Day one of the 2018 Panerai British Classic Week began in glorious sunshine and blue skies. Comments such as, “we could be in the Mediterranean” could be heard as crews gathered outside Cowes Yacht Haven for the day’s briefing. With 50 boats entered and crews from across the UK and Europe taking part, the regatta looked set to live up to its reputation as a competitive week on the water and a highlight of the sailing social calendar.
Once briefing was complete, the boats headed out of the marina towards the Royal Yacht Squadron for the traditional, annual Concours D’Elegance parade. With the distinctive blast of the cannon resonating across the Solent, the yachts and their crew passed the Royal Yacht Squadron, tipping their hats in salute to the senior representatives of the club as they went.
This year, each yacht has been fitted with a tracker allowing spectators onshore to keep up with all the action on the water and access real time results via sailracer.org. With a half an hour’s postponement to the start of the first race allowing the wind to fill in, the fleet headed out under glistening sunshine into a strong spring tide. By the time the 6Metre yachts set off from the inner Royal Yacht Squadron line, there was barely a cloud in the sky and an 8-10 knot south-westerly providing fantastic race conditions.
The first leg saw the 6Metres and Classes 1-3 race upwind from the inner line to Salt Mead. Class 4 had its first start recalled before setting off up to Gurnard Ledge to starboard. The first leg was a closely fought, tactical beat for all classes, with yachts seeking respite inshore from the strong tide and busy channel.
From Salt Mead, the 6Metres and Classes 1 and 4 sailed downwind under spinnakers to East Lepe, whilst Classes 2 and 3 took a downwind leg inshore to Dick Johnson. If you were lucky enough to be in the Solent as the fleet sailed downwind, you would have seen a spectacle of beautiful classic yachts flying an array of brightly coloured spinnakers coming over the horizon. With the sun shimmering on the blue-green water and the warm breeze gliding the yachts towards the next mark, it certainly was champagne sailing conditions.
With the wind building, many yachts battled to bring their spinnakers down as they rounded the mark to starboard. A second upwind leg up to Cowes Yacht Haven for the 6Metres and Class 1, and to Quinnell for Classes 2 and 3 preceded a final downwind leg to the Royal Yacht Squadron inner line for the finish. Class 4 had an extra mark at Quinnell, meeting Class 2 as they went around, resulting in some close calls and entertaining spectating! Class 4 then sailed on to round Cowes Yacht Haven to port before crossing the line to finish.
Owner and skipper of Spirit 52 Flight of Ufford, Sean McMillan, commented: “I have sailed all over the world and when the Solent is at its best, there really is no better place to race on the planet. Today it really was at its best; the sailing conditions were brilliant.”
The crews returned to Cowes Yacht Haven full of adrenaline and eagerly headed to find out the results on corrected time. The 6metre class was won by Sioma, closely followed by Thistle and Nancy. Regatta regular Flight of Ufford and her iconic spitfire spinnaker took Class 1, ahead of Oui Fling and Phantom. Class 2 saw Bojar in first followed by Athena and Golden Fleece, whilst Suvretta won Class 4 ahead of Dorothy and Cereste. With close results across most of the classes, it really is all to play for as we head into day two of the regatta.
Day two sees an amendment to the racing schedule, with Monday’s planned NAB Tower race due to take place on Tuesday in stronger winds and tomorrow will now be an inshore race in the Solent.