Classics in Cowes
Competitors at the British Classic Yacht Club Panerai Cowes Regatta 2010 were treated to sailing conditions more akin to the Mediterranean than the Solent as racing got under way on day one. Some early cloud cover this morning quickly burnt away to reveal clear blue skies and by the time the 52 boat fleet reached the start line an idyllic ten to twelve knots breeze had developed across the entire racecourse.
In contrast to the genteel atmosphere and relaxed banter between the owners on the dock, out on the water the classic fleet crews race their yachts as hard as any modern fleet. According to British Classic Yacht Club Commodore David Murrin, who is racing this week aboard his own boat Cetawayo, keen on the water competition is a mainstay of the BCYC. "We encourage our members to make the most of their beautiful boats, which they have often so painstakingly restored, by getting them out racing as often as possible." Commenting on the evolution of the regatta since its inception nine years ago Murrin said: "It is very satisfying for the BCYC to have seen this regatta grow from modest beginnings into the wonderful spectacle we have this year. The introduction of Panerai as our title sponsor this year and the event’s inclusion in the Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge have really boosted the profile of both the regatta and the club."
The competitive spirit engendered by the BCYC was certainly in plentiful supply out on the water today. Starts and mark roundings were fiercely fought in every fleet and boat-handling mistakes were cruelly punished throughout the day. The 1937 12 Metre Wings was the first to show from the combined Class 1 and 2 start, powering off the line before tacking on to port to lead the fleet away up the first beat. Jim Thom, skipper of Mariquita, the biggest and perhaps most well known boat in the regatta, the 1911-built 19 Metre Gaff-Cutter, took a more circuitous route up the first beat than most in an effort to find a clear lane to navigate in. Thom commented afterwards: "We have returned to this regatta because we enjoyed ourselves so much in 2008. We are here to enjoy the racing of course, but when racing in a fleet with so many boats smaller than ourselves, our priority is always the safety of our boat and the others on the water."
After a close to perfect day of Solent racing the classic crews made their way back to Cowes Yacht Haven late this afternoon to enjoy a drink in the sumptuous Panerai Lounge while they relaxed and mulled over their day afloat. When the scorers had completed their calculations, in Class 1 a confident performance by Stephen O’Flaherty’s Soufriere earned them a comfortable win. Class 2 saw John Lister’s Wings convert their early lead on the water into an overall handicap victory. Class 3 was won by Sir Michael Briggs’s Mikado and victory in Class 4 went to Jonathan & Scilla Dyke's Cereste.