A round-up report
The eighth Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week, organised by the Royal London Yacht Club, attracted 170 yachts to five days of Cowes classic conditions, ending on 24th July. The qualification requiring a boat to be designed before 1970 - and indeed the oldest participant was built in 1896 - draws in a number of one design keelboats including X One Designs, Bembridge One Designs, Solent Sunbeams, Darings, Squibs, Seaview Mermaids, Flying Fifteens and Swallows. Others taking part in handicap classes include Old Gaffers, both large and small and assorted classics such as the South Coast One Design, Nicholson 32, Twister, Contessa 26 and others.
The most triumphant win of the week at the Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week undoubtedly had to be that of the XOD class. The 60-strong one design class was the one with the most boats to beat and the joint owners of Ibex, Paul Woodman and Oliver James, did just that, along with their third crew member Simon McCarthy. “We had a very good start to the week, and sailed consistently,” said Oliver. “We are always looking for boat speed and the all-important clean start and clear air.” The Alfred Westmacott XOD was designed in 1911, and the class continues to thrive, having recently celebrated its centenary.
Through the week there were great wind conditions, almost always from 10 to 20 knots and usually somewhere in between. One design classes were divided between four separate committee boats which were spread throughout the eastern Solent to give each group plenty of room for their predominantly windward leeward courses. The two Classic Cruiser handicap divisions and larger Old Gaffer classes instead used the shore line of the Royal London Yacht Club and were able to take advantage of fixed Solent mark courses.
The XOD fleet needed to have their enthusiasm curbed here and there during the week. The final day of racing was typical of the rest of the week - two general recalls forced Bob Milner’s committee boat to display a black flag at the third start, much the same as was happening earlier in the week too. But this did not deter the competitors from starting closely fought races. The Friday winner, Roger Yeoman on Xcitation showed what he is capable of, gaining his second win of the week.. In fact Xcitation was the only XOD to win more than one race, but missed two races with spreader failure, and it was Ibex’s consistent performance which won the day but only by one point from Alastair Ashford in Foxglove, who was over for the event from Antigua.
The Bembridge One Designs chose not to race in the wet weather of the final day but four 1sts through the week were plenty to assure John Deacon in BOD 6 an overall win. 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 is tight in the fleet.
The Daring Class is also a development of another design, the 5.5 metre, a former Olympic Class. David Gower and Dolphin celebrated today’s Daring win but it was one of the original 1961 builds, of which there are three in the class, Decoy, owned by Richard Ottaway, which won overall, but only by one point also. The phenomenally tight class raced right up to the wire to decide the final results. Magnus Wheatley, owner of Destroyer, explained “It all came down to the last race, in fact the final mark of the last race, which assured me my second position!”
In the Solent Sunbeam class Cathy and Joe Burnie’s Fleury had an almost clean sweep of 1sts from their eight races, the only other first place going to Roger Wickens who was just nine points behind at 2nd overall. Joe and Cathy repeated their winning ways of last year’s event. Joe, who helms the boat, said “We’ve had some challenging conditions this week.” He adds “We were coming off the line fast. Positioning ourselves early at the port hand end and bagging our spot seemed to pay off for most starts. With a fleet that has such an even speed, this really makes a difference.” The one-design, which was designed in 1923, has a very active and optimised fleet based at Itchenor Sailing Club. The fleet sailed back to the Chichester harbour base once the event was over, as they do each year.
Two classes paid a visit to the event for one day only. The Squibs made a special one day only appearance on Tuesday, the Winkworth and Royal Victoria Race Day. Easily spotted by their brown sails and small spinnakers, the class was dominated by Roly Wilson in Bachante VIII with three firsts, and Acrobat helmed by S Warren-Smith with three seconds. Eyes were also on a trio of 15 year old brothers, indeed triplets, Charlie, Harry and Tom White, who raced Alice into a highly respectable 8th place.
On Thursday the Seaview Mermaids cruised the short distance to Cowes from their home port at the east of the Island. Each sported their distinctive and exclusive bright hull colour, and the fleet has been racing in the Solent for over 100 years. All 13 yachts of the current fleet whose home is at the Seaview Yacht Club, came to the start line, and the club members, who charter the boats, clearly race keenly and regularly judging by the closeness of the fleet.
The Flying Fifteen and Swallow Classes raced together in the same division as each other and it was the youngest helm in the fleet who showed them the way. No one could get close to William Heritage, aged 14 who took Flying Fifteen Freddie Flintoff to six firsts in seven races.
David Hopkins races with his wife Christine in his diminutive Chough, a pretty Old Gaffer built in 1927. Collecting the trophy for the Old Gaffers Silver Class, he said “We love coming to Cowes Classics Week. This is the fourth year that we have been here.” Hamble-based Chough races regularly with the Old Gaffers’ Association, and David admits to adding a few racing ‘tweaks’ to keep the boat competitive. “We completely restored the boat in 2009 after it sat ashore for 25 years.”
Another historic yacht which took first in class was Anne-Marie Coyle’s Responsive, a Nicholson 32. Although beaten in the final race by Ted Fort OBE in his Tofinou 9.5 Pippa, which he had bought up from the Mediterranean, taking first, and Caroline Aisher’s Tofinou 8 Lennie¸in second, she scored three firsts in the five races to secure Responsive’s position. Anne-Marie, who is the Class Captain for the Nicholson 32s, said “Responsive was built in 1973 and we have owned her for 13 years. We only started racing three years ago. The secret of our success may be that we bought a new mainsail and remembered to empty the water tank!”
In the Classic Yacht Blue Fleet, Douglas Peniston’s 1964 Folkboat Finvara convincingly took first place, ahead of Michael Harrison’s Contessa 26 Jiminy Cricket in the final race, securing them first and second overall. The 13 strong fleet enjoyed some great competition around a Solent course against others in their class which included South Coast One Designs, Twisters and the Contessa 26s, the winner of this class receiving the Queen Victoria Jubilee Cup in their 50th Anniversary year.
The majestic 6 metres also had an undisputable champion. The six 6 metres which came to the event were all ‘classics’ as opposed to ‘moderns’ as the newer 6s are known, and amongst them was Fenton Burgin’s Sioma which won every race to take the championship during a week of wind conditions sometimes a little at the high end of what this class likes. Bobcat was a welcome addition to the 6 metre fleet. Only a week ago the yacht was being repaired in Holland following a collision at the Worlds in La Trinite, but owner Andrew Webster completed the work and trucked her to the Solent just in time for the event.
With just one race per day in their programme the historic Old Gaffers enjoyed mid-Solent round the cans racing. “The courses suited us perfectly”, says co-owner Tim Redburn, of the fully restored Beeleigh, which is 102 years old. “Gaffers are not known for their upwind sailing, and some great fetching legs were ideal for the design.”
On a final note on performance versus age, Barry Dunning and Bob Fisher’s 1896 Solent One Design Rosenn, designed and built by White’s, was unbeatable in the Classic White division, whose fleet boasts no boat built later than 1913. “Twenty three Solent One Designs were built,” says Bob, and we know there is one still active in Argentina.” Of the racing he said “We just seemed to pull away ahead of the fleet. We knew where we wanted to go and we worked the tide. Rosenn was the oldest boat in the entire fleet.
In the special prizes Amelia Hickmott aged 15 was awarded the Seamanship Trophy for helming an XOD back to Cowes in 25 knots plus of wind after her helm had to be taken home in a RIB and Caroline Aisher won the Travellers Trophy as she had sailed her Tofinou up from Torquay.
The Cowes Classics Fleet is growing year on year. Peter Taylor, the Chief Race Officer who is also the Commodore of the Royal London, the organising club, thanked more than 60 volunteers who helped to organise the regatta including many who came from other clubs to assist with managing the multiple course areas.
Thanks go to title sponsor Charles Stanley and supporting sponsors Hudson Wight, Harken, Haines Boatyard, Winkworth, Cowes Harbour Commission, nms marketing, Kendalls, The Yachting Studio, and Classic Boat Magazine.
Picture galleries of all the racing here.
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Photo credit; Tim Jeffreys.
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