The 2012 edition of the Panerai British Classic Regatta, organised by the British Classic Yacht Club, got underway in spectacular style off Cowes with a massed fleet start for the Around The Isle of Wight Race, which is raced clockwise around the Island, honouring the course used for the original America’s Cup in 1851.
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Although not part of the formal points series for Panerai British Classic Week the race around the Island is very much part of the event’s tradition and is always hotly contested. This year 48 of the 83 boats entered elected to take part in the sixty-mile race and they made a stunning sight as they crossed the starting line together off Cowes.
They enjoyed a broad reaching start to the east in bright sunshine with a decent northerly breeze to take them on their way. Off the line several of the 8 Metres, including Raffray Tanneguy’s 1927 Joseph Guidon designed 8 Metre Hispania IV, got good starts, but it wasn’t long before Hugh Morrison’s 27.4m Pedrick modern classic sloop Savannah and Stephen O’Flaherty’s Spirit 54 Soufriere were edging away.
Savannah’s tactician Brian May takes up the story “We managed to lay Bembridge in one, and then the bit where it got difficult was down past Shanklin and Ventnor and coming out round St Catherine’s point, which is where the beat proper started. It went light and there were some overfalls at St Cat’s and we had to work hard to keep the boat going. After that we were short tacking into the shoreline in flat water to keep out of the tide. As we rounded the Needles the tide changed and it was a question of which side we should go to avoid it because there were some very big shifts of 30-35 degrees on that last leg. In the end we largely ignored the tide and played the shifts. Then we came all the way over and gybed inside Gurnard Ledge, which is quite dangerous because we were only about a boat length from the rocks, after which it was a fairly simple run to the line.”
With boats ranging in size from seven to twenty-seven metres the smaller boats had a very different race experience to those at the front of the fleet. The tidal gates worked in their favour as did an increase in wind in the later stages. Although the big boats got the line glory it was to be the smaller boats that dominated the overall results with Brian Haugh’s Cherete, a 1958 East Anglian Restricted Class, claiming overall victory on corrected time.
“Oh wow. That’s brilliant!” said Brian Haugh when he found out the news. Asked the secret of their success he said “Hard work, really hard work. I think it was on the south side that we really made up time. We were tacking right in close to the shore. After passing Shanklin we managed to lay the Needles in one tack. Then it was a rock and roll ride all the way back home, we got the spinnaker twisted a couple of times as we worked to keep out of the tide. We came second in class in the JP Morgan Round The Island Race last week so it’s clearly our year.”
Second place went to Vagabundo II, Robert Fabre’s 1948 bermudan classic ketch designed by German Frers Snr. David Murrin’s evergreen 1957 Laurent Giles sloop Cetewayo, whose crew included six year old Horatio Murrin, took third overall with Raffray Tanneguy’s 1927 8 Metre Hispania IV fourth.
David Murrin, Commodore of the British Classic Yacht Club, was delighted with the day’s sailing commenting, “We pushed the boat really hard all day. We did one thing wrong when we took a tack out between Dunnose and St Catherine’s and we ended up coming back on a reciprocal course when we hit a header. After that we just close tacked next to the shore and clawed back our losses. The leg from St Cat’s was a very powerful leg for the boat and our run from the Needles to Cowes involved 25 gybes to keep in the shallow water and out of the tide. Overall it was the most fabulous race, a great range of conditions, endurance, beautiful sun and light. One of those perfect days.”
Whilst the majority of the fleet enjoyed a day’s racing, other boats were still arriving in Cowes and preparing for the regatta. Amongst these was Rollo Malcolm-Green’s delightful Charles E Nicholson sloop Zoom, built at Camper & Nicholson’s Gosport yard in 1952. They had originally planed to take part in today’s race but their arrival in Cowes was delayed by 24 hours thanks to damage to a deck fitting early in their passage from Poole yesterday. “It was blowing 30 knots and it was rough going so when the deck fitting blew off we had no real alternative but to turn back to Poole for repairs.” Explained Rollo. Fortunately the repair was completed overnight and the boat arrived safely in Cowes this afternoon ready for the start of the formal Panerai British Classic Regatta races tomorrow.
Tomorrow morning will begin with a Race Briefing by Principle Race Officer Tony Lovell at 10.00 followed by a single inshore race sponsored by One Sails scheduled to start at 12.00. Racing continues until Friday 13th July with a total of five races planned. No formal class racing is planned for Wednesday, which is Challenge Day when competitors can challenge boats larger themselves to an informal match race. The regatta concludes on Saturday 14th July with a Parade of Sail prior to the departure of the competitors.
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