Cowes Week 2011
2011 is the first year for the Aberdeen Asset Management to sponsor Cowes Week. As competitors on the water, we do not see as much advantage in the sponsorship as is felt ashore and in the race management.
Fortunately the racing has been able to be run with the same professionalism in the non sponsorship years as this year.
However the advantages are felt in the organisation and framework as well as the ability to have more entertainment ashore.
Cowes Sailing School is more involved on rather than off the water and the most noticeable thing about 2011 was the amount of wind! It was one of the breeziest weeks for a number of years resulting in a lot of excitement in some classes, with too much excitement in others!
There were a variety of incidents of which I am pleased to say we were only spectators! A year for testing gear... Does the mast of an Extreme 40 break in a pitch pole capsize? The answer eventually was Yes! How can you miss seeing a large orange oil tanker, even if your asymmetric kite is obscuring the view? See the video on www.cowes.co.uk.
Aboard the Sigma 38, Bellerophon of Wight, our excitements were thankfully tame in comparison, a fast spinnaker ride, an exploding kicker block and a couple of great starts.
The crew this year was made up of three who have been regulars for some years, some new recruits including a birthday girl with some familiar faces reappearing after a break of a few years. A smaller number of crew this year, but most did at least two days instead of just one, which gives a little more continuity.
The Sigma 38 fleet really seems to be going fast this year, as almost all boats are in private ownership with several training races to gel the crew together which has resulted generally with only a few minutes between first and the rest of the fleet.
During the week on Bellerophon, everyone was offered the opportunity to helm at some point during the race and move about the boat to try their hand at the various jobs and experience as much variety as possible.
The result of this ethos is that there is becoming a gap between us and the rest of the fleet.
However we still feel that there is a need to offer this particular type of participation in racing.
Our starts this year were mostly from the Royal Yacht Squadron line which nearly always resulted in our course being set in the Western Solent which definitely proved demanding on several days in physical terms of wind and seas.
Committee boat start on Monday was to the west but Wednesday Committee boat start was in the Eastern Solent, giving us all a well needed calmer day and opportunity to enjoy flying the spinnaker.
The Thursday saw the fleet back into the Western Solent and a particularly blustery day, we were well reefed down, but the leaders put up their spinnakers with some inevitable results of attempting to wash the mast in the seas with a good broach.
For some of the crew it was a challenge just to stay aboard as they climbed over the coach roof in the tacks. This all results in a very good feeling of a day well sailed as we return wet, blown but safe to our berth.
Our overriding aim is to enable people to experience to highs and lows of racing in a prestigious regatta and to encourage confidence so that people will want to compete in future events. We provide training as the day goes by and a debriefing once returned to the berth. Hopefully we have encouraged more people to become involved as a future race crew or even in charge of their own campaign.