For the second Metre & Classic Keelboat Regatta the weather gods didn't quite deliver what was ordered - fairly strong breezes all week, sufficient for racing to be cancelled on Wednesday and for skippers to respect the ancient hulls and rigs of their boats (see wind charts from Cambermet).
The rain merely served to remove the very considerable quantities of salt spray generated by these boats and the pumps were working hard. Nevertheless, all races were completed by scheduling a gruelling 3 races on Thursday along with the Harken Pursuit Race. For one Sunbeam which lost its mast on Tuesday the absence of racing on Wednesday provided an opportunity tp obtain a new mast overnight and have the fittings attached, dressed and stepped in time for the next day.
One 6mR, Pacific Highway, bent a wing and had to be hauled out for it to be re-fitted and re-faired - again without loss of any races. As a result, it was awarded the "Solent Groundings Trophy" a trophy made from one of the wings from the modern 6mR Bear which ran aground on the Brambles Bank last year on the way to the regatta and spent the night bumping along the bottom before being recovered the following morning. The trophy has some actual Brambles sand on it, which is still coming out of all the corners on Bear.
The series races were sailed on three tracks. One committee boat used laid courses and managed to introduce an element of variety with windward spreader marks and leeward gates. Another set round-the-buoys courses and managed to maintain legs with a good balance of upwind and downwind sailing, while the third varied their courses. The 6mR and Darings sailed on one track and the Sunbeams and XODs sailed the second, alternating between tracks on different days. The Redwings, Bembridge One Designs and South Coast One Design sailed on the third track. For the Bembridge One Designs this year was the first they have ever sailed away from Bembridge. The Races were typically around 1.5-2 hours and with two races scheduled each day, plus sailing to and from the race area, made for a lot of sailing and crew in need of re-vitalisation ashore - tea and cakes were provided each day for just this purpose, although some were clearly in need of something stronger and the intensive social schedule allowed no respite!
On Thursday, a separate race was held - the Harken Pursuit Race, named in recognition of the considerable support given to the event by Harken, the idea being to provide a whole-fleet race outside of the series racing. As a first attempt to handicap these classes against each other, it was gratifying to find a mix of classes amongst the leaders in a race which was sailed faster than planned. The race was joined by a fleet of Squibs from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club who sailed down to participate. First in was a Daring, followed by a Squib only seconds later. Prizes were awarded to First in Class as well as the overall winner and first 10 positions.
We were fortunate to have available a wonderful classic motor launch from 1921 - a Gelyce - one of the launches that Campers provided 'J'-class owners as a tender and provided a viewing platform for spectators. Lady Agnes was a tender to a 12mR. Since we had a forced lay-day on Wednesday a number of people took the launch down to Wooton Creek - then back to Cowes for an impromptu BBQ hosted by the 6mR class. Where do you get 8 legs of lamb and enough sausages to sink any one of our boats and wine and beer to float it at such short notice!
Monday: Opening Reception: Drinks and canapés in the London Room at the RLYC - a chance to renew aquaintances, meet new friends and develop further this community of wonderful classic keelboats. The "Cowes Concert Band", provided very appealing background music. Dinner after at a long refectory table with much yarning about past successes - this week's, yet to come.Tuesday: BBQ at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club Foul weather prevented us from using the wonderful terrace at the club, but, as always, an alternative was in place and the marquee was brimming.Wednesday: Haine's Boatyard Reception at The Prospect Drinks and canapés, great display of artefacts and memorabilia from the past stimulating much discussion - it is amazing how knowledgeable are the people who sail classic keelboats. Then a significant section arranged a Thai supper in a local restaurant.Thursday: Kendall's Art Gallery Reception Drinks and canapés, great display of pictures and an opportunity to meet the artists and encourage them to paint our lovely boats!Thursday: Regatta Dinner: Salmon & Strawberry and Prizegiving for the Harken Pursuit Race Music provided by "Goose Island Syncopators" whose repertoire really seemed to hit the spot with some great tunes. Friday: Regatta Lunch and prize-giving. After another day of tough sailing conditions and the last chance to get a higher placing, an opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief and either get our reward or cheer on our friends.
Now we have two years under our belt Cowes Classics Week looks set to become a major event in the yachting calendar likely to attract even more traditional keelboat classes from around Europe next year, adding lustre to Cowes yachting heritage. "We are delighted with the way everything has gone," said Peter Taylor, chairman of the regatta, "particularly in view of the conditions. We lost a complete day but still managed to get in seven races. We are quite certain the event will grow". Roy Burrows, a Bembridge One Design sailor here for the first time, was full of praise. "This has been an absolutely terrific event," he said, " and we shall certainly be back next year".
Andy Ash-Vie, in Wildcat II, won the 6 Metre Modern Class with the youngest crew in the class, despite having to retire in Friday's race with his mainsail down; Peter Andreae in Erica, the only Charles Nicholson designed 6 Metre left in the UK, won the 6 Metre Classic class. Richard Ottoway won the Daring class in Decoy with an all-girl crew. Tim Hill in Query just snatched the Sunbeam class from Julian Money in Penny, although neither knew who would win until the results were announced. Adrian Jardine and Nicola Wise in Lucrezia took the honours in the X One Design class, the largest fleet in the regatta with 28 entrants. Mark Taylor in Marbella, a boat he has owned for 14 years, won the SCOD class and Thomas Scott in Siskin won the Redwing class. See the detailed results for each class.
So, a wonderful week again which only served to re-enforce this as a regular event. David Elliott, one of the instigators of Cowes Classics Week said "We are delighted with a gratifying level of enthusiasm and commitment from all the classes. We are expecting additional classes each year as we attract many of the one-design keelboat classes that exist all around the country, sometimes individually and somtimes as a fleet, especially when there is a significant anniversary and Cowes Classics Week can offer the prestige suitable for such celebrations".