Day one of Panerai British Classic Week 2019 kicked off in beautiful sunshine as crews gathered for complimentary breakfast in the Panerai marquee. With old friends catching up and new faces becoming acquainted, Cowes Yacht Haven was buzzing with early regatta excitement.
Briefing began at 9.30am with a welcome and the usual ‘housekeeping’ from the British Classic Yacht Club, before Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) Chief Race Officer Dai Prichard delved into the details on the week’s racing.
With briefing over, the varied fleet of 54 classic and modern classic yachts headed out on the water for the annual Concours d’Elegance parade. By this point the sun had gone behind the clouds, but spirits could not be dampened as the fleet, led by Spirit DH63 Gwenhyfar in Class 1, cruised passed the Royal Yacht Squadron in procession. In keeping with tradition, caps were raised to greet the Royal Yacht Squadron officer on the shore. Special mention must go to the French crew of Fife Gaff Cutter Viola, who brought a touch of class to the occasion with their matching purple polos and panama hats.
The sun peaked out from behind the clouds for the individual class starts, all of which were from the RYS inner line. Heeding warnings from Dai Prichard as to the strength of the westerly running tide, all classes played it safe and it was a clean sheet with no yachts OCS. Spinnakers were hoisted as the yachts crossed the line and the 6mRs, 8mRs and Classes 1-3 set off on a broad reach towards 3G, whilst Class 4 headed for 3K.
With the tide ripping down the Solent and the wind dropping, crews struggled to fill their spinnakers on the long leg to the first mark. All classes rounded 3G to port (3K for Class 4) and took on the challenge of the second leg, crossing the channel towards 3Q.
The second leg proved to be a test of patience and perseverance as tacticians battled with very little wind and strong tide. Close attention was paid to sail trimming with the smallest tweaks resulting in crucial gains.
BCYC Regatta Chairman Michael Briggs, owner of Fife Clyde Linear 30 Mikado (built in 1904 and the oldest yacht in the regatta), commented, “It was a very calm day on the water, with everyone sitting to leeward and tiny sail adjustments making all the difference. Dodging the tide around Leep Spit proved to be a make-or-break moment.”
The 6mRs, 8mRs and Class 1 sailed across the channel under spinnakers towards 3E, before doubling back to 3P to port and the RYS line to finish. Classes 2 and 3 went via 3H and on to 3P to port and the finish. With the afternoon ticking by, the race committee shortened the course for Class 4 with a finish on the committee boat line at 3Q.
The 6mR class was won by Thistle, followed by Sioma and Melita, whilst a closely fought 8mR class was won by Falcon, with Carron II in second and Anne Sophie in third. Spirit 37 Strega (one of the smallest of the nine Spirit Yachts at this year’s regatta) won Class 1, followed by Oui Fling and Flight of Ufford. The Tina One Tonner L’Esprit du Morbihan took Class 2, with Firebrand in second and Aeolus in third. Class 3 was won by the Fife Gaff Cutter Viola, followed by Mikado in second and Sunmaid V in third. The 7 Metre Cruiser-Racer Zaleda won Class 4, with Vigilant in second and Timoa third.
The sun shone down on the fleet to welcome the yachts back into Cowes Yacht Haven and a well-deserved drink in the Panerai marquee. Crews could be heard sharing on-the-water stories, anecdotes and challenges before they headed off for the welcome reception on the lawn at the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron.
All photos: CHRIS BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY