Currently crossing the English Channel from France to Cowes is Laurent Beaurin with 45° South, the Bruce Farr design that won the Quarter Ton Cup in 1975 and "changed the direction of offshore racing yachts in the process", to quote the great Bruce Farr himself. Laurent and his team have been enthusiastic supporters of the revival Quarter Ton Cup since the first event in 2005 and make a welcome return to Cowes this year.
Another familiar boat also returning to the fleet after a season's absence is Neil Kenefick and Joxer O'Brien's legendary Manzanita, which was designed by Ron Holland and won the 1977 Quarter Ton Cup in Helsinki. This year Manzanita is to be skippered by Neil's son George, who recently turned 21 and will be racing with a crew of his friends. One of the great things about the Quarter Ton Class is that it brings together sailors from across the generations and it's wonderful to see Ireland's latest sailing generation taking part in this year's Cup.
Among the boats competing in their first Coutts Quarter Ton Cup is Shamu, a Bolero owned by Peter Hewitson from Blackpool. Having seen Bandit, a sister-ship Bolero, at Cork Week last year and read about the Quarter Ton revival, Peter decided to venture forth to the bottom of his garden and dig out Shamu, which had been hiding there under a tarpaulin for the past 11 years. He cast a new keel himself, replaced the rig and put in many hours of work on the boat and is now looking forward to racing her again and going head to head with the rest of the Quarter Ton fleet.
With competition in the fleet now so hot several of the regular contenders are upping the ante this year and bringing in hot shots to give them the best possible chance of success. The friendly camaraderie of this fleet and the joy of sailing Quarter Tonners is well known and, unlike the TP52s and Farr 40s where professionals can expect to receive vast sums of money in return for their services, in this regatta the hot shots come to the Quarter Ton owners and beg to be allowed to sail! Among the boats graciously hosting yachting stars for the weekend are Graham & Victoria Hetherington's Great Bear IV, whose crew will include Star World and Bacardi Cup Champion and British Olympic representative Steve Mitchell.
Flying in for the event especially from Hong Kong is Jamie McWilliam who will be crewing for Howard Sellers and Mike Till aboard their 1978 J Faroux-designed Bullet. Jamie, well known for his successes in the Etchells class, lost the rig of his own Quarter Tonner Wanchai Belle during racing in Hong Kong last Saturday so will be hoping for better luck in Cowes this week.
Another famous face to look out for is that of Olympic Finn coaching legend and 2006 Etchells World Champion David "Sid" Howlett, who will be crewing for Rob Gray aboard Aquila. Having finished in second place on the boat's inaugural outing at the Vice Admiral's Cup in June, Rob clearly has his sights set on victory this week and is hoping that Sid will be whispering the right sort of sweet nothings in his ear.
As usual husband and wife Peter and Louise Morton will go head to head in their Bruce Farr-designed sisterships Anchor Challenge and Espada. Aboard Anchor Challenge (now apparently nicknamed Elderly People Crossing!) Peter's regular crew of Kelvin Rawlings and John Newnham are joined by Volvo Ocean Race veterans Jason Carrington on bow and Jules Salter on tactics (clearly an unashamed attempt to get the average age of the crew down to something vaguely respectable).
Each year there is always one boat that ends up arriving at the start line still screwing on fittings and this year that boat will be ASAP who have just rung through to confirm their entry with 24 hours to go. ASAP lost her rig at last year's Cup and with three of her four owners distracted by recent additions to their families, they were a little late starting their repair and refit work. Despite this they assure us they will be on the starting line - screw drivers, spanners and tape in hand - and are looking forward to tuning their new Selden rig on the first beat!
Other names to look out for include David Tydeman sailing Snoopy; Paul Treliving's evergreen Odd Job; Paul Kelsey in the beautiful red Runaway Bus; Quarter Ton legend Tony Dodd in Purple Haze; Roger Swinney's Ayanami; and last but by no means least Tim Rees, Derek and James Morland aboard the newly restored Menace who will be hoping to reprise their 2009 Vice Admiral's Cup success by claiming this year's Coutts Quarter Ton Cup.
Registration for the event opens on Wednesday 15 July and racing runs from Thursday 16 to Saturday 18 July with nine races scheduled. Racing will take place in the central Solent under IRC to ensure a level playing field for the class, which incorporates boats built to all three iterations of the Quarter Ton Rule.
The Royal Corinthian will host social events each evening including the infamous Coutts Quarter Ton Cup Gala Dinner on Friday night at which Patron of the Class Bob Fisher will be guest of honour and Isle of Wight based sailing brothers Jules and Guy Salter, recently returned from victory with Ericsson 4 in the Volvo Ocean Race, will be the after dinner speakers.
Revived Coutts Quarter Ton Cup Winners
2005 - Purple Haze (1977 David Thomas design) - Tony Dodd
2006 - Enigma - (1977 Ed Dubois design) - Ed Dubois
2007 - Espada - (1980 Bruce Farr design) - Peter Morton
2008 - Tom Bombadil (1982 Doug Peterson design) - Chris Frost & Kevin George