Royal St George Win Cumberland Cup 2010
With a close to perfect score, Andrew Fowler's team of Sam Hurst, Brendan Fafliani, John Sheehy, Nick Smyth, Guy O'Leary, Peter Bailey and Phil Lawton from Royal St George YC in Dublin, Ireland, won the 2010 Royal Thames Cumberland Cup from Ian Ilsley's team from Yacht Club de Monaco. Firm friend and arch-rival of the home side the Southern Yacht Club of New Orleans was third, claiming by dint of that result the Bourgne Cup, contested on each and every occasion the clubs meet, in whatever larger competition..
Over three days at Queen Mary Water hard by Heathrow airport the seven teams sailed a total of 54 races in the international yacht club contest, ferried to and fro from the RTYC's Knightsbridge clubhouse in that iconic symbol of London, a bright scarlet Routemaster double-decker omnibus.
Sailing in a fleet of eight carefully-matched modified J80s the competition began with a two-day double round-robin in which each team raced each other team twice. St George topped the league, winning 11 out of their 12 matches and losing only to the hosts and current holders, Royal Thames, and thus apparently setting the scene for the finals. It was a scene dramatically re-shaped by the winner-take-all nature of the Cumberland Cup's competition structure.
With teams travelling from across the globe to compete in this regatta, the organisers deliberately eschew a competition format that eliminates teams early from the competition, espousing instead a format that keeps every team sailing into the final round. The result is The Ladder, which as some teams including the hosts found to their cost might be better termed The Greasy Pole. On The Ladder, a win carries the double bonus of promotion to the next rung - but every loss earns the double-penalty of relegation. On The Ladder, it is just possible by dint of really good sailing to redeem a disappointing result in the round-robin and climb all the way to the top - as did the Monegasques - while the series leaders - in this case the Irish - must not put a foot wrong if they are to retain their fingertip grip on the crown.
Thus on Sunday The Ladder's first and lowest rung saw the Germans face-off against the Kiwis for a chance for stardom, while Royal St George had to wait patiently to see which of the Yanks (and it's not often the team from New Orleans are called Yankees!) and the Brits would be first to step up to try and knock them off their perch. As matters transpired, it was Royal Thames who beat the Southerners to race against the champs: to no avail. Royal St George won.
After Round One, the Brits began what turned out to be their slide down The Ladder, while the visitors from the Mediterranean climbed ever higher. The Southern, meanwhile, had to dispose of Royal Port Nicholson if they were to have a chance, in Round Three and the final round of The Ladder, of another crack at the leaders.
With Port Nich out of the way, the crunch race in Round Three was that between the Southern - highly vocal as always - and Monaco, who had quietly beaten Royal Thames when the latter earned one penalty too many, for 'sculling' the boat with the rudder while trying to slow down to block a rival.
Given that in the round-robin YCdeM had lost almost as many races as they had won (and then been penalised a further point for a violent T-bone collision in their early race against St George) it is not unkind to suggest that their presence, by Round Three, on the top rung of The Ladder had been predicted by few. But Ian Ilsley, their team captain who by his own admission 'hadn't team raced for years' had by now earned both the respect of his rivals and the nickname 'the Old Fox'.
Southern, in blue jackets, began by blowing the yellows away at the start to be a comfortable and apparently safe 1-2 at the windward end of the course - but somehow one of the YCM team managed to get close enough on the long run to engage a blue boat and suddenly it was Game On again. On the final beat all four boats were mixed together and the denouement came - as so often in this two-boat team racing where the crucial factor is that the team with the boat in last place loses the match - at, beyond, above and back round again to the finishing line, with a Southern boat blocking out one Monaco boat only to find his own way back blocked by the other Monaco boat. And vice versa. Finally a Southern boat crossed the finish line - only to cop a penalty by blocking the path of the last returning Monaco boat under the rule that says a boat no longer racing must not interfere with one that is still racing.
And so it was a Monaco-Ireland final. If anyone thought this would be a walk-over for the Irish, they were wrong. Monaco had their tails up and no mistake. Once again it was their down-wind sailing that kept them engaged and it was not until the final mark, when the Monaco boat in second earned a penalty, that it really was Game Over.
Monaco were justly pleased with their Ladder climb from 4th place after the Round Robin - but none could nay-say the Irish for their win. 15 matches sailed and only one of them lost.
LATEST UPDATE AT 6TH MAY 2010:
With a week to go to the start of the 2010 Royal Thames Cumberland Cup International Yacht Club Contest, the event has all the hallmarks of being another very closely -fought regatta. This year, the Royal Thames is welcoming competitors from our reciprocal clubs in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Monaco, USA and Ireland– all of whom are fielding highly-competitive teams.
Moving from the previous venue in London’s Docklands, the 2010 event will be raced for at Queen Mary sailing water in the RTYC’s new fleet of J80s, jointly-owned with the Royal Yacht Squadron. Transport to and from the venue will be in one of London’s most iconic vehicles – the London Routemaster Bus and, with the event’s Opening Reception being hosted at St James’s Palace, competitors can be assured of a very ‘London’ sailing event.
Racing is scheduled as a triple round-robin competition where every team races every other team three times to determine their ranking on the Finals Ladder. This will be sailed in three rounds on Sunday 16th May. On the ladder, 7th races 6th, 5th races 4th, 3rd races 2nd to determine those places: meanwhile, the series leaders sit out to see who from the 3rd v 2nd match will emerge to have a crack at toppling them from their perch. Round Two follows in smaller pattern, but using the new rankings determined from Round One. Round Three will determine the final placings in the contest, including the winner of the 201 Royal Thames Cumberland Cup. The Club’s J80s provide the perfect fleet for team-racing with responsive, easy to race boats that give great performance in the right hands.
The sailing venue, home to Queen Mary Sailing Club, offers unbroken views of the race course while two-boat team racing itself is probably the easiest discipline in the entire sport to follow from on shore: 'last boat loses' is the dictum, for the scoring system is such that the team that has the boat in fourth place loses the match. If the racing is as close as it promises to be, spectators will have a great chance to see some excellent team-racers at work.
The social programme matches the vigour of the sailing. There is a welcome party for our visitors here in the Knightsbridge clubhouse at 1930 following the main skippers' briefing. On Thursday there is a reception at St James's Palace in the presence of HRH the Earl of Wessex, himself hot-foot from the South Coast where he will have been competing in another Royal Thames event, our Sea Cadets' Royalist Regatta under the guidance of past Vice-Commodore Peter Hunter. Friday – the busiest day on the race course – has been left free and there will be a Regatta Dinner here in the Clubhouse on Saturday. For those not racing, we have an interesting shore-based programme involving a visit to the home of the Royal Household Cavalry and a tour of one of the city’s most historic areas – St James’s.
These social events are for all members, not merely those competing in the Cumberland Cup: indeed it is hoped that as many members as possible will come and both support this, our major international regatta, and add to the welcome to our guests from all over the world. For those attending either or both the St James's Palace reception or the Regatta dinner, the welcome party on Wednesday is free-of-charge.
For more details on these events and the rest of the regatta, please see the links below. To book for any of the social events, email Victoria Scott on firstname.lastname@example.org or call Victoria on 0207 201 7267