This years JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race was to be the swansong for Flair IV as the new 410 "Premier Flair" arrives from Slovenia in early July. The 2002 race was Flair IV's second outing and she achieved a class win and 5th overall so with a good forecast and a beat off the startline for the first time since then there was real optimism that we could say farewell to the old girl in style.
An awesome start about a third of the way down the line from the Island saw us lifted on the tide so that when we tacked onto port off of Egypt Point we were able to cross the whole fleet on port! Utilising tide and wind shifts we were able to stay ahead of all but the fantastically handicapped Swan 48 (yes, 48!!!) Alvine Jaocbite who used her waterline length and power to devastating effect up the middle of the Solent leaving us with a couple of J109s and and old sparring partner the HoD 35 Zarafa.
Arriving at the Needles with only 1hr 40m gone we chose to shoot the gap and immediately gybed inshore to avoid the tide and were followed by Scho in Zarafa. With most of the black fleet choosing to stay offshore we both ploughed a lonely furrow along the island shore with Rob telling us when to avoid ledges and when we could get further in. The speed and distance between us and Zarafa swung backwards and forwards until we eventually round St Katherines (just after a warm pasty break, well done Andy!) side by side after three and half hours sailing!
Still hugging the shore and dodging lobster pots and trailing lines, we waved to Shirley Robertson before picking up a fantastic gust to ease a five length lead on Zarafa. As we came around the corner into Sandown Bay we found another couple of gusts that allowed us to open another 20 boat lengths on Zarafa. This, combined with her getting stuck in an argument with a couple of pink fleet boats, meant that was the last we saw of her and left us alone to catch Alvine Jacobite. A good rounding of Bembridge Ledge bouy and a harden up close to the Priory Bay/Seaview shoreline saw us cheat more tide whilst nipping inside both of the red pole markers of Ryde sands helped keep the heart rates up!
The last beat was a wet and squally affair with tantalising glimpses of Alvine Jacobite but never close enough to think we would be able to save our time on her. And so it proved, we finished in 2nd place in our class, 2nd in Black Group and 42nd overall. Not quite the highest we heights we reached in 02 but certainly a result to be really pleased with and a fitting finale for Flair IV. Once again she felt slippery and fast with her Sanders Carbon Medium No.1 and main and her Sanders AP kite gave us great speed to get away from the smaller, lighter HoDs and Js down the back of the island. In fact we were only headed by Alvine Jacobite in our Group in the whole 7.5 hours! Perhaps we'll have to lay Flair IV up and watch her become even better when the age benefit gets applied to her IRC rating!
And so to the 410 - she will certainly have a lot to live up to. As for Flair IV, you can always charter her for a superb trip around yourself!!!