The final day of the Edinburgh Cup, supported by Aberdeen Asset Management, served up another tantalisingly close race in challenging conditions. The day started with an hour’s postponement while a sea breeze became established – a decision that delivered another stunning day, making best use of the afternoon’s limited amount of decent wind.
With Graham and Julia Bailey not sailing today, having won both the Edinburgh Cup and the Corinthian title, and Laurie Smith having craned out, two helms dominated the front of the fleet – Ted Sawyer and Tom Vernon. They were never more than a few seconds apart until the end of the final beat. Lawrie Smith took second overall and Quentin Strauss third. His top result today saw Sawyer retain fourth overall, two points adrift of Strauss. In the Corinthian Division a 10th place was enough for Mark Wade to take second overall, while Eric Williams secured third.
“There’s something really special about the Edinburgh Cup,” said a delighted Graham Bailey, who won the event on his 13th attempt. “It’s an iconic trophy, one of the three classics in British yachting, along with the Burton Cup and Prince of Wales Cup. I won the Burton Cup when I sailed National 12s and I don’t sail International 14s, so I’ll never get the Price of Wales Cup, but it really means a lot to have won this.”
Quentin Strauss’s Rumours started the day as the only boat that could beat Smith into second place. With the first start having had a general recall, and a strong ebb tide pushing the fleet over the line, Strauss took a cautious approach – he was closest to the pin but some 10 seconds back. The move came as no surprise, given his OCS in race three. Strauss had shown good speed earlier in the week, but wasn’t able to pull away from the pack today and finished eight, just hanging onto third place overall, two points ahead of Sawyer.
The fleet split on the first beat with eight or nine boats on each side of the course, plus a handful closer to the middle. However, when the two sides came together there was almost nothing to choose between the two options and the fleet was very tight at the top mark, with many boats overlapped three deep.
It was made all the more interesting by the spreader mark being almost a boat length above the layline from the windward mark. Mike Holmes’ Hands Off found a small gap for a hitch onto port to weather the mark, and Eric Williams just managed to luff round the mark, but Jenny Stutley’s Chime ll had to gybe clear, losing a lot of ground. Tom Vernon’s Excite led at the first top mark, but having been OCS on two occasions earlier in the week he was not in contention for a podium spot.
At the leeward gate, Vernon had lost his lead to Ted Sawyer, who now held a 25 second advantage, with both boats pulling progressively further away from the fleet. However at the next windward mark Sawyer was only 15 seconds ahead, and Vernon gained a further seven seconds in increasingly light airs on the final run. With the wind continuing to drop, as cloud cover moved over the race course, the final beat was shortened to 1.4 miles.
The leaders split tacks for much of the last leg and it was only close to the finish that it was clear that Sawyer had extended his lead in the light airs to win by 40 seconds. Sawyer, an 81-year-old from Captiva YC in Florida, has been sailing for less than 30 years, but certainly doesn’t allow age to slow him down. As soon as his boat reached the dock he zoomed off to dinner and a show in London, leaving crew member Martin “Stavros” Payne to talk about today’s race. “We had a nice start mid-line then went furthest left, where there was probably more favourable tide. We did well on the downwind legs, but on the beats there were times we crossed less than two or three lengths ahead of Excite – we were too close to be able to cover them, but Ted did an excellent job on the helm.”
At the prize giving Graham Bailey praised the race organisation at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, saying: “…we owe special thanks to PRO Roger Wilson and his team, who made use of every inch of Christchurch Bay to give us great courses.” British Dragon Association Chairman Ron James then thanked sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management, Pantaenius, Harken, Zhik and Williams Shipping. After a successful 2014 event, the class is enthusiastically looking forward to next year’s Edinburgh Cup in Largs, Scotland.