The crews of the 71 classic yachts competing at Panerai British Classic Week 2011 were delighted when they awoke this morning to discover that yesterday’s strong winds had abated somewhat. Race Officer Tony Lovell confirmed his intention to start today’s single race at noon and set up his course to the east of Cowes with a start line off Osborne Bay. Although conditions had improved overnight the wind was still quite strong ranging from around 18-25 knots from the west-southwest. Throughout the day a steady stream of rain squalls swept down the Solent bringing stronger winds with them and drenching the sailors into the bargain.
Despite the rain it was clear that both the sailors and the boats were revelling in the conditions and the fleet made a fantastic sight criss-crossing the Solent. The course featured a series of windward/leeward legs and one short reaching leg with a lovely long final beat to finish off Cowes. Despite the enormous range in size of boats there were close tacking and gybing duels going on throughout the fleets and a number of very close finishes on the line.
Fortunately the strong winds brought only a couple of significant cases of gear failure. The first happened only a few moments after the start for Classes 1 and 2 when David Murrin’s 1957 Laurent Giles Sloop ‘Cetawayo’, tipped to be one of the top performers in this regatta, was forced to pull up with a broken lower starboard spreader. Back ashore David confirmed that they hoped to have a new wooden spreader made and fitted overnight and that they had every intention of being on the race course again tomorrow, joking that it “helps relax everyone if you get the discard out of the way early in the regatta”.
The other casualty was Roddy Steel and Eric Newman’s delightful little ‘Stren’, a 1948 Spidsgatter 19½ Square Meter designed by Jac M Iversen, which broke a rudder fitting. Thanks must go to the crew aboard Richard Matthew’s tender to 12m Crusader who kindly came to the rescue and towed them home to effect repairs.
Back ashore the crew of Corinthian International One Design ‘Marguerite’, owned by David Myatt, declared, “It was good racing. It blew the cobwebs out although we wouldn’t have wanted much more breeze.” They were very happy with their third place performance in Class 4 but felt they still have more to give joking, “We get better as the week goes on and the beer starts to take effect!”. Class 4 was won by ‘Erida’, the 30 Square Meter owned by Bob Gatehouse and designed and built by Abeking & Rasmussen in 1937. Second place went to ‘Cereste’ a 1938 Limited Design 10 Tonner designed by Robert Clark, built by the Sussex Yacht Works Shoreham and now owned by Jonathan & Scilla Dyke.
For Scotsman Jamie Matheson of the Sparkman & Stephens designed and Lallows built ‘Opposition’, formerly Ted Heath’s 1971 Admiral’s Cup winning ‘Morning Cloud’, the weather was “Just like home.” They were extremely happy with their second place in Class 2 finishing one minute and three seconds behind Brian Smullen’s 1970 McGruer Ketch ‘Cuilaun’ and two minutes and thirty seven seconds ahead of third placed ‘Wings’ the 1937 Nicholson 12 Meter.
Class 1 featured the battle of the 12 Meters with Richard Matthew’s 1985 Ian Howlett designed ‘Crusader’ and Richard Rankin’s 1985 Georgietti & Mygrini designed ‘Italia’ commencing battle with a match racing style start before going head to head all the way around the course. On the line it was ‘Crusader’ who had gained both line honours and the overall victory with ‘Italia’ second. In third place was Stephen Jones’s ‘Meteor’ a Spirit of Tradition yacht designed by Stephen himself and built in 2006 by Farrow & Chambers.
A wonderful example of how there are races within a race going on throughout the fleet are the three 22 Square Meters ‘Caritana’, ‘Vigilant’ and ‘Chadrak’. All three boats are owned by Andrew Thornhill and crewed by a mix of family and friends, and its clear from the banter on the dock that there is plenty of friendly rivalry between them. ‘Caritana’ won today’s battle with ‘Vigilant’ second and ‘Chadrak’ third. Whilst none of these boats made the podium in Class 4 they none they nonetheless enjoyed a fabulous day’s racing and are keen to get back out for more tomorrow.
In Class 3 Michael and Beverly Briggs’ William Fife designed 1904 Clyde Linear 30 ‘Mikado’ was boat of the day beating ‘Mirella’, a 1963 Illingworth Bermudan Cutter owned by Yvon Nicholas from Cherbourg by three minutes and nine seconds on corrected time. Third place went to Andy King’s Rasmussen 30 Square Meter ‘Gluckauf’ whose joke about the boats ‘submarine’ tendencies yesterday was clearly intended to hide their talent for heavy airs sailing.
After racing the competitors enjoyed an official opening party for the fabulous new Panerai Lounge. Fitted out in the style of a classic yacht, the Panerai Lounge was a welcome post racing haven for the sailors who enjoyed a selection of fine wines and delicious canapés as the prizes for today’s racing were awarded.
Tuesday’s two races are scheduled with a first start at 10.30. The forecast is for much lighter airs, which will appeal to boats like Richard Bond’s ‘Tomahawk’ who will be hoping to improve on today’s fifth place in Class 1.