An early start on day three of Panerai British Classic Week as crews prepared to take on the inaugural NAB Tower Race. The fleet rallied for an 8am start for Classes 1-4 on the Royal Yacht Squadron inner line, with the 6 Metres sailing a shorter inshore course later in the morning.
With the tide running west to east, the fleet benefitted from the following currents as they hoisted spinnakers to cross the start line and take an historic sail past the north-east coast of the Isle of Wight.
Planned in favour of the previous, longer Around the Island Race, the NAB Tower course took the fleet between the iconic Horse Sand and No Mans Land Forts on to the NAB Tower directly off Bembridge Ledge in the east of the Isle of Wight. An imposing 27m tall x 12m wide steel and concrete cylinder, the NAB Tower was built in 1918 to help protect the south coast from German submarines during World War One.
The first leg saw the fleet gliding downwind in sunshine, fair winds and following seas in between the forts and on to the NAB Tower. As the boats approached the tower a leisurely run turned into a very close reach and crews rushed to hoist genoas and drop spinnakers as they went around the tower to port. Rounding the mark, clever tactics were needed to judge the tide, which was washing south out of Southampton pushing the yachts back on to the tower.
As the first boats cleared the tower and headed back between the forts they found themselves in alternating pockets of wind and lulls as well as a strengthening oncoming tide. The long beat back to the Royal Yacht Squadron inner line took in a highlights tour of the north east shoreline of the Isle of Wight, including the picturesque town of Ryde, the formidable Quarr Abbey and Osborne House; a former residence of Queen Victoria.
To avoid the oncoming tide, most yachts chose to stay close to the shoreline, which paid off for many but a number of yachts found themselves caught out by the swift drop in depth and went temporarily aground before nudging themselves back into the tide.
The gusty beat kept crews on their toes as they powered back to the finish, where Spirit 65 Chloe Giselle took Line Honours, followed by Spirit 52 Oui Fling and Spirit DH63 Gwenhyfar.
Yachts returned to Cowes Yacht Haven upbeat about a third day of epic racing in the Solent. Jonathan Dyke, owner and skipper of 10 Tonner Cereste, commented: “What a fantastic sail; the weather, the course… you couldn’t write the regatta script better if you tried.”
On corrected time, Flight of Ufford made it three wins from three in Class 1 followed by Spirit 37 and regatta regular Strega in second, and Spirit 46 Helen of Durgan in third. Sparkman & Stephens Masthead Bermudan Sloop Golden Fleece took Class 2, with Opposition in second and Cetewayo in third. Class 3 was won by Whooper, who also tallies three class wins from three, followed by Laughing Gull, a Sparkman & Stephens yawl, and the Fife Gaff Cutter Kismet. West Solent One Design Suvretta took her third win of the week in Class 4, closely followed by Cereste and Dorothy.
The NAB Tower Race was won overall on corrected time by Suvretta, with Cereste in second and Whooper in third.
This evening sees the open yachts dock party sponsored by Spirit Yachts and Classic Boat magazine as well as the judging for the Concours D’Elegance and Originality prizes. Tomorrow, the yachts will be racing an inshore course in the morning followed by the Ladies Race in the afternoon.