Pre-Event Report

Coutts Quarter Ton Cup to Start with a Bang
Report by Rupert Holmes

A fleet of 23 exquisitely prepared classic race boats – along with some of the world’s best sailors – have gathered in Cowes for the 13th edition of the revived Coutts Quarter Ton Cup.

With four countries represented, plus visitors from Scotland and Jersey, it will again be an international affair. As ever, there’s a diverse variety of sailors, ranging from members of Ben Ainslie’s 2017 Land Rover BAR America’s Cup team, through seasoned trans-Atlantic solo racers, to long-standing Solent gurus. However, parachuting in a team of hot-shot experts is no guarantee of winning this event – it’s often the crews that have practiced and raced together over a longer period that have the consistency to come out on top.

Louise Morton has won the event for the past two years in succession by adopting this strategy and will again be a formidable competitor.

Her all-woman crew includes Olympian Kate Macgregor, plus match racing supremos Charlotte Lawrence and Imogen Stanley. “I’m really looking forward to this Quarter Ton Cup,” Morton says. “Looking down the list of entries, the standard of the fleet is particularly high and there are some very good boats here, so the winner will need to show a lot of consistency.”

Morton will need to keep a very close eye on the best-performing boat in the season to date – Sam Laidlaw’s Judel/Vrolijk designed Aguila. Laidlaw goes into the event with the advantage of having sailed with exactly the same team at every regatta this year, which has already bagged him an enviable haul of silverware.

A winning format
The format of several 45-minute races each day is one that competitors love – it creates enormously exciting racing with heaps of potential for boat-on-boat contact. This works equally well for Coutts’ guests, who will be watching the action on the water from the 72ft motor yacht Rum Jungle, with commentary from Land Rover BAR sailor Matt “Catflap” Cornwell.

With more than half the fleet having an IRC rating in the 0.910-0.915 range, and a further nine boats within four points each side, the rating difference between the bulk of the entries represents around 30 seconds over the course of an entire race.

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There’s only one boat that rates significantly slower than the rest of the fleet – the Everitt designed Magnum Evolution that’s being sailed this week by Barry Dunning. She has a reputation as a rocket ship in heavy airs, which will surely have the faster-rated boats looking nervously over their shoulders on the windy opening day of the championship.

While the big names and immaculately prepared boats attract much of the attention, one of the keys to the event’s long-standing success has been in the recognition of both Corinthian entries and the less well funded boats that are enticed by the closeness of the competition and the very real potential to beat some of the very best sailors on the planet.

The prospect of winds gusting more than 30 knots tomorrow morning will keep the fleet in Cowes Yacht Haven until 1200, after which it’s hoped to get at least one race in while there’s still fairly flat water before the tide starts to ebb. Given the renowned difficulty of keeping a Quarter Tonner upright while sailing downwind in a big blow the afternoon promises plenty of thrills and spills for competitors and spectators alike.