by Peta Stuart-Hunt
The 2nd running of the Westward Cup commenced on the water today at 1100hrs, bringing together the cream of the world’s Big Class yachts in a blaze of excitement and anticipation of some great racing in Solent waters for the owners and their guests. Eleonora, Mariette and Mariquita also created a breathtaking sight for the spectators on Cowes Parade and Princes Green as the yachts prepared for their start on the Royal Yacht Squadron line.
The Westward Cup is being run by the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) and the Yacht Club de Monaco (YCM). These three prestigious clubs have again joined forces to revive Big Class yachting in Cowes and Mr Zbynek Zak, the originator of the event in 2010 celebrating the 100th anniversary of the launch of the racing schooner Westward in 1910, says he is equally proud and delighted to be back in Cowes.
As the boats set up for racing they made a stunning sight off the The Castle as they powered up under full sail in a northerly breeze of 15-18 knots heading off into the western Solent with Mariette as the front runner. The course of 29nm saw the fleet experience variable wind speeds with winds decreasing severely as the race progressed and Eleonora fell behind with Mariette and Mariquita enjoying a spot of match racing.
David Aisher, Principal Race Officer, commenting after racing this afternoon, said, ‘Conditions were terrific first thing, but the wind went left, later abated and was recorded at 5 knots at one point which made it a struggle for the largest boat in the fleet, Eleonora.’
The two ‘smaller’ yachts were racing with their full race crew complement today plus their guests whilst Eleonora are also hosting a group of young sailors between the ages of 18 to 23 on board this week. They are novices to this type of racing and have been invited by the RYS and NYYC to introduce some new blood into classic yacht racing.
Mariquita took line honours finishing at 14.31.43, closely followed by Mariette 14.35.16 with Eleonora completing her first day’s racing in Cowes at 15.20.34.
On corrected time, the final positions after Day One are:
“All-Inside” Course Option Added
Some new faces are expected at this year’s Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race with the announcement of a short course addition — the Plum Island Course (126 nautical miles all in Long Island Sound) – as a PHRF-class option to the event’s traditional 186 nautical mile course for both IRC and PHRF. The change for the Memorial Weekend event means starting at The Cows off Stamford, Conn. and rounding Red and White Whistle “PI” northwest of Plum Island before heading back while the rest of the Block Island Race fleet continues farther afield to circumnavigate Block Island.
“In 2007, we had created an option to shorten the race to the Plum Island Whistle and back in case the weather was bad,” said Storm Trysail Club Rear Commodore Lee Reichart. “This year, we thought that there just might be a significant number of new-to-ocean-racing boats and crews who might like to sail that course anyway, because it keeps them from having to go out in the ocean and consequently eliminates the need to carry a life raft, which is a safety requirement for all others in this race.”
With over 50 entries to date, the Block Island Race is easily on target to top last year’s fleet of 59 (in six IRC and two PHRF classes), and with the race preceding the biennial Newport Bermuda Race, organizers are expecting to host many of that distance race’s entrants who are preparing.
The Block Island Race, which has been held annually for 67 years, is a staple on the calendar of many New England competitors and starts on Friday May 25 at 1400. It is notorious for the “fork in the road” decision that Plum Island forces after 60 miles of sailing: competitors must decide to take either Plum Gut, “The Race” or even Fishers Island Sound while leaving Long Island Sound. This decision often determines the outcome of the race.
The Block Island Race was first held in 1946 and is a qualifier for the North Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the Double Handed Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF), and the Gulf Stream Series (IRC). The Block Island Race is also a qualifier for the Caper, Sagola, and Windigo trophies awarded by the YRA of Long Island Sound and the ‘Tuna” Trophy for the best combined IRC scores in the Edlu (40%) and the Block Island Race (60%).
For more information on the Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race or the Plum Island Course (Notice of Race Amendment #1), visit www.stormtrysail.org or contact The Storm Trysail Club (914) 834-8857.
About the Storm Trysail Club
The Storm Trysail Club, reflecting in its name the sail to which sailors must shorten when facing severe adverse conditions, is one of the world’s most respected sailing clubs, with its membership comprised strictly of skilled blue water and ocean racing sailors. In addition to hosting Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex in odd-numbered years, the club holds various prestigious offshore racing events (among them the annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race and the Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race); annual junior safety-at-sea seminars; and Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta for college sailors using big boats.
For more information on the Storm Trysail Club and its events, including the Block Island Race, visit the official website www.stormtrysail.org.