The 52ft Bojar ghosts past the entrance to Cowes Harbour. Credit: Rick Tomlinson
July was a month of almost back to back classic yacht regattas in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, a few miles off the UK’s south coast. The 2017 season kicked off in the second week of the month with the Panerai British Classic Week, organised by the British Classic Yacht Club. Consecutive days of glorious sun and solid breezes showed that Cowes can serve up superlative weather, top notch racing and a social scene to match regattas held anywhere else in the world.
This regatta for 50 stunning yachts, saw a wide mix of designs ranging from a 1904 Fife design, through both Six and Eight Metre classes, to modern Spirit of Tradition yachts. The most eye catching of the latter was undoubtedly Irvine Laidlaw’s new Spirit 52 Oui Fling, a pure racing yacht with no interior. One of Laidlaw’s other yachts, the 68-metre superyacht Lady Christine, was also at Cowes for the duration.
Classic yacht racing can be just as cut throat as with state of the art designs. Here the 1964 Sparkman and Stephens 43ft Firebrand chases the 80 year old 52ft 10-Metre Class Bojar. Credit: Rick Tomlinson
The opening day was an absolute scorcher, with barely a cloud in the sky and glorious sunshine for the parade of yachts past the Royal Yacht Squadron. Racing included round the cans courses in the Solent, which is famed for its unique combination of winds and complex strong tidal streams, as well as a 50-mile circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight on the second day.
The following week saw around 170 boats competing in the Charles Stanley Direct Cowes Classics Week. The dozen and a half classes included a range of Metre Classes including 8mR, 6mR, 5.5mR and Daring (glassfibre 5.5s), along with classic day boats including Dragons, XOD and Flying 15s, plus larger classic yachts and Spirit of Tradition yachts. This year’s event saw a bigger mix of conditions than the previous week, with a number of light airs days, but also racing lost to winds that were too strong for safe competition in the classic day boats.
8-Metres crossing tacks on the first day of Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week. Credit: Rick Tomlinson
The event is lucky to be able to present a large collection of historic silverware to the many class winners. Murdoch McKillop’s Saskia took first place among the majestic 8-Metre fleet, while John Corby took first place in the Daring Class, also claiming the Metre Regatta Trophy. The mixed fleets of Classic Cruisers saw class wins for the 1964 Sparkman and Stephens 43 Firebrand, and Lawrence Wride’s 1967-built Sunmaid V.
The racing from Cowes continued on July 29, with Lendy Cowes Week, the world’s oldest and largest regatta that sees some 800 boats from modest 19ft day boats to some of the latest 115ft superyachts racing in almost 40 classes. This is immediately followed by the 605 mile Rolex Fastnet Race, in which many of the larger classic yachts will also compete.