Cowes Week: Flying start key as Stead sails to second Britannia Cup

Momo, Jethou and Bella Mente. Picture: Rick Tomlinson
Momo, Jethou and Bella Mente. Picture: Rick Tomlinson
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Yesterday was a beautifully warm day with a stable east-north-easterly air flow over the Solent area that mostly averaged nine to 11 knots, with a few stronger gusts, making for excellent racing conditions.

The day saw the first racing for the five 60 to 72ft yachts in the IRC Big Boat Class, which had a downwind start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line.

They were competing, along with IRC Class 0, for one of the event’s most prestigious trophies – the Britannia Cup – with the winner determined by average speed around the course on corrected time.The 
three 72ft Mini Maxis – Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou and Dieter Schoen’s Momo – made a spectacular sight as they approached the downwind start.

With 15 seconds to go all three had been pointing away from the line to avoid the strong west-going tide sweeping them over the start.

The trio then bore away almost in unison – and hit the line with speed moments before the cannon.

Another 15 seconds later they each had their asymmetric spinnakers hoisted and filling, with Bella Mente enjoying a marginal advantage to windward that also gave her clean air.

By the end of their 23.6mile course, she had a 15-minute lead on Momo, while Jethou had been forced to retire.

IRC Class 0, which started from the Black Group Committee boat in the western Solent, saw Peter Harrison’s TP52 Sorcha take line honours, more than eight minutes ahead of Piet Vroon’s Ker 51 Tonnerre 4.

Both saved their time on the rest of the fleet.

However, it was Jonathan Bamberger’s Farr 45 Spitfire that took third place on corrected time, just 10 seconds ahead of Sir Keith Mills’ Ker 40+ Invictus.

As the boat with the fastest average speed on corrected time, Bella Mente was declared winner of the Britannia Cup, with Momo second and Sorcha third.

‘We had a great day and I am delighted as this is the second time I’ve won the cup,’ said Adrian Stead, strategist on board Bella Mente.

‘The win was all about getting a good start. From there on it was just a case of sailing well.’