The winner of the 10th Charles Stanley Direct Cowes Classics Week put his success down to a bit of practice and the tightly competitive Swallow fleet which keeps him on his toes year round. Mike Wigmore and his crew, who brought his Swallow Gwaihir across the Solent from Itchenor, explained “It’s great coming to the Classics. We love the combination of windward leeward sailing and round the cans courses. I can truly say we’ve never had a better regatta.” Gwaihir won with the lowest points score across the fifteen classes and divisions taking part.
Mike made his comments despite Charles Stanley Direct Cowes Classics Week (CSDCCW) wrapping up with three days of racing out of a potential five when the last two days had to be cancelled due to winds in the Solent pushing toward 30 knots. In typical Cowes fashion the weather presented the 170 entries with every scenario from kedging calm to stay-in-port howlers. Despite this, competitors enjoyed a great mix of sailing conditions and courses.
Luckily, enough races had been completed to fulfil the series for all classes. Winner of the largest class, the X One Designs, was 19-year old Max Crowe. “I always like to keep an eye on where everyone is on the race course,” he said, explaining his winning tactics. Max has been sailing the boat for four years, honing his skills in Cadets and Oppies. “We had a very good week, very well organised.”
Another well-earned series victory went to Andrew Milliband sailing Fifty Fifty in the Flying Fifteen class. Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Uffa Fox-designed keelboat, which first appeared in 1947, the occasion attracted sixteen boats including a crew from South Africa, sailing Durban Flyer. “We sail Flying Fifteens regularly in Durban and wanted to come to England to celebrate the anniversary,” said owner Campbell Alexander, whose crew Jeremy Kriek also made the trip. A special race was abandoned on the Monday due to lack of wind, with all yachts eventually retiring despite a promising start. As Durban Flyer was the last to do so she was awarded the anniversary trophy, the Queen Victoria Jubilee Cup.
Plenty of other winners across the fleets picked up a large collection of historic silverware. Murdoch McKillop’s Saskia was the winning yacht amongst the four majestic 8-metres that competed while John Corby took first place in the Daring Class, also claiming the Metre Regatta Trophy. Racing on the same circuit were the Solent Sunbeams, won by Martin Jones in Betty. Of the eight Bembridge One Designs, BOD8, sailed by James Rowe emerged victorious.
The mixed fleets of Classic Cruisers saw wins for S&S 43 Firebrand, built in 1964 in ‘Red 1’ class and Lawrence Wride’s 1967-built Sunmaid V in ‘Red 2’. Mike Harrison’s 1965 Contessa 26 Jiminy Cricket won Blue while Richard Hargreaves’ 47 year old Twister Sea Urchin took victory in Green. Claire Locke, helming her Folkboat, The Otter, was the winner of her class.
A special seamanship award was presented to Doctor Steph Brown, who was crewing on Flying Fifteen Fram Freyr, holding on to second position in the race, when she witnessed a nearby collision between a Dragon and Flying Fifteen. Giving up her place in the race she went to the aid of a concussed crew who was subsequently taken to hospital and given 24 stitches in his head.
The opening Winkworth Race Day witnessed light airs and shifting winds, presenting a mixture of fortunes across the competing fleets. One of the first to show her winning colours was Andrew Pearson’s wooden 10 metre yacht Bojar, 80 years old this year, in the ‘Classic Yacht Red 1’ class. Along with three other divisions, Classic Red II, Blue and Green, the cruisers sailed mid-Solent courses from the Royal London’s shore line off the Parade at Cowes. A gybing duel between the modern Pippa and the 1972 Firebrand, a one off Sparkman & Stevens 43 owned by Ramona-Ann Gale, illustrated the contrasts between the traditional characters of the many yachts at the regatta. Bojar’s tactician Nick Ryley, summarised the day for the Classic Cruiser divisions, saying “We had everything up and down today including the anchor!”
Perfect 12-14 knot conditions provided spectacular racing on the second Henri Lloyd Race Day. A dozen each of the Flying Fifteens and Solent Sunbeams raced from committee boat lines along with the 8 metres, Bembridge One Designs and Swallows. The honour of taking home the overall cup for the day, the perpetual Henri Lloyd Trophy went to Martin Jones and his crew on Betty in the fiercely competitive Solent Sunbeam fleet, which took two firsts on the day. “It’s all about the start,” said Martin, who normally sails an International 14. “We were very lucky both times to get off the line and into clean air. Once we had the lead we just seemed to keep hold of it.”
Tuesday was a black day for the XODs whose normally 43 strong fleet was reduced when a quarter were disqualified for being over the line at the start of the second race. Race Office Bob Milner reported “After a first general recall we were forced to black flag the second race… and the third.” A double winner on Tuesday’s committee boat courses today was John Corby who was back again once again on Doublet, to take two firsts in the 14 strong Daring fleet. John rescued the 45 year old Doublet from a local yard for just £10 before going on to completely restore her two years ago.
Meanwhile, for the four Classic Cruiser classes “it was quite hard work for the crews in the building breeze,” according to Circuit Race Officer Derek Hodd. The conditions suited Richard Hargreaves’ 1970-built Twister Sea Urchin who beat three fellow Twisters in the ‘Green’ class and taking first in the class overall. Claire Locke’s Nordic Folkboat The Otter, built in 2001 but designed way back in 1941, remained unbeatable amongst the Nordic and International Folkboats.
Wednesday’s Haines Boatyard Race Day saw close racing amongst the Folkboats, Twisters, SCODs and Contessa 26s. The day was only slightly marred by a collision resulting in broken spreaders for Folkboat Samphire, but undaunted, owner James Hoare was able to replace them before the following day. Sailing over the same course Twister Sea Urchin took her second win of the series. “She’s a hard boat to beat,” said Peter Mulville of sister-Twister Viveza. “There is intense rivalry amongst our small fleet when we are racing,” he says. The CSDCCW is the only time of the year that we all come together. We put everything into getting the best performance out of our boats.” This is despite the fact that Viveza is 45 years old. “She was built by my father in the garden, and passed from him to me,” adds Peter. “She’s never had another owner.”
With the next two days of racing cancelled, crews stayed ashore, but a stroll along the docks of Cowes revealed at close quarters several of the one-offs and yachts with stories. Catching the eyes of the spectators when they were racing included the largest boat in the fleet, Mistral, a Hereshoff designed 82 ft schooner, built in 1938. Christoph Schlotjunker has owned her since 1996 and has put her through two major restorations. Mistral was a navy vessel, patrolling the coast of the USA during World War II in search of U-Boats. Later she was the first training ship of the US Navy to sail across the Atlantic under the command of a female captain to participate in the coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II. A wonderful sight at CSDCCW Mistral carried an array of sails including the gollywobbler. According to her crew, she can withstand most conditions, so she would have cut smoothly through the high winds that plagued the last part of the week, which can be so uncomfortable for small keelboats and more delicate vintage yachts.
Another competitor which stood out from the crowd was an unusual looking small yacht which was racing amongst Contessa 26s and Old Gaffers. Named Eeyore in honour of the gloomy situation in which she was found “behind a Nottingham power station”, she has been restored to meet the pre-1975 design rule of the CSDCCW. “She was an Alacrity, built in 1964,” explains owner and restorer Jo Richards. “I took the deck off and put on a different one which I just happened to have lying around, and then refitted the boat.” Eeyore put in a second and a third during the event.
There were a number of one day appearances from other pre-war classes. On the Tuesday a nine-strong class of Squibs made a special appearance for one day. Designed over half a century ago, the Squibs made their annual journey from Fishbourne in the east of the Isle of Wight. A Solent voyage was also undertaken by Wednesday’s special guests, the Victory class, all built in 1934, who sailed to Cowes from Portsmouth. Like the XOD and the Solent Sunbeam the Victory was designed by Alfred Westmacott. Six of them raced three windward leeward courses with top slot on points going to Mark Dennington’s Ziva. The class continues to thrive, with new GRP boats being built in the last few years.
Another vintage Solent class, the Bembridge One Design, competed in all the races. A class whose owners all periodically vote to collectively make major upgrades to keep their boats identical, the BOD fleet was built between 1933 and 1935, and all have since been restored and then re-decked in 1989. Jos Coad, sailing the simply-named BOD 12, who was Class Captain for 20 years, said, “The BODs have been coming to CSDCCW since 2009. The courses are ideal for our fleet.”
Classic yacht racing continues to grow in popularity with stories of the rescue and restoration of forgotten relics continuing to emerge. The CSDCCW was the ultimate goal for Cynthia, one lovingly restored and gleaming Seaview Mermaid, a Westmacott design built in 1922. Cynthia just managed to make the start line this week after an eight year project by her owners. The efforts of Mike Randall, John Turner and Jamie Nimmo were recognised when they collected the regatta’s Classic Boat Magazine Concours d’Elegance. Not yet quite measuring as a Seaview Mermaid, Cynthia raced in the ‘Classic Dayboats’ class alongside Swallows, a Dragon and a Tempest. The opening race was her very first outing.
Another clutch of historic yachts emerging in mint condition are the Vintage Dragons. Tim Street, who has been instrumental in promoting and encouraging restorations, says “We are still finding Dragons to restore, including one recently found in a barn in the New Forest.” His two sons and grandson continue the Dragon sailing tradition - son Rupert raced Tschuss to second place at the CSDCCW although he was edged from first place by Matthew Lingley’s Kestrel.
Through the week the Royal London’s race management was supported by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Royal Victoria Yacht Club, Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club and Island Sailing Club.
Charles Stanley Direct Cowes Classics Week is grateful to supporting sponsors Haines Boatyard, Winkworth, Harken, Red Funnel, Cowes Harbour Commission, Kendalls Fine Art and Classic Boat magazine, and for the first time Henri Lloyd.
There is already a buzz amongst competitors looking forward to the next Cowes Classics Week, which returns again from 23 - 27 July 2018. More first time yachts are already indicating their intention to come along, including Bloodhound, the 1936 Camper & Nicholson design which has confirmed her intention to enter next year. The elegant classic 12 metre ocean cruiser/racer was built in 1936 and was owned by the Duke of Edinburgh between 1962 and 1969.
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Photo credits; Rick Tomlinson.
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