Sailing: Harrison's day in calm before storm

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The Independent Online

All dressed up and nowhere to go, nearly 7,000 competitors in almost 1,000 yachts were left drifting around in the central Solent yesterday. The weather, which was perfect for beach balls and ice creams, was reluctant to support the opening day of Skandia Cowes Week.

All dressed up and nowhere to go, nearly 7,000 competitors in almost 1,000 yachts were left drifting around in the central Solent yesterday. The weather, which was perfect for beach balls and ice creams, was reluctant to support the opening day of Skandia Cowes Week.

It was the second successive flat start to the big week. The central Solent is a notorious stretch of water which acts as something of a buffer zone. So, as so often happens, there was a light breeze in the west, down towards the Needles, and a light breeze in the east, towards Portsmouth - and precious little in between.

Eventually, the brass cannon lined up in front of the Royal Yacht Squadron roared out the warning that an attempt at starting some races was imminent. Success! The problem seemed to be that you could not send the fleets very far, so the courses had to be short, and then what had earlier looked so lacking in promise suddenly turned into a perfect racing breeze. All of the entries, and the latest count was 980, bent to the business of hoisting sails and besting the opposition.

None more effectively than a youth team on the 52-foot Chernikeeff 2. They had been lent the boat at the last minute by Peter Harrison, whose mind is principally engaged on finding a £20m partner to continue his America's Cup campaign. He found just enough time, however, to enjoy being told that his boat had won the first major trophy of the week, the Queen's Cup.

Every local Michael Fish or Sian Lloyd is warning that today will be altogether different. The good news is that there will be quite a lot of wind as the remnants of the low-pressure weather system that was Hurricane Alex sweep across the United Kingdom. The bad news is that the Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts will soon be replaced by oilskins and welly boots.

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