Today, July 14, saw the Panerai British Classic Week 2014 get off to an amazing start off UK’s Cowes, with an opening race in dappled sunlight under scudding clouds and a variable west to northwesterly wind ranging from sub ten to almost twenty knots. There was plenty of action for a total number of 51 attending teams as they enjoyed a round the cans romp that started and finished on the Royal Yacht Squadron line and took them down into the Western Solent. It was a challenging day for the navigators, with an exceptionally strong ebb tide running, making judging lay lines extremely difficult.
First away from the line were the Modern Classics of Class 1, which includes the Spirit class yachts and yachts that the Committee of the British Classic Yacht Club consider to be built with the appearance of “a classic”. From the off it was a three way battle between the Spirit 52s Flight of Ufford, owned by Sean McMillan, and Chloe, owned by Michael Hough, and Spirit 54 Soufriere, which is owned by Ireland’s Stephen O’Flaherty, but is perhaps better known to the general public as the yacht James Bond sailed up Venice’s Grand Canal in Casino Royale. Having traded tacks and gybes all the way round the course it was Soufriere who claimed first blood, beating Flight of Ufford by 12 seconds with Chloe only half a minute behind in third.
In Class 2 David Murrin’s 1955 Laurent Giles designed Cetewayo got the upper hand early on and extended her lead on each leg to win the race by over eight minutes on corrected time. Behind her there was a splendid battle for second between Jamie Mattheson’s Opposition, the former Morning Cloud II, and Ebsen Poulsson and Ed Dubois’ sailing yacht Firebrand, a 1953 Sparkman and Stephens design. Firebrand finished well ahead on the water but her crew had an anxious wait for the lower rated Opposition to come in. Quick action with the calculator confirmed that Firebrand had taken second place by eight seconds with Opposition third.
“A fabulous day’s sailing. Just perfect,” enthused David Orton of St David’s Light, the 40’ Illingworth and Primrose designed one off masthead sloop built in 1963 by Souters of Cowes who finished fourth in Class 3. First place in Class 3 went to Christine & Giovanni Belgrano’s 1939 one off sloop Whooper, with Andy King’s 1929 International 30 Square Metre Gluckauf, fondly known in the fleet as the flying toothpick thanks to her exceptionally long and low profile, second and Rob Gray’s Clarionet, the legendary Lallows’ built, Sparkman and Stephen’s designed 1966 fin and skeg One Tonner, third.
In Class 4, just 30 seconds separated first placed Cereste, a 1938 Shoreham Ten Tonner designed by Robert Clark and owned by Jonathan and Scilla Dyke, and second placed Mikado, Sir Michael Briggs’ 1904 Fife designed 30 Rater, one of the oldest boats in the regatta. The sloop Danegeld, owned by Robert Veale, designed by David Cheverton in 1958 took third place. One owner very happy with his boat’s performance today was Jason Fry of the 1946 Philip Rhodes designed sloop Shantih. Jason only took ownership of the boat last week and has been rushing around desperately to get ready for the regatta. He wasn’t able to get a spinnaker sorted in time for the week, but despite this they finished a very creditable fifth in Class 4 today.
In the 8 Metre Christopher Courage’s 1936 built Helen was the victor from the 1949 Erica, owned by David Myatt, with Murdoch McKillop’s 1931 Fife Saskia third. After racing David Myatt confirmed they had enjoyed their day, but were mildly frustrated having misjudged their final mark rounding in the strong tide and allowed Helen to slip through and get away from them.
Tomorrow the boats will be taking part in the Around The Island Race sponsored by EFG International, which starts to the East from the Royal Yacht Squadron line at 08.00. The 8 Metres will not race around the Island, but instead will have a Solent race starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron at 10.00. The forecast is for lots of sunshine and a north northwesterly wind of circa 10 knots in the morning, backing southwesterly and increasing into the high teens through the day.
This evening the competitors will enjoy a Welcome Reception at the Royal Yacht Squadron and tomorrow morning the Panerai Lounge will open from 06.30 to serve coffee and croissant to the competitors before they leave the dock.
Racing continues until Friday 18 July and the event will conclude with a Parade of Sail past the Royal Yacht Squadron and Cowes Green at 11.00 on Saturday 19 July.