Sailing: Marathon course gives cause for curses: Big boats get little change from long-distance race as Cowes fleet find propulsion a problem

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RACING on the second day of Cowes Week turned into a trail of misery yesterday as wind, tide and a bungled course conspired to disrupt the sailing.

With the wind in the central Solent tracking around in a roughly clockwise direction and the tide beginning to flood strongly from the west, the direction in which the 750 boats were being sent, there was soon a great washing line of sails pegged at anchor for several miles along the rain-sodden Hampshire coastline west of Southampton Water.

On the Isle of Wight side the last class to start, the small X-Boats, managed to make about 500 yards in 100 minutes. However, there was just enough breeze for the first class an hour and three quarters earlier, the Etchells 22s, to make it to their turning mark, Frigate Buoy, against the tide and then turn to the next mark with the stream under them.

Or, at least, the first few did. Seven boats, including two who had been premature starters, got away from the rest of the 63-strong Etchells field. The race was won by Nigel Young, sailing Tim Law's Katemba.

The officials who set the courses had decided to send class one all the way west to Hurst buoy, past Lymington. On the best of days that smacked of a 'get rid of them for as long as possible' policy. Johnny Caulcutt, sailing the biggest boat, Maximiser, decided to anchor off Yarmouth for a beer at the Royal Solent club.

He was not alone in retiring, but although many of the rest continued and despite the course being shortened, something which Caulcutt thought was not possible, none of them were able to beat the time limit.

There had been a breeze in the empty east Solent, but, in any case, it was ridiculous to send the big boats on such a thoughtless course.

Only one X-Boat finished in time, the brothers Westmacott, Richard and William, grandsons of the designer, in Xanthus.

If nothing else, the day's events gave people plenty to talk about when they returned ashore. 'When are they going to learn that it would be much better to start the racing at 2.0pm, when the breeze has settled?' the yacht designer, Tony Castro, said.

On the other hand, there had been a forecast of thunder and lighting in the afternoon with winds up to 45 knots. As it turned out, the sun shone and a gentle breeze blew from the south-west - perfect for children on the beach.

(Photograph omitted)