Day 1 Report

Coutts Quarter Ton Cup 2017 – Day 1

Report by Rupert Holmes

 

The opening day of the Coutts Quarter Ton Cup dawned with blue skies and a brisk 20-25 knot westerly breeze. However, with the wind forecast to increase during the morning, the fleet was held ashore while two mark laying RIBs ventured out at 1100 to check on conditions first hand, which led to a decision to abandon racing for the day.

“We’ve been out on the Hill Head Plateau, where there’s 22-25 knots of wind, with a sharp Solent chop and broken water,” explained Principal Race Officer, Robert Lamb of the Royal Southampton YC, “…and there’s no prospect of the wind dropping before the tide turns to the west later this afternoon, when the wind against tide will kick up an even worse sea state.”

With the two Quarter Tonners that broke rigs during this year’s Lendy Cowes Week serving as a fresh reminder of the relatively fragile nature of these boats, there was overwhelming support for the decision from owners and sailors. “I think everyone will be pleased, especially at this stage of the regatta, where you don’t want to risk damage,” said Tom Hill, owner of the newly restored Belinda.

Hill is a long-standing Quarter Ton owner, having sailed Runaway Bus for several years, before buying and refitting Belinda. “The standard is very high in the fleet,” Hill says, “so you have to keep improving and you learn a lot by sailing against the strongest teams. Belinda is a fairer shape than Runaway Bus and is a much better boat in stronger breezes. John [Corby] did a fantastic job – the boat is now very rigid and feels really solid in a way that’s lacking in some older boats.”

An irresistible challenge
While the class is renowned for attracting some of the world’s most successful sailors, including Olympic medallists, winners of the Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup sailors, it’s also one that appeals to Corinthian teams who relish the challenge of attempting to beat the best in the world. While there are only half a dozen entries this year with an all-amateur crew, the Corinthian trophy is a highly coveted prize that several teams have in their sights in the longer term. Among them is Belinda, although professional sailor Pip Hare is on board this week to help the team hone their skills.

For some the Quarter Ton Cup is also a family affair. The White family’s Joker is racing with a full complement of family members this week, including John White, his brother Nick, son Ed, and daughter-in-law Jo. They bought the boat in Holland 4/5 years ago and sailed her back to the Solent on her own keel. “The Quarter Ton Cup is tremendous competition – probably the most competitive IRC championship of all,” says John. “The race management is tremendous and there’s always good communication on the water.” For Joker’s team, today was one of tweaking and calibration, under the watchful eye of the team’s coach, Etchells world champion Paul Blowers.

Another newcomer to the fleet this year is Jim Prower’s Theseus, one of five Fauroux designs at the event. He’s a former International Moth sailor who co-owned a Quarter Tonner in the 1970s and has been attracted back into the class, again with the longer-term ambition of winning the event’s Corinthian trophy.

Tomorrow the forecast is for a west-north-westerly breeze averaging 15 knots, but with significantly strong gusts. The intention is to complete four 45-minute races, with the first warning signal for the 23-strong fleet at 1100.