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  • Writer's pictureClassic Regattas Limited

A thrilling Solent contest

Day 2 of the Richard Mille Cup in Cowes gave us yacht racing at its most exciting, with challenging, shifty conditions and multiple lead changes that kept spectators guessing until the end. 


There were lighter winds than yesterday, around 10 to 12 knots from the north, and flat water that gave a chance for the smaller yachts to shine. 


After her late start on the opening day, the gaff cutter Thalia was first over the start line in Blue class, but as the fleet stayed close together up the beach, it was Cynthia that slipped away, taking advantage of her lighter displacement.  


Thalia, however, was far from done and stayed in contention all day, vying with Patna while the pilot cutter Alpha struggled in the lighter breeze. 


Black class yachts got away at 10:40 and after her victory yesterday Moonbeam IV went out with clear intent, leading Mariquita westwards up the Solent, however it was Viveka that snuck inside, using local knowledge to pass the others in less tide and taking a clear lead on the first beat. 


And so began a titanic struggle between these three yachts that lasted until the final moments of the race, each taking and losing the lead multiple times over four hours of competition.  

Initially the tussle was between Viveka and Moonbeam IV, each playing to their advantage upwind and downwind respectively.  


Viveka took time out of her opposition with every sail change and tack, her staysail schooner rig more manageable than that of the big gaff cutters.  


Mariquita was lying in third place after an early mistake, but in the second half of the race she found her groove again, overtaking Moonbeam IV and then gaining the lead at times from Viveka.  


The battle of tactics and crew-work continued to the final moments, when the race was shortened to avoid a squall coming through and Mariquita just squeezed ahead of Viveka over the line, with Moonbeam IV following closely.  


On corrected time, however, Viveka took her second victory here in Cowes, moving her to within three points of Mariquita’s overall class lead. 


Pietro Luciani, Viveka’s tactician, said: “We are a little smaller than the other two [Mariquita and Moonbeam IV], so we can change sail quicker. We threw in a lot of manoeuvres to make what gains we could. The shifty conditions today and the fact that the course was short legs, mostly 1.5 to 2.5 miles each leg - that helped us. When we had a longer leg, the two bigger boats would catch us, so it was a game of gaining here and not losing too much there. We are very happy because we sailed a clean race.  


“At the finish we almost collided [with Mariquita] at the buoy. We were right behind them. It was a little bit of a surprise that the race was shortened, but it was a very good decision by the race committee, because then there was a squall that came through, so it was a good decision for sure.” 


In Blue group, Patna maintained her overall class lead with a second place on the water, but Cynthia was not to be caught after she escaped at the start, leading for the whole race. 


Peter Lucas, owner of Cynthia, said: “Every dog has its day and it was Cynthia’s day today. She likes 10 to 12 knots. We had full sail, we were not pressed and she goes well in those conditions. Yesterday, we were not quite so clever! It was a bit fresh for us - we ended up with two reefs in, staggering around the course. But today we flew everything and finished with our big headsail.”  


As the final, corrected results came in, though, it was Thalia that took the top step on the podium, a timely victory as she was being crewed by the great, great grandson of her designer George Wanhill. 


David Aisher, owner of Thalia, the oldest yacht in the fleet, dating from 1889, said: “There were a lot of shifts and we only had five on the boat, but we had the right amount of wind to make it work.” 


There is one final day of inshore racing in Cowes on Wednesday, 12 June, before the cross-Channel leg and finale in Le Havre. 


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