The Coutts Quarter Ton Cup 2015 finished in spectacular style with four windward leeward races in champagne sailing conditions. Going into the day Louise Morton’s Fauroux designed Bullit had a ten point lead over nearest rival Sam Laidlaw’s Aguila on 17 points, with Eric Reynolds Everitt designed Magnum Evolution third on 21 points and Tony Hayward’s Blackfun, designed by Laurie Davidson, one further point back in fourth.
Blackfun and Bullit went at it hammer and tongs in the first race of the day with Blackfun just managing to take control on the final run to win by eleven seconds on corrected time with Bullit second and Aguila third. But that was to be about the last time Bullit saw anyone’s transom all day as the team went into overdrive with great starts, text book first beats and pitch perfect defences to lead each of the subsequent races from the off, winning race six by 38 seconds from Blackfun and Magnum Evolution who tied on corrected time for second, and race seven by 46 seconds from husband Peter Morton’s Tiger (Fauroux) with Willie McNeill’s Illegal Immigrant (Ceccarelli) third.
As Bullit crossed the line of race seven Louise and her crew of Charlotte Lawrence, Colette Richmond, Lauren Eatwell, Bethan Cardan and Tom Dodson laid claim to the 2015 Coutts Quarter Ton Cup with a race to spare. Even though they had no need to race the final race the Bullit crew were having too much fun to go home and couldn’t resist racing the last race. And what a race it was as the fleet revelled in the fresh Solent conditions and glorious sunshine. Again Bullit led from the outset and at the line she pipped Magnum Evolution by 25 seconds with Tiger taking third. For Louise this was her second Coutts Quarter Ton Cup win, her first being in Espada in 2013, Espada and Louise’s crew also won the trophy in 2011, but sadly on that occasion Louise was unable to sail because of a broken leg.
Bullit may have had the regatta sewn up early, but the battle for the remaining podium places went down to the wire as the fleet enjoyed some of the closest racing to be found anywhere in sailing. The introduction of the discard after race six shuffled the pack somewhat and going into the final race Blackfun lay second on 17.5 points, Aguila was two points behind in third and Magnum Evolution had dropped into fourth, eight points behind Aguila and potentially out of the running. But if there’s one thing we know about Quarter Ton sailing it’s that you should always expect the unexpected. As Bullit claimed her fifth win of the series, it was Magnum Evolution who followed her across the line in second with Tiger third. Blackfun crossed in fourth to secure second overall, but all eyes were on Aquila as the crews did their mental arithmetic to see if she had hung onto third place. In fact it took the careful calculations of the scoring system to confirm that Aguila had finished eighth by just four seconds, her worst score of the regatta, meaning she was now tied on 29 points with Magnum Evolution. It was actually on count back that Magnum Evolution was awarded third place overall leaving Aguila with the leather medal. Magnum Evolution’s result is all the more remarkable since she is one of the few boats in the fleet still largely in her original IOR configuration.
In the Corinthian Division for all amateur crews Pierre Paris’s Penguin Playboy, crewed by Raphael Paris, Amme Lienhardt, Batile Geran and Nicolas Guillon, put in another great day to add three firsts and a fifth to their scorecard and claim Corinthian victory by six points from Paul Gibbon’s Anchor Challenge with Robbie Stewart’s Enigma taking third. This was the second time that Pierre and Pinguin Playboy have engraved their name on the Corinthian Trophy, the first being in 2013.
Alongside her third place overall Eric Reynold’s Magnum Evolution, crewed by Tom Taylor, Charles Gibbons, Julian Everitt and Piers Hugh Smith, also claimed the new trophy for the Low Rating Division, donated by long time Quarter Ton Class Revival supporter and owner Roger Swinney, which she won by 13 points from Tom Hill’s Runaway Bus with Enigma third.
After racing the fleet gathered at the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s delightful Cowes clubhouse for a Gala Dinner to celebrate a hugely successful regatta and honour their winners. The competitors were joined by a number of guests including Quarter Ton Class Patron, revered yachting scribe and past Quarter Ton Cup winner Bob Fisher. Tributes were paid to the race committee, led by Rob Lamb, which did an astonishing job of running eight races despite the loss of an entire day’s sailing. Quarter Ton Class Chairman Peter Morton highlighted the quality of the race management team by noting that two of the members have been selected to be on the race committee for the forthcoming Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Regatta in Portsmouth. Peter also took the opportunity to thank all of the teams who had travelled to Cowes to be part of the event. As he collected his prize Frenchman Pierre Paris responded by saying how much he and his crew love sailing on the Solent with the Quarter Ton Fleet and confirm that they will be back again next year.
Peter paid particular tribute to event sponsor Coutts whose association with the Quarter Ton Class is now in it’s tenth year. Coutts and their guests have been on the water every day of the regatta supporting the sailors and enjoying the fabulous spectacle of these historic little yachts being sailed at the very top level by some of the best sailors on the planet. John Goss of Coutts explained that throughout the week they and their guests had also been raising funds for Sail for Cancer and he asked Geoff Gritton of Panic, one of Sail for Cancer’s great supporters, to come forward and accept a donation of over £1,400 on behalf of the charity.
The Coutts Quarter Ton Cup prize givings are famous for featuring some very special prizes alongside the main trophies. The Marineware Trophy for the Concours D’elegance was this year awarded to Rickard Melander’s Alice II, which underwent a major refit this winter and is looking quite stunning. The prize for the oldest crew once again went to Jim and George Webb’s Flashheart with a combined age of 264, while the youngest crew award went to Olivia Dowling’s Catch with a combined age of just 152. The Oldest Bowman trophy was awarded to 50 year old John Paxman of Panic. A Whiskers Special Award was presented by Lincoln Reading to the boat which had seen the most improvement in their results from last year to this and was won by Richard Fleck’s Per Elisa who finished seventh overall, up eleven places from 2014.
The Kemp Plate, which is presented in memory of Stephen Kemp who was responsible for bringing Coutts to the Quarter Ton Cup and who sadly lost his battle with cancer two years ago, does not have a specific purpose, but rather it finds its winner organically each year rather in the manner of Harry Potter’s sorting hat. This year the Kemp Plate was presented to Matt Haslam of Blackfun for a truly outstanding achievement. Peter Morton explained that Matt had been so engrossed in his mobile phone that when he reached the bottom of the pontoon ramp at Cowes Yacht Haven on his way to the boat he failed to turn either left or right, and instead walked straight off the end of the dock, much to the amusement of the assembled fleet.
And finally came the presentation of the Coutts Quarter Ton Cup to Louise and her crew. Having paid tribute to the Bullit crew’s achievement in general and to Louise in particular for her second win, Peter then jokingly asked for his boat back (he won the 2014 event in Bullit before gifting it to Louise last winter). In her acceptance speech Louise reiterated her husband’s praise for the race committee, thanked her fellow competitors for a fantastic regatta, thanked Tom Dodson for “Risking his reputation to sail with us,” praised her crew for their incredible support and commitment and wryly thanked Morty for the boat.
And so the sun has set on another Coutts Quarter Ton Cup. Full results, photos, video and blog updates from the event are available at the Quarter Ton Blog, and further information about the class can be found at www.quartertonclass.org.