Fortunately the weather forecasters got it wrong for the Solent again today and the anticipated rain held off once more allowing the Panerai British Classic Regatta fleet to enjoy One Sails Race Day in a lovely 14-17 knot breeze from the west-south-west.
There is nothing quite as beautiful as a classic yacht rail down with everything set on a sparkling day and to have 83 of them racing together is quite simply sublime.
After yesterday’s massed start for the opening warm up race around the Isle of Wight, today the fleet was divided into six classes according to each yacht’s handicap and design and the formal race series began. Race Officer Tony Lovell and his team set courses around marks in the Central Solent that included a spanking run past Cowes for many of the yachts, giving the public ashore a chance enjoy the spectacle.
A combination of smart course planning and luck with the weather conditions meant that the classes converged on the finish in close order and the action on the finish line was almost as close and exciting as the start.
In Class 1, for the modern classic yachts, Stephen Jones’ Meteor put in a bravura performance to win his class by over seven minutes. Steven jokingly put their victory down to “Other people making more mistakes than we did.” but tactician Jonty Sherwill expanded saying “We got a spectacularly brilliant start! We had a nice ding-dong with Flight [of Ufford] right the way up on to the mainland shore. They called water on us just round Stone Point spit, which sent us off on starboard towards East Leap [the next mark of the course] so we thought we’d have a crack at it. They tacked back in and we made East Leap in one so we must have made a minute and a half there I think.” Ultimately Hugh Morrison’s 1997 Pedrick designed Savannah took second place with Sean McMillan and his crew aboard the Spirit 52 Flight of Ufford third.
“Very satisfactory.” was Jamie Mattheson’s comment on finding out that Opposition, his Sparkman and Stephens sloop originally launched as Morning Cloud for Ted Heath’s 1971 Admiral’s Cup campaign, had won Class 2. “Conditions were very good with flat water, we couldn’t have asked for more. It was extremely close. We were racing with Cetewayo all day, she’s very well sailed and a good boat to spar with.” And after all that sparring Cetewayo, David Murrin’s 1957 Laurent Giles sloop, took second in class with Golden Fleece, the 41’ bermudan sloop designed by Sparkman & Stephens and owned by Michael Wheeler, in third.
In Class 3 Vagabundo II (pictured above), a 1945 German Freres Snr bermudan ketch that placed second overall in the inaugural Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro Race in 1947, was victorious beating the French team of Mirella, Yvon Nicolas’ delightful Illingworth 12m bermudan cutter, by one minute thirty seconds. Third place went to Cereste, the Shoreham 10 Tonner of Jonathan and Scilla Dyke, which has been lovingly and beautifully restored after Jonathan and Scilla found her in a very sorry state in South Wales in 1998.
“We didn’t make any mistakes” was the tongue in cheek answer from Jap’s tactician and co-helm Martin Payne when asked for the secret of their 8-minute victory in Class 4. David Sherriff’s well-drilled team aboard Jap, an 1897 Cork Harbour One Design from the board of William Fife II – one of the oldest boats in the regatta, put in some slick maneuvers and kept the boat positively humming the whole way around the course. Second place went to Roddy Steel and Eric Newman aboard the Spidsgatter 19.5sqm Stren and Caressa, a 1966 Alan Buchanan design built by Murray Prior of Burnham on Crouch owned by Ian Welsh, was third.
The International 8 Metre Class turned into a battle between old and new with the old ultimately triumphing as the Canadian crew of Raven, the absolutely stunning 1937 Alfred Mylne design owned by Richard Self and Mark DeCelles, beat the brand new Luna, launched this year to an original Charles Nicholson design and owned by Harry Roschier of Finland. After racing Richard Self was delighted with their victory but paid tribute to the quality of the competition amongst the 8 Metres. Despite ranging in age from the 1927 Hispania IV to the 2012 Luna the racing in this class is thrillingly close and the boats are a truly inspiring sight on the water.
The four strong 6 Metre Class is effectively split into two groups with two moderns – Robin Richardson’s St Kitts and Tom Richardson’s Georgia, both designed by Ian Howlett, and two classics – Peter Andreae’s Erica and Fenton Burkin’s Siona, effectively match racing each other and enjoying fantastic racing as a result. In the moderns Georgia beat St Kitts with the boats taking first and second in class, while Sioma was the victorious classic taking third place in class.
Tomorrow’s racing will feature two inshore races, the first of which will be sponsored by Berthon, with the first start scheduled for 10.00 and a forecast for south-westerly winds of around 10-12 knots. Racing continues until Friday 13th of July and the regatta concludes with a Parade of Sail on Saturday 14 July.
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