This year’s Panerai British Classic Week saw a fleet of over 50 classic yachts from across Europe put through their paces in the challenging tidal waters of in the Solent in all weather conditions. Owned and helmed by regatta-regular Giovanni Belgrano, the Laurent Giles One-Off Bermudan Sloop Whooper sailed a tightly contested six-race series to win the regatta overall, taking home the BCYC Trophy and Panerai clock.
Organised by the British Classic Yacht Club (BCYC), the UK’s premier classic yacht regatta began in true Cowes fashion. The sun was shining, and Cowes Yacht Haven buzzed with the anticipation of a week’s sailing alongside some beautiful yachts and their like-minded owners and crew. As the week progressed, results came down to the wire with three of the overall class results decided by the outcome of the final race. The weather gradually worsened and tested crews to their limits, culminating in high-intensity sailing in 30knots and driving rain during race six on Friday.
Off the water, entrants and their guests enjoyed daily hospitality in the Panerai marquee and a varied programme of social events, including a relaxed waterside evening at Commodore’s House and canapés on the lawn of the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron at sunset. A lively Open Yachts Pontoon party saw crews share drinks and stories well into the night, whilst the final Regatta Dinner and prize giving rounded off the week with a touch of class.
A strong home crowd of UK-based yachts varied from a 26ft Stella up to a 63ft Spirit Yacht, whilst the international contingent at this year’s regatta was one of the largest ever. Beautiful classic yachts and their animated crews from France, Monaco, Holland, Germany and Switzerland brought a new level of energy and camaraderie to the Solent.
One international entry that stood out from the fleet all week was the renowned Fife Gaff Cutter Viola from Monaco. On the water she looked immaculate and was skilfully raced (including during a man overboard pick-up under sail). Shoreside, her crew became the talk of the regatta with their big smiles and laid-back attitude. On Friday night, Viola was one of the big prize-winners picking up a total of six trophies for overall je ne sais quoi, overall authenticity*, the seamanship award, NAB Tower overall winner, highest placed gaffer and second overall in Class 3.
When asked about their regatta experience, the crew onboard Viola commented that it was “Pure happiness. We love racing in Cowes but what we didn’t expect from the regatta was to meet so many smiling, friendly people. We have had a fantastic week and certainly hope to be back next year.”
Throughout the six-race series, the overall regatta trophy was hotly contested and the eventual winner was decided on count back. It went down to the wire but Giovanni Belgrano and the crew onboard the Laurent Giles one-off sloop Whoopersneaked in ahead of Jonathan Dyke and his Robert Clark 10 Tonner Cereste. Whooper also took away first prize in Class 3 and the Class 3 authenticity award.
Giovanni Belgrano owner of Whooper, commented, “The regatta has been extraordinary, just like every year we come here. My crew and I are very grateful to Panerai; they have been an incredible supporter of the event. We also want to thank the organisers; BCYC and Mary Scott-Jackson and her team. This year they raised the bar of the event even higher.”
Giovanni added, “I am so thankful to be here with my young crew. They are very mature sailors, who are learning quickly and showing us older ones a few things already. Thanks to Mikado and Viola, who both sailed an amazing week and pushed us to raise our game on the water. We sailed our best and we are very proud not only to have won the overall racing prize, but also the authenticity award for our class.”
Reflecting on the ethos of the regatta, Giovanni commented, “It’s important to remember we boat owners are all winners this week and I am extremely proud to have come here amongst other classic yacht owners. I was among the original founders of the BCYC and one of the core principle of the organisation is that we are all simply caretakers of these wonderful yachts and as owners our ultimate goal is to do the best for our boats.”
When it came to the class results, Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Spirit 52 Oui Fling stole the show in Class 1 putting in a sleek and unstoppably quick performance all week. Class 2 came down to the final race and afterCetewayoripped her mainsail in gusts of 30knots, Jamie Matheson’s Sparkman & Stephens Two Tonner Opposition pulled into first to win the class. Whilst Viola started the week incredibly strongly in Class 3, the oldest yacht in the regatta, Mikado, and Whooper were not letting go easily. As the week progressed and the winds got stronger, it was Whooper who pulled in front to take the trophy. Class 4 was a two-horse race from the start with Jonathan Dyke’s Cereste and Andrew Gilmour’s Stella Timoa (both Suffolk-based) entering into an east-coast tussle. Cereste triumphed in the heavier winds on the final race to take Class 4 overall.
Ahead of the 8mR Worlds, Panerai British Classic Week was delighted to welcome 8mRs from across Europe. The class was closely fought between Anne Sophie, Carron II and Falcon, with Falcon from Switzerland winning overall. The 6mR class was won by regatta stalwart Sioma and Bravade won the 6mR modern class.
BCYC Commodore Jonathan Dyke said, “It was a fantastic week with testing conditions at each end of the weather spectrum. Thanks must go to the Royal Yacht Squadron Chief Race Officer Dai Prichard and his team for some clever course setting that challenged both the smaller and larger yachts.”
Jonathan added, “Whilst this was Panerai’s final sponsorship of any classic yacht event worldwide, we received very positive feedback from regatta entrants and BCYC members. We are committed to the future of the regatta and look forward to seeing such an eclectic, beautiful fleet of classic boats back in Cowes for next year’s event.”
This year’s regatta also saw the BCYC implement several new environmental changes. The drinking-water station could be seen in near-constant use, whilst sustainable, biodegradable cups, bin bags, plates and cutlery were introduced at the two dock party events.
Jonathan Dyke commented, “There is always more that can be done, but we are taking advice from World Sailing and will continue to reduce the environmental impact of the regatta each year.”
*Building on the BCYC’s aim to promote ownership, knowledge and appreciation of classic yachts, this year’s regatta included IRC prizes based solely on race results and a set of authenticity prizes. For this second group of awards, an experienced group of experts judged the authenticity of each yacht. Once this was decided, the ‘authentic yachts’ then became eligible for ‘authenticity prizes’, which were based on IRC race results (combining authenticity with performance on the water). The panel of judges was led by group editor of Classic Boat, Yachts & Yachting and Sailing Today, Rob Peake, and comprised classic yacht builder Martin Nott, marine writer and photographer Nigel Sharp, Hannah Cunliffe from National Historic Ships, editor of Classic Boat Steffan Meyric-Hughes and yacht designer Paul Spooner.
All photos: Chris Brown Photography. For the FULL LIBRARY OF IMAGES from the regatta, please click here.