Each year the owner of Skylark challenges the owner of another classic yachts to a race around the bay. The trophy, originally presented by the United Nations to Sir Malcolm Campbell, was made by Garrards of London in an art deco style. It is presented to the winner of the race at a prizegiving lunch onboard the classic motoryacht Talitha.
After three laps of the course the race was won by Skylark beating Manitou by a healthy 6 minutes 22 seconds, the biggest margin in BlueBird Cup history.
The BlueBird Cup was presented to Tara Getty following the race at a prizegiving for the crews aboard Talitha. Hamish Easton, owner of Manitou, received a “runners up” prize of a fake invoice for the running of the day. It listed fictitious prices for anything we could think of …! 🙂
The final event of the 2020 calendar was just about saved … the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions took effect on even the biggest event of the season with only some 38 classic boats participating. This combined with the event being split for the first time, with the 25 larger boats racing a week later. Whilst this detracted from the size of the even it was a sensible move which kept crowds to a minimum during this difficult and challenging time.
During the first race of the event Skylark had an excellent start and raced closely with the lighter and narrower Meerblick which was fast in the lighter conditions. However, both Skylark and Meerblick (and some other boats) followed the Sailing Instructions “to the letter” which the rest of the fleet did not. This added another 3 miles onto their course for the first race and the two boats came last and 2nd last respectively. Both boats (and others) appealed for the Jury to discard the race as it was an unfair result, due to the mismanagement of the course, but they would not alter the outcome.
For Race 2 the breeze was a little stronger from the south west and both Meerblick (with professional sailmaker and tactician Albert Schweizer on tactics) and Skylark had another good start. In the building breeze Skylark performed better and raced neck and neck with her sistership Comet who had Olympian Stuart Childerly driving and on tactics. As the end of the race approached with a reach to the finish, Skylark caught Comet and the two boats finished metres apart in 2nd and 3rd respectively, a mere 3 minutes behind Meerblick on corrected time.
Race 3 did not go so well. Skylark had a good position on the startline but in the light wind the lighter boats around her accelerated quicker and she fell back on corrected time. In an effort to win the race (necessary to win the event) Skylark’s excellent tactician made the decision to gybe at the windward mark which was opposite to the rest of the fleet. This never works. As Skylark’s owner was very quick to point out. Whilst the idea was initially genius, and everyone agreed that, the wind quickly died out and Skylark with her white light wind spinnaker was left becalmed whilst the breeze filled in from the south and the fleet sailed away. Unfortunately Skylark finished far from first which did not help her overall standing. She finished the event in a respectable 5th place only 5 points behind the overall winner Meerblick.
On the last night of the event Skylark’s owner announced a Captains’ Dinner. Sean was invited too.
The 2020 season was severely hampered by the Covid pandemic however it was exciting to see most of the top classic racing boats arrive in Cannes for the Regates Royales 2020. Most exciting of all, the crew of the modern mini maxi Spectre had chartered Comet, the sister-ship to Skylark, which would no doubt lead to some close racing. After all … Skylark had her A-Team.
For the Cannes event Skylark was joined by professional nice person Charles Orchard. It was to be Charles’ first time racing Skylark – in fact his first time racing anything on water – and he impressed the crew from the outset with his grasp of *can anyone think of something to go here …?;) and his personal fitness. It was a level of dedication and commitment not seen previously on the 53ft S&S.
Race 1 and Skylark picked the Committee boat end of the line which was favoured. Comet soon crossed on port behind her and Skylark kept a loose cover on her whilst heading to the right of the course towards the headland. Rowdy, also a well sailed big boat owned by Howard & Donna Dyer, led the fleet however Skylark sailed extremely well – not just to keep ahead of Comet but to finish close enough to Rowdy to win by several minutes on corrected time. On the water she finished 11 minutes ahead of Comet. However, once back at the dock it transpired that Comet had a split in her stem head on the bow, potentially from too much backstay tension, and she was to no longer take part in the event.
The second day dawned with a light offshore breeze which was guaranteed to be super-tactical. On the startline the wind died quickly and the top boats of Meerblick, Jour de Fete and Rowdy went right. Skylark along with Circe decided to stay to the left side of the course in search of new breeze. A huge left shift handed both boats a handsome lead by the first mark. Eventually the larger Rowdy overtook Skylark and managed to finish the race before the wind died again close to the finish. Skylark and Meerblick managed to sail right round Jour de Fete but as they two boats crossed the line Meerblick was just ahead meaning the Skylark finished 3rd on corrected.
Race 3 … quite possibly the best race we have done on Skylark. Gusty, shifty, tactical, flat water … the magic ingredients for the good ship Skylark. “It was the perfect race … quite possibly the most perfect race ever … everyone knows it was a perfect race!” commented The Headmaster on crossing the finish.
This memorable day started out with good breeze on the start and with over 20 knots coming off the shoreline the shifts were pronounced and intense. A right shift in the wind gave Skylark an advantage and, whilst she was soon overhauled by the larger Rowdy, Skylark flew her largest spinnaker and thundered down the runs at 10 knots and more. As the wind became stronger the Race Committee decided to shorten the course at the past windward mark and Skylark stormed to victory. As the crew congratulated each other on an excellent race Will Nutting, who had just arrived from the airport, signalled his appreciation by dipping his ensign. It was truly a day to remember. Race No. 221.
Is it the best event in the Med …? Quite possibly. It is not the largest regatta but it is the longest and 2020 was fabulous – the best Corsica Classic to date. First days were memorable for the 30+ knots of wind which fortunately were blowing offshore. After a lively training day the Skylark “B-Team Maison-de-Chien” headed out to the start of the first race. A short start line put emphasis on boat handling and Skylark threaded her way at speed through the fleet. After a run and a gybe in over 30 knots there was a 10 mile reach to the finish where Skylark raced neck and neck with the larger Olympian all the way. It was a really exciting race which Skylark won.
Sadly celebrations that evening were dampened when one crew member decided the restaurant found by another crew member was not up to scratch (a local pizzeria with very attractive prices) and a marital World War III was narrowly averted. However, everyone was terribly relieved when The Headmaster stepped in and generously bought everyone dinner. Next morning … after a good night’s sleep and with the passage of a little time … all was not forgotten and at-fault crew member was still, at breakfast, in the Maison-de-Chien.
The racing went from port to port and the stronger winds continued. After each race the Skylark crew often headed out on bikes to view the beautiful island of Corsica, the home to event organisers Thibaud & Katia Assante. The passage up the east coast was beautiful. Fortunately Skylark won every race except the 2nd one when she was beaten by Vistona owned by our friend Gian Battista Borea.
At the end of the racing a generous speech was given by Monsieur Le Tommy Écoute de Grand-Voile Franglais.
Due to the global pandemic it is unclear which regattas will be able to run during 2020, or even whether travel will be possible between countries.
Whilst Skylark is Standing-By … her crew wish our friends, competitors and their families a safe, sound passage navigating challenging waters.
May we cross-tacks with you sometime soon.
Les Ecosse des Pipes des Highlandaise … were invited onboard BlueBird for the closing ceremony. A fitting tribute, onboard a wonderful vessel, for a truly classic event.
“The most beautiful regatta in the world” are the words most often stated about Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. Held each year on the French Riviera, it is a celebration of the world’s most beautiful boats – both classic and modern – and the party scenes and lifestyle ashore is second to none.
In addition to all the beautiful sailing boats, many of the biggest and best motorboats also gather in support. These include the latest modern and contemporary craft, as well as classic motor yachts such as Shemara, Haida and Talitha, once owned by the Bee Gees impresario Robert Stigwood.
For the 2019 event Skylark again faced Cippino II the Argentinian boat that has an almost unbeatable record. Blitzen, Argyll, Stormy Weather were all also competing after a long season of events around the Mediterranean.
The conditions for racing through the week were unusual and, whilst Skylark performed well on some days and less well on others, her overall result was not the best of the year. One notable race, Race 3, Skylark had an incredible start and sailed away from the whole fleet of 42 boats. Two thirds of the way through the race she was caught on the wrong side of a wind shift and lost all of the significant lead that she had gained. It was a painful way to end the season having performed so well and all the other events.
That said, and in summary, the 2019 season was amazing. A lot of fun and results that were some of Skylark’s best yet.