The final day of Panerai British Classic Week 2019 saw competitors huddle into the Panerai marquee out of the rain for breakfast and briefing. Spirits were high ahead of the last day of racing, but the weather was not! Decked out in full wet weather gear, crews left the dock at Cowes Yacht Haven and headed out into the Solent in driving rain.
All the 6mRs decided to forgo their race in favour of staying in the warm, so it was up to the wider fleet to go and have one last blast around the Solent. With a fluctuating 10-12knot breeze swinging between the south and west, yachts tested the line whilst keeping an eye on a looming 200m vehicle carrier coming down the channel and into Southampton.
Royal Yacht Squadron Chief Race Officer Dai Prichard and his team started the fleet together on a combined line but set two separate courses: one for the 8mRs, Class 1 and 2, and one for Classes 3 and 4.
The 8mRs and Classes 1 and 2 set off from the line on an easterly upwind leg with the tide to Gurnard Ledge. Rounding the mark to starboard, the three classes headed west under spinnakers against the tide to Williams Shipping. Taking care to avoid cross-channel ferries, the yachts headed up around Williams Shipping and made a quick tack to set off on a cross-channel beat to Snowden just off Cowes Harbour.
With the wind building from the south, the yachts rounded Snowden to port and battled to hoist spinnakers for the leg back across to Hill Head in the Hamble estuary. By the time the yachts had rounded Hill Head to starboard, the wind was gusting 25-30knots apparent and the smaller yachts clung on valiantly through the wind and waves.
Rounding Royal London to port, spinnakers were hoisted (and clung on to) on the downwind, cross-channel leg back to Marava. With safety paramount in high winds, a few yachts could be seen reverting to white sails half way down the leg (especially after two yachts were seen with blown-out sails due to the wind).
Gybing around Marava to starboard, the 8mRs and Classes 1 and 2 sailed back upwind against a (by now) westerly running tide to finish on the RYS line.
The course for Classes 3 and 4, took them on a cross-channel reach with the tide to Lepe Spit. Keeping an eye on the depth over the spit, the yachts bore away around the mark to starboard and set off downwind on a short inshore leg to Royal Thames. Gybing around Royal Thames, it was a reach across to East Knoll and a spinnaker drop to take the mark to starboard.
Heading upwind into the swell of the Solent, Classes 3 and 4 beat into the middle of the channel as the tide carried them down onto South Bramble. Taking the mark to port, some yachts took a similar view to the faster classes and chose to stick to white sails, whilst others went all-in on the final race and hoisted spinnakers on the long leg to Velociwrap Graphics at the mouth of the Hamble.
Reaching across to Hamble Yacht Services, the yachts headed up around the mark to starboard and beat back against the tide to the RYS finish.
Once back on the dock, crews could be heard sharing stories of the fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled action on the water as they started to pack up their yachts ready to head back to home ports. This evening, the final overall results and prize-winners will be revealed at the glamorous Regatta Dinner.
All photos: Chris Brown Photography