Lighter breezes and flatter seas greeted the 188-strong fleet of classic yachts in Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week, sailing for the Harken Trophy today, on the penultimate day of the series.
The 2016 International Tempest World Championship, which is part of the event, had another challenging day in the 8-10 knot breeze. “The tides are interesting for us,” said the international class chairman Manfred Schumi from Austria who is sailing Va Pensiero. “We normally sail on lakes.” Blue Streak’s owner Nick Stewardson, of the Ullswater fleet, said “Cowes is a fantastic venue. We are used to the twitchy winds of the Lake District, so we took today’s shifts in our stride, although we were hoping that the sea winds would be steadier!” The fleet of 24 trapeze boats from five European countries, which are more stable than a dinghy due to their fixed keel, are fighting closely for the world title. Frank Weigelt in Holzwurm continues to maintain his lead after three days of racing.
Although there are only three vintage Dragons in the regatta the beautifully restored pedigrees are making their mark in the Classic Dayboats Yellow class, sailing alongside the Flying Fifteens and National Swallows. Tschuss, a 1971 Dragon has made her first racing appearance in over 20 years. Rupert Street and his father Tim tracked the boat down to a New Forest farm using Google Earth. “We had heard rumours of a languishing hull and hunted it down,” said Rupert. Following a complete restoration by the Elephant Boatyard, Tschuss is back for this season, sailed by Rupert and his 16 year old son, Louis, and has already scored two first places.
Two windward leeward courses suited the mixed fleet of these three classes. The Flying Fifteens, despite being the smaller boats in their fleet, consistently used their flighty speed to get ahead in the light airs as illustrated by Bobby Salmond’s flying fish. She pulled quickly away from the start to take a good lead but was overhauled by Richard Drabble’s Fram Freyr at the first windward mark. Fram Freyr went on to be the first Flying Fifteen in both her races today while flying fish still leads overall in the series. Swallow Gwaihir meanwhile continued to get well ahead of her own rivals early on taking a first in the first race, while a second in the second race was enough for her helm Mike Wigmore to hold onto his overall lead on handicap amongst all three classes.
Meanwhile, the second flight away from the committee boat on the same course saw the pretty Loch Longs, the 21ft wooden keelboats built in the 1930s and 40s, racing alongside the Bembridge One Designs also of a similar age. The nine Loch Longs, all of which have travelled from Aldeburgh in Suffolk, were similarly matched in speed to the BODs, despite the fact that the BODs have no spinnakers, during the somewhat gentle downwind legs. A number of different Loch Longs have scored wins this week – leading overall after six races is James Mehew in Whisper. Leading the BODs with one day to go are Hugh Doherty & Charles Evans in Bod10.
The Classic Yachts, Spirit of Tradition (modern classics) and Gaffer classes rose to the challenges of the fluky Solent winds. “We’ve had some amazing courses this week,” said James Hoare, co-owner along with Graham Coulter of Folkboat Samphire. “Planning our tactics around the mid-Solent marks has been quite technical. We’ve had very close racing particularly against 1974-built Contessa 26 Jiminy Cricket and Stella Class Estrella.
Racing, which finishes tomorrow, is organised by the Royal London Yacht Club with support from Royal Victoria Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club, Cowes, Island Sailing Club and Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club.
This year’s event charity is the Miss Isle School of Sip & Puff Sailing – a unique sailing and training experience for physically disabled individuals who want to go sailing but aren’t able to sail a conventional boat. The charity is the brainchild of teenager Natasha Lambert, who has cerebral palsy herself, yet has already sailed around the Isle of Wight, up to the Thames, crossed the Channel, sailed over five hundred miles to Wales, and many other adventures.
Image: Jake Sugden