PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Despite three more inshore races being held on day five of the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event for three boat teams with Corinthian crews, France Blue leads with a similar 11.5 point margin to yesterday, but Flanders North Sea is now the team that has relieved France White of second place overall.
Today racing returned to the central-eastern Solent with two windward-leeward races and one round the cans course. The day started in July-like sunshine and a light southwesterly, but the arrival of an occluding front early afternoon brought cloud, light rain and an ultra-shifty breeze and fog thick enough to make spotting marks hard - more October-like conditions.
The first race saw a pair of wins for GBR Red: The Henning family's Mumm 36, Alice, won in Class 1 and the J/35, Bengal Magic, claimed the small boat race - the first bullets for both boats.
For Alice, it was well timed. This was after a recent fight with a pontoon in Cork that required intense repair work only completed last Friday, and followed a grounding on the Hampshire shore yesterday and another long night in the shed.
"It hasn't been great this last couple of weeks," admitted Simon Henning. As to today's race win: "The wind was right for us - nice and light on the first beat. We had a good start and went left, where the tide was better."
The lighter, flatter water first race favoured the 20+ year old designs, Bengal Magic skipper James Chalmers agreed: "The wind was a bit lighter and everything just seemed a lot easier. We had to spin around the back because we were over early, but we knew the direction we wanted to go in and give that a push." They too benefitted from hitting the left.
However GBR Red has 184.5 points, just 4.5 away from the podium, but is struggling for consistency. La Réponse's normally immaculate starting left them today - in all three races they were over early. "The team thing is great," continued Chalmers. "You have good days and you have bad days. In the last race, we went the wrong way up the first beat and paid for it. In this event you get punished for the slightest mistake."
Today's top scoring boat was Noel Racine's JPK 1010 Foggy Dew, the 'small' boat in France White with a 5-1-1. Their team mate, the First 40.7, Pen Koent of Emmanuel le Men, is the top scoring 'big' boat, however their performance is offset by Didier Gaudoux's JND 39, Lann Ael 2, which scored three of today's biggest results. Mention should be made of Andrew Hurst's sistership, Stamina, which had her best day finishing third the two final races.
Race two saw a win for GBR Blue's and the Blair family's King 40, Cobra, but they sandwiched this between an 10th and an 8th. Spokesman and mastman, Richard Moxey, described their winning race: "We nailed the start and the first beat, going left. We made smooth manoeuvres, no muck-ups. Then we hoisted and did a quick gybe and had clear wind for the run."
In the Israeli team, placed fifth overall, it was the turn of the JPK 1010, Carlton, Tel Aviv, to perform best, posting a 2-7-5.
Omer Brand, upwind trimmer and Team Israel manager commented: "All in all, I think we are doing well for our first attempt bearing in mind that most of the guys [and girls] have never sailed on these types of boats nor done a serious regatta before. They are loving it and are never giving up."
Once again France Blue was the star performer, but even they are having a mixed set of results, as yacht designer Daniel Andrieu, skipper of their 'small' boat, Cifraline 4, explained: "Yesterday we had a very, very poor day with bad starts, laylines and spinnaker sets - everything was bad. Yesterday night we had a big meeting - we didn't change anything, but we decided how to improve everything. This morning we went out early and did a lot of manoeuvres with spinnakers, gybes, tacks, laylines, etc and after that we were better prepared."
Cifraline's seven crew, five of whom, Andrieu admits, are closer to 70 than 60 years old, also preferred being back in the central eastern Solent, even though conditions were still tricky. "The wind is more shifty. You get a lake of wind and then a shift of 20°. It is great fun!"
Racing continues tomorrow with the traditional race around the Isle of Wight which will score with a 1.5x co-efficient.