Four Seasons in One Week for the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Bicentenary Regatta
By Marina Johnson
Photo Credit: Paul Wyeth
The Royal Yacht Squadron’s Bicentenary International regatta is complete. “Four seasons in one week,” was the apt summary from crew member Zach Mason of Dorade of Monday’s gales, and a gradual wind reduction to the windless afternoon that ended the regatta today.
Mike Broughton, navigator on Jethou explained the conditions in the Western Solent. “We started in a completely different breeze to the J Class who had started upwind to the east in a south easterly,” he said. “Then the westerly came and went a bit as it fought with the conditions to the east. Eventually a light sea breeze prevailed but there were some big holes making the race a bit of a lottery. Added to that there is a spring tide, up to 3 or 4 knots, so the racing was extremely tricky.
“The Race Committee could have cancelled the race today given the conditions but it was a good afternoon with lots of challenges and ultimately a good race,” added Broughton.
IRC Class 1’s course was shortened from five to four legs at Saltmead in the western Solent. The race was won by Tom Siebel’s Swan 90 Odin, sailed well by her crew which benefitted from the talents of Peter Isler as Navigator, and Steve Hayles as strategist/trimmer. Overall honour for the week ultimately went to Tony Langley’s brilliantly sailed Gladiator.
Winning all four races in the J Class, capped by a come-from-behind victory today, Velsheda maintained her excellent record on what are considered the famous yacht’s ‘home waters’ by winning the class. Lionheart and Velsheda ghosted down through a shortened course finish today, followed by Ranger, with guest Sir Ben Ainslie on board, in a nailbiting, windless finale with only the tidal current helping them to the final winning guns of the week.
“It is great to win overall and to win on handicap today,” said Velsheda owner Ronald de Waal, “That really capped it off for us. We were on the wrong side after the start and got back into it and so it is a nice feeling to win here. This is where the J’s heritage is, Velsheda’s home, and so it very special indeed to win here.”
The three grand Classics, Eleonora, Mariquita and Sumurun started in the same direction, and were given one long leg to a mark near the forts off Portsmouth, against the tide. A breakage to the top of her mast cost Mariquita a position in this last race and the overall victory went to Robert Tobin’s 1914 built Sumurun, which gained two second and two firsts in the series.
Class 4 was abandoned in the light winds today while Class 3 had only one finisher, Rives Potts’ Carina. The win sealed her overall victory in class for the owner, who also represented the visiting New York Yacht Club teams as their Commodore. Class 4 sailed enough races for a series during the week however. “We sailed hard until the time limit expired,” said owner of the winning Anna Mai Phil Hutchinson. “We completely restored the boat when we bought it and scored 2nd in the recent Swan Europeans. Anna Mai loves heavy weather so we were very comfortable in the big blow of Tuesday’s race and enjoyed the Race Around the Island too. It’s been a varied week.”
IRC Class 2 were a little more lucky. Simon Henning’s Mumm 36 Alice completed today’s race as winner nailing overall first place. “We had a good start today at the right end of the line and just led around the course. The contrasts of the event have been stark and it’s been brilliant”.
The five 8 metres weren’t so lucky with the conditions. Prefering moderate winds they were thwarted both at the beginning and the end of the week, but put in two races, with both firsts going to Murdoch McKillop’s Saskia.
There was total US domination of the Team Racing and Level rating events . “Anything could happen today”, the New York Yacht Club’s Vice Commodore Phil Lotz had commented as he and his team went into the final day of racing in the Level Rating Division. And indeed it did. With Real Club Nautico de Gran Canaria leading through the week, it took a 1st and a 5th by NYYC to nudge into the lead in today’s two races. “Half our crew have sailed together regularly for a while and we also brought some new faces along with us,” Lotz added. “The boats are good, a bit of a handful in the heavy weather at the beginning of the week but we’ve had some very even racing.”
Gran Canaria’s helmsman Jose Ignacio Cantero Brose, whose team was runner up said “We’ve been very happy with our performance, the tides are quite a challenge. All our team are from the same club and we have been racing and training together for a long time. We all live on the same island of Gran Canaria. We’ve enjoyed some close racing especially against the New York Yacht Club and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.” Over their three days of racing the Team Racing managed to fit in a total of 126 races. With the light winds of today the fleet didn’t complete their intended third Round Robin, instead moving straight to the semi finals, in which the St Francis Yacht Club faced the New York Yacht Club, and Royal Thames Yacht Club against Costa Smeralda Yacht Club. As the wind died away the two victors that faced each other in the finals were St Francis versus Royal Thames. Conditions meant that only one race could be run – and celebrating at the end of the event was St Francis Yacht Club from San Francisco. “We had an awesome time,” said St Francis team tactician Taylor Baeder. “Our team have sailed with against each other for a while. We made mistakes but not too many, we stuck to the basics.”
The competitors were treated to a spectacular parachute display by the Red Devils, who landed in the water just next to the assembled guests on the Royal Yacht Squadron’s iconic lawn. In wrapping up the event, the Commodore, Christopher Sharples thanked all the crews from the 24 clubs from all over the world for sharing the club’s 200th birthday, saying “this is not just for the club but for the town of Cowes as well. The next two hundred years begins now.”