderated to around 24 kts and so the fleet set off from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line at 11.05am with a very strong ebb tide under their keels.. GBR 682 Eric Williams was the first to show, as his start proved to be the fasted track, boats to leeward had more wind but less tide and boats to windward had more tide but less wind.. So once again Eric’s skill and knowledge of the solent proved to be the best amongst many top local and experienced teams. With GBR 761 Gavia Wilkinson-Cox in 2nd place the fleet had a 2 mile beat to the west as the tide reached it peak of 4 kts!

The first run against this strong current saw Eric, Gavia and Ted Sawyer make a small gain. But it was the second 4 mile beat that again bought the fleet all close together. Then after another long close-to-the-shore run, it was a 5 mile final beat which tested even the hardiest of sailors… On the final downwind leg either side of the solent looked good as the tide continued to ebb towards the famous “Needle’s”. But Eric and Gavia chose to surf the waves and stay mid solent, whilst others headed for the less current shores..  It looked like the lead boats had made the correct choice, but as like previous days, it’s never over till it’s over…..  GBR 720 Graham Bailey elected to keep close into the north shore closely followed by GBR 739 “Dilemma” helmed by Nicholas Jones and as the finish line came closer it was obvious that Eric could be in trouble as he desperately tried to inch across the tide to finish.

Indeed it all came down to 1 second after nearly 4 hours of tough sailing, as the RYS Cannon Boomed out across the solent, neither Williams or Bailey knew who had won, such was the closeness of the boats….  But the shouts from the shore identified it was Eric Williams who had in fact just crossed the line ahead, so Graham Bailey had to settle for 2nd and Nicholas Jones GBR 739 a very deserved and extremely happy 3rd place…..

With two more days to go, it looks as though Williams has the overall title, whilst Graham Bailey must battle it out with Gavia for the other podium places…..  But as I have said many times before……  It’s not over till it’s over……

Higher, Faster, Longer……….   Stavros.  (USA 310)


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