Over the next few weeks yacht berths in Cowes will be really filled to capacity with yachts of all sizes and descriptions.
29th July saw the first races in Cowes Classics Week. Four committee boat race areas, and one fixed shore- line, just in front of the Royal London Yacht Club on the Parade, will host the racing for the 140 or so yachts that are taking part. Cowes Classics Week, now in its 12th year represents the camaraderie and Corinthian values that underpin this sport.
Royal London YC is welcoming entries from one design classes and one-off classic designs which were drawn up 50 years ago or more. Despite their vintage lines, some are almost brand new, like Osprey in the Swallow class, built just last year and Solent Sunbeam Sky, built the year before. With new yachts coming into these tight one design classes, the competition can be expected to be formidable, yet these tried and tested classes originated in 1948 and 1923 respectively.
Amongst the fleets, which include not just the one designs, but cruisers, Folkboats, vintage Swans and many others, are some truly historic craft. Island resident Andrew Hitt’s Spinaway, a Plymouth Hooker, is the oldest competing yacht, built in 1889. Andrew told us some time ago about his adventure sailing Spinaway to the Island from Devon. Spinaway will have plenty of competition in a six strong gaffer class, competing against the likes of Bob Fisher’s Rosenn, built in 1896, and Steve Meakin’s Cormorant, built in 1911.
Bob Fisher is no stranger to Cowes as he is known for his sailing strengths as well as his writing prowess being a World authority on the America’s Cup plus covering sailing regattas around the World including Cowes Week.
With sponsorship and support from Red Funnel the organisers of this regatta advised competitors to book their berths early as they knew Cowes would be very busy as the last few days of this regatta overlaps with preparations for the Rolex Fastnet Race when the ‘big boys’ arrive in town ready for their race starting from Cowes on 3rd August.
Yachts competing in this year’s race vary enormously in size and number of crew. Gaining popularity in class are the double-handers which as the name suggests have just two on board. Over the last few editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the IRC Two Handed class has shown steady growth from 45 entries in 2013 to 53 in 2015 and 57 in in the last race. At the time of writing over 60 doublehanded competitors have entered this year.
Moving up to IRC Zero and One we see the bigger boats taking part. Biggest boat in IRC Zero is the 100-footer Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag 100, owned by Seng Huang Lee from Hong Kong. Having gained line-honours at Cowes in the recent Transatlantic 2019 Race the international crew is led by experienced Australian sailor David Witt who skippered the Scallywag team in last year’s Volvo Ocean Race. Scallywag will be relying on a windy start and light airs finish to have a chance at winning on handicap.
Closest rival in terms of speed through the water is Rambler 88, George David’s canting-keeled sloop from New York. This 88-footer has had some impressive results including third on the water in the Rolex Sydney- Hobart Race. Rambler 88 also took monohull line honours in the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race thanks to an experienced crew that numbers many of the America’s Cup winning Alinghi crew in its ranks including former Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth.
Teasing Machine which has recently completed the slowest ever Transatlantic Race is another boat in this class. This yacht registered with RORC was fourth across the line at Cowes after the 3,610 miles sailed from the USA.
In IRC One, as outright winner of the last Fastnet Race in 2017, Lann Ael 2 must be considered a hot favourite to win IRC One again. Philippe Frantz and his Albator will be one of a number to give Lann Ael 2 a run for her money. Launched in 2017, Albator went on to win her class in the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 and the 2018 Rolex Middle Sea Race. This yacht comes well prepared, with a crew comprising a mix of dinghy sailors, a Figaro sailor and previous competitors from the Route du Rhum, America’s Cup, Half Ton Cup and Trophée Jules Verne. If anyone could win at his first attempt on the Fastnet, it’s Frantz.
Several Islanders are taking part in the ‘Fastnet’ including Mark Wynter, ex-ISC Commodore, who is back with a new boat, Alexa X.332. He has been sailing yachts since 1977 and mainly races locally with the Junior Offshore Group, RORC and the Island Sailing Club.
Another well- known sailor in the race is Gurnard resident Pete Newlands on Anticipation a First 40.7. Pete has competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race many times and is racing in one of the largest classes in the fleet. He said “I have to confess we are racing with a normal boat and with a normal crew of UK workers, all hoping to safely achieve a finish place for their bucket list and happy not to be last (hopefully.)
First start for the Rolex Fastnet Race is at 12.30pm off the RYs line.
Of course these two regattas are followed by Cowes Week which this year includes a European Round of SailGP.
Cowes Week commences on 10th of August and the SailGP events are on the first two days of ‘the week’ with the special races taking place off Egypt Point.
Photo of Sunmaid- credit Tim Jeffreys.