To the outer reaches of the Solent
Day three of the British Classic Yacht Club Panerai Cowes Regatta saw the fleet of classic yachts undertake a long distance race in simply glorious weather conditions. The complex 35 mile course took the competitors to some of the far reaches of the Solent and presented the navigators and tacticians, who had to plot their way through capricious tides and a multitude of hidden sandbanks, with numerous head scratching moments. Today’s race got under way this morning at 1000 with the entire 52 fleet boat setting off together from a long committee boat start line off Cowes. Under clear blue skies and in around ten to 12 knots of breeze, the regatta fleet was a magnificent sight as the yachts initially beat westward for several miles before turning at Lymington for a long run back down the Solent under spinnaker.
Competition to be the first home was particularly keen among the bigger boats. The 1987 12 Metre Italia appeared to revel in today’s conditions and having made a good start close to the island shore was quickly able to tack and cross the fleet. Italia led by several minutes at the first buoy from her fierce rival, the other 12 Metre competing this week, the 1937 built, Wings.
Initially Italia looked comfortable in first place as she powered downwind, but soon after pulling off a slick spinnaker peel, realisation suddenly dawned among the Italia crew that they were heading for the wrong buoy. As both Wings and the 1911 built 19m gaff cutter Mariquita thundered past under full sail, Italia was forced into a scrambled spinnaker drop which saw them without a headsail for several minutes. Mariquita, using her enormous downwind sail plan to good use, overtook Wings and powered into a substantial lead at the front of the fleet. As the race progressed however, the crew aboard Italia dug deep and managed to use their superior upwind speed to claw their way back by the finish, to take a well deserved, on the water at least, Class 1 and overall fleet victory. Wings finished next, taking line honours in Class 2 ahead of Mariquita, which came home third on the water.
The competition was equally feverish throughout the rest of the fleet with tight boat-on-boat skirmishes going on for the whole race. In particular, the three International 8 Metres in Class 2, If, Athena and Ilderim were rarely far from each other all the way around the course. The International 30 Square Metre Gluckauf made much of the front running in Class 3 and at the head of Class 4 the Shoreham 10 Tonner Cereste clearly found the steadily freshening wind very much to her liking.
After over seven hours on the water, the tired but smiling competitors returned to the Cowes Yacht Haven to enjoy a drink in the early evening sunshine, chat about their day out on the race course and eagerly await the official results.
Stephen O’Flaherty who had been racing aboard his Spirit 54 sloop Soufriere in Class 1, summed up the day’s experience: "A simply fantastic day out and one of the best races I think we have ever had in this boat. Glorious conditions and what it is amazing is that after thirty odd miles of racing we think there will be just seconds in it on handicap." Richard Matthews told of a ‘superb day’ aboard his beautifully restored 1898 gaff cutter Kismet, despite having lost and retrieved two crew members on separate gybes. "Retrieving them was straightforward: just go head to wind and drag them back aboard. They do learn to hang on eventually," said Matthews dryly.
Racing at the British Classic Yacht Club Panerai Cowes Regatta 2010 continues tomorrow with two races schedules for all classes.
From Mark Lloyd - www.lloydimages.com
From Ingrid Abery - www.hotcapers.com