Full round up report from the Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week
A feature length full round up report on the Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week 2016.
The biggest ever Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week, which took place from 11-15 July, welcomed a host classic yachts, ranging from the oldest, 122 year old Gaffer Spinaway X and, just five years younger, built in 1894, Peggy Baun, to a pair of modern but classically designed Tofonus, just couple of years old. The majority, however were designed, and mostly built, more than 40 years ago, the criteria for entry being that the yachts must have been designed before 1975.
The 188-strong fleet was the largest ever for the event which, in its ninth year is now fully established as one of Europe's most important classic yacht regattas.
This year some notable newcomers, including a class of S&S Swans, and four vintage Dragons, joined the now well established one design classes, the XODs, Bembridge One Designs, Darings, Solent Sunbeams, National Swallows, Flying Fifteens, Loch Longs and the metre yachts including a number of Six Metres and Eight Metres. Other regulars including Twisters, Gaffers and South Coast One Designs joined in the handicap cruiser racing from a shoreline start. The one designs sailed tightly around the mainly windward-leeward courses experiencing some high octane competition on four committee boat courses, spread across the mid-Solent and mainland shore. A fleet of Squibs also came from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, further east on the Island, to have a one-day only race on the Tuesday of the event. Easily spotted by their brown sails and small spinnakers, the Squib day belonged to Andrew Porteous and his Firecracker Too with two firsts.
A special invitational event within the regatta, added to the excitement when 24 International Tempests, two-man trapeze keelboats, used Cowes Classics Week as their World Championship. The Tempests fitted in seamlessly to the theme of the regatta, having been designed by Ian Proctor in 1965 as an Olympic class. Crews came from France, Austria, Switzerland and Germany as well as from Ullswater in the Lake District of the UK to take part.
During the week every type of weather presented itself, from excessive winds which forced the cancellation of the first day, to light and patchy breezes which made racing very tactical, especially in the strong Solent tides - something many of the visiting crews, especially in the Tempests, who are lake sailors, had to quickly get the hang of. Races were won and lost on 30 degree wind shifts and lucky choices as well as cunning and skill.
"The fleet is very competitive," reported Klaus Wende, who was racing his Tempest at Cowes for the first time. The one-time Flying Dutchman world champion from Bavaria, who returned to the race course on the second day after being holed in a port-starboard incident, said "It has been a great challenge to learn the tides here - where we sail there are no currents!"
Cowes Classics Week first took place in 2008 as a modest event for metre and classic dayboats, and continues to welcome more classic yacht classes and beautiful one offs. The yachts, representing 30 yacht clubs both in the UK and overseas, competed in 18 different classes over a number of race courses. Even the antique Peggy Bawn sailed down from Dublin to take part. Interest from newcomers continues to grow - at least 35 entrants did not compete last year.
A world champion was crowned at the event's conclusion as the lively breezes of the fourth and final day provided perfect action conditions. Frank Weigelt, sailing Holzwurm claimed the title in the International Tempest World Championship. This is the fifth time that Frank and his long-standing crew Christian Rusitschka have won the Tempest Worlds. "We prepared in a theoretical sense very much before we came to Cowes," said Frank who normally sails on tide-free lakes in Bavaria. "We had a lot to think about with the shifting winds and the Solent tides." He adds, "It has been a great challenge - we would definitely come here again." Another outstanding champion of the week undoubtedly had to be James Meaning and his crew Bob Brinsdon and Sean Curran on Gleam, who triumphed in the 50 strong XOD class, the largest class at the event. He had a lot of boats to beat and achieved it through consistent performance. He modestly said "We've never won a big event in 27 years but we thought if we kept trying for long enough the law of averages would win through." James completely rebuilt his 1967-built XOD (although the XOD was designed in 1911). James and his team beat Kim Slater's Madeleine into second place, and Olympic medallist Stuart Jardine shows no sign of slowing at the age of 75, gaining third place. A very worthy fifth overall was young Ben Childerley crewed by his father and two times Olympic Finn contender Stuart, and his sister Abby. Stuart described it as "a week of ups and downs!"
The XOD class was fiercely competitive right to the last race, where the antics of the fleet summed up a week of action and excitement. The dreaded black flag, threatening disqualification to any yacht over the line, was flying at the third attempt at a start for the over-eager one-designs.
The overall Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Trophy itself was won in the Solent Sunbeam class. Roger Wickens improved on his second place of last year by gaining an overall win in the closely fought series and his performance also give him the regatta win calculated using the weighted formula based on the number of boats in the class. The Solent Sunbeams, as a fleet, come across from Itchenor Sailing Club each year to compete in the Charles Stanley Cowes Classics, and the class which started in 1922 continues to grow with nine new boats in the water in the past couple of years.
Consistency was also the name of the game for BOD 8, sailed by James Row, who secured the top Bembridge One Design slot, including two firsts. The BOD, introduced in 1936, is based on the XOD, but with three inches less draught to cater for the shallow approaches of Bembridge Harbour. Despite the yacht not having a spinnaker racing was very tight in the class which shared a race course and start with the similarly paced Loch Longs.
The Flying Fifteen and National Swallow classes raced the same course on a KLR handicap system, and it was Mike Wigmore who won the series on National Swallow, Gwaihir, while the victory in the Flying Fifteen class belonged to Bobby Salmond's Vacquero. The two classes, combining to form the 'Day Boats Yellow' class were joined by some distinguished newcomers this year, four vintage Dragons. Amongst them was Rupert Street's Tschuss, recovered from a farmyard where she had languished for more than 20 years, and was completely restored by the Elephant Boatyard. Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week was her debut event of a new life.
The story of Tschuss was one of several that event Chairman Peter Taylor referred to when he gave an overview of the fleet, saying "Some of these yachts are over 100 years old but all are at the top of their game, and most are lovingly restored to immaculate condition by their owners". As well as the vintage Dragons, there were plenty of examples of restorations included John Corby's Doublet, the immaculate Daring which he relaunched last year, originally built in 1971. She is one of several that he has restored. John celebrated a win in the Daring Class, a development of the 5.5 metre which was a former Olympic Class. "This is the biggest Daring win for me to date," said John. "We made some good decisions and I had a very good crew in Ian Holtedahl-Finlay and Paul Miller and also my brother Mark."
Nine Loch Longs, which have all travelled from Aldeburgh, Suffolk were amongst the 13 classes in total which took part in the event, with James Mehew in Whisper taking the series. All the one design classes, Six Metres and Eight Metres were shared between four committee boat courses spread across the Solent to the east of Southampton Water. Whilst the first day of racing was lost to excessive wind conditions, each of the race officers and their teams went on to get all races completed on the largely windward leeward courses.
Six and Eight Metres shared a start for their two windward leeward courses, and the smaller Six, Sioma held onto a lead throughout then event with five first places, seeing off Tom Richardson's Thistle, in conditions well suited to Metre yachts. Sparring between three majestic Eight Metres saw a win go to Christopher Courage's K33 Helen closely contested by K36 Athena owned by David Parson and The Earl of Cork and Orrery with Richard Bendy's Osborne of Wight coming in third.
Five handicap classes, however, were racing from the fixed line of the organising club, the Royal London Yacht Club. Classic Cruising yachts, gaffers - several more than a century old and 'Spirit of Tradition' modern classic yachts raced over Solent courses. Six Twisters, a class of cruiser racers largely built in the 60s raced closely. Allan Beswick and his wife Gillian came to Cowes with the original Twister Twister of Mersea. "The wind and the courses have been right for us this week," said Allan, "We've enjoyed the shoreside programme of the event as well."
Charm of Rhu, a converted Eight Metre, built in 1963, competed in the Classic Cruiser handicap class. Owner Martin Thomas had a very special crew on board. "We decided to use the event as a reunion for my university friends of 40 years ago," he said, "so we had a fun crew!"
A host of historic gaffers and wooden cruisers including Contessa 26s, South Coast One Designs, two sleek modern classic Tofinous and other vintage yachts were joined for the first time by seven S&S Swans. Richard Loftus' Swan 65 Desperado won Classic Yachts Red 1 and the Swan trophy and Jonathan Wallis's Swan 36 Sheevra won Classic Yachts Red 2 and also the Swan trophy for that class. Jonathan said of his 1969 built Swan "This is the first year we were eligible to enter and we've had some very good racing." He added "We've had some good battles with Sunmaid V (built 1967)."
Adding a backdrop to the traditional sailing scene was the presence of two iconic yachts, Mariquita, the beautiful 38m (125ft) Fife design built in 1911, and Opposition, built in 1971 for the then British Prime Minister Edward Heath as his second Morning Cloud and which went on to win the Admiral's Cup. Neither yacht raced but Mariquita was on the water each day with a full crew to show their support to the fleet, and competitors at Cowes Classics Week enjoyed the chance of getting on board both boats to have a look around after racing.
Winners collected trophies from the magnificent Royal London collection, some dating back to the 19th century. Even older is the Charles Stanley 1792 Cup which was won by the Roger Wickens, and named after the year the title sponsors' company was formed.
In addition to the class prizes the Solent Grounding Trophy was won by Hal Sisk in Peggy Bawn who went aground on the Shrape trying to cheat the flood tide, but soon got off to win his race, the Classic Boat Concours D'Elegance Trophy was won by Roy Hart who had brought his beautiful gaffer Greensleeves II down from the East Coast, the Ratsey and Lapthorne Travellers Trophy went to Ted Fort who had his Tofinou Pippa trailed up from the Mediterranean and the Classic Boat Seamanship Trophy went to Chris Moore and Julian Money whose Solent Sunbeam Penny had a rigging failure on the Tuesday but with a lot of effort she was racing for the remainder of the week with some good results.
The Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week New Helm Trophy went to Jamie Hoare in his Folkboat Samphire which also won Classic Yachts Blue.
The Tempests also have 18 of their own historic trophies and new 2016 World Champion Frank Weigelt was awarded the Queen Victoria Jubilee Cup which was given to the club by the then Queen in 1886.
The Royal London Yacht Club was supported by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club, Cowes, Island Sailing Club and Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club.
This year’s event charity, the Miss Isle School of Sip & Puff Sailing, raised over £750. The unique sailing and training experience for physically disabled individuals who want to go sailing but aren’t able to sail a conventional boat. The charity is the brainchild of teenager Natasha Lambert, who has cerebral palsy herself, yet has already sailed around the Isle of Wight, up to the Thames, crossed the Channel, sailed over five hundred miles to Wales, and many other adventures. Natasha was at the prizegiving to accept the cheque. Visit http://www.missisle.com.
The Organisers are grateful to all the sponsors.
Cowes Classics Week 2017 dates: 17 to 21 July 2017.
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Photo credits; Jake Sugden.
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