It was a case of ‘two masts good, one mast bad’ on the Solent yesterday as sea breezes brought great offwind conditions to the Swan European Championships in Cowes

There was a slight hiatus at the Swan Europeans yesterday morning as the breeze meandered about the Solent, uncommitted. Finally the sea breeze kicked in and the second day’s racing began. The big Swan 65 ketches revelled in the convected winds and returned with excellent results.

The breeze steadied and at 1430, Keith Miller’s venerable 60 Crackerjack snapped across the startline first. Island Fling, Paul Winkelmann’s race-tweaked 60, outstripped the standard 60 on the beat to round first. She disappeared into the distance and took line honours again but dropped to 13th on handicap.

In her wake, the first skirmishes took place in what could become the closest battle in the Championship. Crackerjack and her 60ft sistership Spirit of Jethou first came together at the windward mark when Crackerjack rounded two boatlengths behind then popped her kite and headed for the mainland shore to dodge the tide.

Her tactic paid off and she had water on Spirit of Jethou approaching the second mark. Jethou’s better upwind work dragged her ahead again but on the final beat of the day, Crackerjack’s tactical savvy took her along the island shore, out of the adverse tide, and slipped through again to finish nine seconds ahead.

Crackerjack is calling the big creative plays, all of which have worked so far, while Spirit of Jethou is playing the percentages. That would suggest that Jethou will win narrowly over the week but we’re assured of an excellent battle en route to the result.

As the other finishers rolled in and the handicap picture became clearer, it was clearly a big day for the big 65ft ketches. Richard Loftus’ venerable 65 Desperado won the day, from her in-form sister 65 Eva, with Yachting World’s Matthew Sheahan onboard. Shirley Robertson had a much better day on the race-tuned Sparkman and Stephens 48 Jacobite and finished third on handicap, ahead of her non-optimised German sistership Elan.

The tricouleur was flying confidently at the head of the small boat fleet. The British Swan 441 Menenes mirrored Island Fling’s domination in the big boat class – just. She finished ten seconds ahead of Alain Foulquier’s Swan 441, Saga but five places behind the first-placed French Swan on corrected time.

GBR Challenge designer Jo Richards, sailing as tactician on Menenes, mused on their corrected fourth place after racing. “It was a frustrating day. Although we got a good start, we didn’t seem that quick upwind. Saga sailed through us on the first beat. We got them back on the run but it wasn’t enough on corrected time.”

There are two races scheduled for today but it looks like the weather will once again stymie any attempts to race this morning.