Flying Fifteens at 2017 Charles Stanley Direct Cowes Classics Week
Following on immediately after the Southern Area Championship on Monday 17th July, 28 boats came to the line for the Flying Fifteens 70th Anniversary Race run by the Royal London Yacht Club in a light northerly breeze. With heavy bias at the pin end of the shoreline and tide under the fleet the first attempt at starting resulted in a general recall. With encouragement from race officer Derek Hodd to hold back the fleet got away at the second attempt. By the time the fleet reached the first mark Richard Triffit’s Triffs was in front along with Justin Waples in Sparks and Bubbles but the wind was dying and the tide building. One by one the fleet started paddling for home and accepting tows. After two hours only the visiting South Africans Campbell Alexander and Jeremy Kriek in Durban Flyer persevered. Eventually they gave up as well. At the prize giving they were presented with the Queen Victoria Jubilee Cup as last men standing.
Tuesday was the first day of the points series in Cowes Classics Week. A respectable fleet of 16 boats entered and saw a better breeze with 12 knots from ESE. In the first race the South African team showed they were going to be a force to be reckoned with by taking an early lead on a three round windward-leeward course and were not headed thereafter. Unfortunately for them they were not familiar with the nuances of the course instructions requiring competitors to go through the start line at the end of each round. They dutifully retired (as did several other boats) giving the race to local fleet captain Mike Dixon crewed by Stephen Scriven in fflashback. Andrew Millband was second in Fifty Fifty with Graham Latham third in Boat.
In a freshening breeze the second race on Tuesday saw a very nasty incident at the first windward mark when a Dragon ran downwind on port gybe between the windward mark and the spreader. With much of the fleet approaching on the port layline several boats realised that they were in trouble as the Dragon had sailed itself into an impossible position. Nick Clarke and Pete Ashworth in Black tried to take avoiding action at the last moment but were T-boned. Pete was thrown forward but Nick was trapped by the Dragon resulting in nasty head injuries. Richard Drabble in Fram Freyr put his crew Steph Brown aboard Black to aid Nick who was bleeding profusely. Nick was rushed ashore by RIB and met by an ambulance and spent the night in hospital where he was treated for fractures to the nose and forehead and received 27 stitches. This obviously took the edge off the race for the fleet. The race was won by Durban Flyer. Fifty Fifty and Boat fought out the battle for second and rounding the last mark headed to the committee vessel on the short beat to the finish. Fflashback and Ffoenix (Christina and Stephen Moncur) realised that the finish mark was out of position and pipped them to the line but Fifty Fifty and Boat were granted redress. Fram Freyr was also granted redress for assisting Black and was reinstated to her position of second at the first windward mark. So the final order was Durban Flyer, Fram Freyr, Boat and Fifty Fifty.
In Cowes Classics Week the Fifteens race under a handicap system where the open (modern) boats race off a Portsmouth Yardstick of 1015, Silver 1026 and Classics 1041. The classic boat Silver Fox, sailed by UK association president Bobby Salmond crewed by Dave Hill, showed that the handicap system works reasonably well claiming two fourth places. Another classic Fflipineck sailed by Magnus Wheatley the managing director of the event sponsor Charles Stanley Direct recorded an 8th and 9th in his first races in the class.
On Wednesday three races were staged. In the first windward-leeward in 12 knots of breeze fflashback led on the first lap but let things slip on the shifts on the second beat. Fifty Fifty took the lead and held off Durban Flyer to the finish. Silver Fox finished eighth but claimed third place on handicap. In the next race Durban Flyer was over the line at the pin end. This allowed Fram Freyr to lead the fleet around the course. The South Africans recovered well to claim second with Fifty Fifty third. Silver Fox and Fflipineck claimed fourth and sixth respectively.
By the last race on Wednesday the breeze had built to 18 knots and race office Tony Taylor set a round the cans course back to Cowes. The “big” crews of Durban Flyer and fflashback led on the first beat to QXI International racing mark. The next leg was a shy spinnaker reach which was fun in that wind strength. On the beat to the finish Durban Flyer extended the lead and Fifty Fifty and Fram Freyr overtook fflashback. Overnight the leader was Fifty Fifty.
After five races there were no discards so Durban Flyer and Fram Freyr in particular were looking forward to race 6 so that they could discard their retirements from race 1. However the weather was such that no further racing was possible in the regatta leaving Fifty Fifty as the overall winner. On Thursday the fleet was delighted to see Nick Clarke back on site at the Cowes Corinthian YC examining the damage to his boat.
At the prizegiving Andrew Millband in Fifty Fifty was crowned the winner. In addition Campbell and Jeremy won the travellers prize for coming over from South Africa. Fram freyr was presented with the seamanship award for the support given to Nick Clarke and Steph was given the North Sails spot prize for seamanship.
Full Results here
More Pictures on Yachts and Yachting website