THE opening day of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week produced slightly cooler, yet invitingly-fresh sailing conditions which made for an exciting and challenging day on the water.
Podium finishes put the wind firmly in the sails of several Isle of Wight crews to give them the best possible start to their 2014 campaigns.
Among them was Giles Peckham’s 'Dauntless’ – a formidable name in the Darings, having won the class every year since 2011.
The defending champions held a commanding lead at the end of the three-hour race, finishing with an advantage of more than four minutes.
Cowes skipper Gavia Wilkinson-Cox topped the Dragon class on 'Jerboa’, finishing 11 seconds ahead of Eric Williams’ 'Ecstatic’.
Fellow Cowes sailors Graham and Julia Bailey finished just 29 seconds later to take third place.
Williams, one of the longest-standing competitors at Cowes Week, having raced at the event since 1959, said: "We had an interesting course today – it was difficult in the sense there were lots of wind shifts and tidal benefits.
"On the last leg we underestimated how high we needed to sail to reach the finish – Gavia tacked to the line first and we should have followed immediately, but we waited about ten seconds longer, which was enough for her to get ahead."
The Downer family sailing 'Moonlight’ finished second in the Etchells with Andrew Cooper’s 'Ice’ in third.
'Ice’ had led the 15-strong fleet at the start line in what turned out to be a very close race, with the first ten boats crossing the line in just five minutes.
In IRC 2, last year’s overall Black Group winner Adam Gosling finished second on 'Yes!’ – the 18-year-old John Corby boat, 'Mustang Sally’, renamed and totally refurbished last year.
Despite her low rating, 'Yes!’ was third across the finish of the 29-mile race, just two minutes 20 seconds behind line honours winner Jim Macgregor’s Elan 410 'Premier Flair’.
'Yes!’ took second on handicap by a margin of more than three minutes.
In IRC 4, David Franks 'Strait Dealer’ finished second behind Peter Scholfield’s 'Zarafa’.
Gavin Tappenden’s 'Four Winds’ secured third place in the Flying 15s, while Anthony Eaton’s 'Sheen’ topped the Seaview Mermaids.
Meanwhile, Cowes sailor Andy Cassell’s 'Jenny’ crossed the finishing line ahead of 'Robert Peace’s 'Hibiscus’ in the Sonars.
In the Squibs, Islanders Emma Baker, 20, and Sam Prime, 22, finished third behind fellow local boat 'Aquabat’ (Sarah Everitt and Steve Warren-Smith) in second. The class was won by 'Lady Penelope’.
Other Island successes included firsts for 'Bullit’ (Morty) in the Quarter Tonners, Graham Deegan’s 'Akarana 3’ in the Sportsboats and a second place for Chris Preston’s 'Limelite’ in the RS Elites.