There may have been no sailing on the opening day of a British Classic yacht week in Cowes, but that didn't stop the competitors having a fabulous time. The schedule called for the Panerai Classic Around The Island Race, with a 7.30am start time, but with little or no wind forecast the Race Committee wisely opted to change the programme and instead proposed a Solent inshore race. Although the morning brought hot sunshine, conditions over the mainland were hazy and the sea breeze stubbornly refused to develop. By 13.00 it was clear the situation was not going to improve and racing was reluctantly called off for the day.
Whilst the lack of racing was disappointing, Panerai British Classic Week is as much about the boats and their owners as it is about the race results, so great fun was still had by all. Cowes Yacht Haven's south basin is awash with gleaming varnish and highly polished brass work and there is nothing classic boat owners love more than a chance to check out each others boats, compare stories and exchange tips, so today gave them the perfect opportunity to indulge.
With nothing to trim or hoist, the cooks in the fleet turned their attentions to lunch and some spectacular cockpit picnics were enjoyed, all washed down with copious quantities of Pimms and well chilled champagne. For others the lure of a swim in Osborne Bay was overwhelming and a number of the crews headed off to the delightful anchorage off Queen Victoria's summer home for a cooling dip.
For Sam Laidlaw and Rob Gray's Sparkman and Stephens designed Clarionet, today's delay was rather welcome as the boat only went back into the water after a major refit this week and there are still plenty of small jobs to finish. Built by Clare Lallow's yard in Cowes, Clarionet is one of the most successful racing yachts of all time. In her opening season of 1966 she won or came second in almost every race she took part in, including winning Cowes Week and the RORC St Malo Race overall. But she was more than a one-season wonder, going on to win hundreds more races in her 47 year career including the 1987 RORC Channel Race, where she beat off the entire 42 strong Admiral's Cup fleet and her class in the 2001 Fastnet. Even at 43 years young she still finished 3rd in class in the 2009 Fastnet racing against some of the hottest modern race boats of the day! After her refit at David Heritage's Cowes yard she is looking as stunning as ever and everyone will be watching eagerly to see if she also retains her winning ways.
Just getting to Cowes has been a major achievement for some of the competitors including Simon Field's Swanilda, a 1960 Nicholson bermudan sloop built by The Berthon Boat Company, and James Kelman's Croix des Gardes, a 1947 Henri Dervin bermudan cutter built by Bonnin Arcachon, both of which sailed across the Atlantic to be here. Croix des Gardes left the 2012 edition of Panerai British Classic Week heading for the Panerai Transat Classique. At the end of that race she cruised through the Caribbean and up the east coast of the United States, before sailing back across the Atlantic just in time for this year's event. As if that wasn't an impressive enough achievement in its own right Croix des Gardes' crew for the entire trip included James's children Elizabeth, six, and Matthew, eight, both of whom were rather disappointed not to be able to race today.
Tomorrow's forecast looks more promising with 10+ knots from the north-east and hot sunshine, which bodes well for EFG International Race Day which will feature one race starting at noon. The regatta continues until Saturday 13th July with racing every day until Friday and a Parade of Sail past the Royal Yacht Squadron on Saturday.
For further information and details about the Panerai British Classic Week please visit www.britishclassicyachtclub.org/regatta.