Peaking Parking Porquerolles

One of Skylark’s favourite classic events is on the island of Porquerolles located just west of Saint-Tropez and to the south of Marseilles in France. With Covid-restrictions partially eased along the Riviera, the regatta was able to take place under strict guidelines and once each competitor had had PCR tests. There were no social functions or prizegivings and competitors were asked not to congregate.

During the practice day for the Skylark crew, it was observed that there was a huge wind shadow by the lighthouse at the northern end of the island – something that was noted as being a potential factor if a Round the Island race was run.

Race 1 start line was heavily biased towards the committee boat in light winds. Skylark chose the favoured end of the line but the lighter, smaller boats were able to accelerate quicker and Skylark did not have the best of starts. The windward mark was only 0.4 miles away so the poor start meant Skylark was on the back foot from the very beginning. Two long reaches ensued to the finish line which were a procession. At the end Skylark placed 5th out of 18 in her class. With no discard for this event it meant that Skylark would have to sail incredibly well in the remaining two races with at least podium finishes in each.

Following racing the crew took an eMTB tour of the island – on such a beautiful isle one of the highlights of the day.

Perspective of the Race 2 windward mark rounding from the bowman

Race 2 brought about a more aggressive start – Skylark pushed three boats over the start line and began in clear air right on the gun. However, a gradual right shift went against her – she tacked early of the layline to be out of phase with the dense fleet above her and tacked two more times than the opposition, remaining out of phase and in clear air, to reach the windward mark on the opposing layline and rounded in a lead position.

The larger S&S LYS tries to overtake Skylark to windward but resigns to take a position behind.
“Don’t look back in anger”

Two long reaches ensued, the latter turning into a run on the forecasted shifting breeze. Skylark lost a little of her lead but was still winning the race. She rounded the leeward mark 8 miles from home alongside the faster Jour de Fete however, in the light wind she was no match for Jour de Fete who extended to an 8 minute lead by the finish. It was enough to give JDF the race win, with Skylark a respectable 2nd, enough to keep her in contention for the overall regatta victory.

The larger S&S LYS attempts to pass to leeward – filmed from Skylark’s mizzen trimmer Kos
Gybing round the leeward mark alongside Jour de Fete racing for the win

After two races and with the final race to go, Skylark was 4th overall and required a race win ahead of Andale and Windhammer with Jour de Fete placing 5th or lower.

A little more breeze on the startline of Race 3 – a race Round the Island – gave Skylark more power on the startline relative to the smaller boats and she hit the line perfectly in clear air. It was just the start she needed, successfully stealing the wind from Jour de Fete as she crossed the line directly behind her. Jour de Fete tacked inshore as soon as she could and Skylark tacked to cover both her and Andale. It was all on …

Perfect start for Skylark in the final Race 3

As the boats approached the first headland, Skylark held Jour de Fete offshore and tacked first onto the layline for the long port biased beat to the 2nd headland 4 miles away. However, Andale was lifted inshore and crossed just ahead of Skylark on starboard. Skylark saw the manoeuvre coming and built speed from a minute before so that when Andale tacked on Skylark’s wind she miscalculated Skylark’s high speed and Skylark was able to push through her wind shadow to leeward.

Andale tacks on Skylark’s wind for the long beat around the island – but Skylark anticipates the move and powers through to leeward
Skylark powers through to leeward after regatta leader Andale tacks on her wind. In the background, BlueBird leaves for Greece

By switching modes between power and point, Skylark edged her way into a lee bow position on Andale whilst simultaneously putting dirty air onto Jour de Fete who fell further and further behind despite the wind being quite light at times. In fact, so detrimental was the effect that JDF did not make the next headland and had to make an additional tack offshore.

Skylark led the whole fleet all the way round the island. She peaked her performance just at the right moment and was in a strong first place with JDF way down the fleet – exactly what she needed to secure the regatta win. And then we arrived at the lighthouse … a mere stones-throw from the finish.

As we noted on the first practice day, the wind completely disappeared here and Skylark slowly drifted to a halt. She parked up. There was nothing she could do as all the smaller lighter boats glided up to her. The race restarted in mirror calm right before the finish. It was a painful way to lose the regatta win and, dare we say it, it felt a little unfair that the organisers did not finish the race at the lighthouse knowing there was zero wind afterwards and that this would make the race a lottery.

Andale managed to find calmer water inshore and nearly an hour and a half later slipped across the finish to win the regatta. Skylark finished 11th meaning she remained 5th overall. It was a disappointing end to a fabulous regatta.

LOCKDOWN LOCK-IN

The normally busy Port of Saint-Tropez under 9pm curfew during lockdown. Fifteen minutes before the restaurants were busy with diners at dinner then suddenly everyone returned home or to their boats respecting the 9pm restrictions. Will we ever see sights like this again?

BlueBird Cup 2020

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.

INTRODUCTION TO RACE DAY
SKYLARK vs MANITOU – BLUEBIRD CUP 2020

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 …! 🙂

BlueBird Cup 2020 IN PICTURES
Crisis onboard Manitou

Voiles Saint-Tropez 2020

Training on the eve of the Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2020 gave us valuable time to get back into sailing
having had an extended break due to the pandemic. We sailed three times upwind and downwind
the length of the bay on a good 20 knots breeze.

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.

Oooops! Talitha’s drone pilot got a little too close!

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.

Extract from debate with Tom Whidden on crew salaries and pay grade

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.

Captain Tony Morse on the foredeck speaking Australian.
Captain Tony Morse working with Captain Martin Fisher to help Captain Sean Gill drop the spinnaker whilst Captain Richard Kellett trims the mizzen
Captain Tony Morse helps Captain Martin Fox who helps Captain Sean Gill having helped Captain Richard Kellett

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.

Regates Royales 2020

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.

Charles Orchard. Always ready … forever prepared.

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.

Close cross with Circe during Race 1
Discussing the autopilot which momentarily did a better job than the helmsman
Starboard tack Meerblick tacks in front of Skylark forcing Skylark to protest
Martin and Matt top foredeck team
By watching if the bow of the other boat is moving to the left or right against the shore its possible to call cross tacks with great accuracy. If its stationary its a collision course. Whilst boats on starboard tack have right of way, good sailors on their favoured tack will want a give-way boat to cross to not tack in front of them, quite possibly making them tack. In this example Skylark crosses just ahead.

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.

Tara Getty advises on strategy and tactics during a challenging Race 2
Race 3 the final race bearing away through the finish

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.

Skylark has a cracking start to Race 3 being nearly “killed” by Rowdy on the startline

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.

Big Bad Evan
De-Brief by Charles post regatta win
Darling of the S&S Fleet, Hamish Easton owner of Manitou, congratulates Tara and the Skylark crew on their regatta win

Voiles d’Antibes 2020

Martin Fox runs the foredeck with Emma & Matt during a rounding with Jour de Fete
Headmaster Cam
Temple Cam … Temple Temper
Temple let’s go of the mainsheet during a crisis and denies any involvement

Corsica Classic 2020

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.

Send it … Smokin

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.

There are starts and there are startlines … Skylark threads her way through the Corsica Classic fleet and nails the start
“I want to ride my bicycle … I want to ride my bike”

At the end of the racing a generous speech was given by Monsieur Le Tommy Écoute de Grand-Voile Franglais.

Le Gagnant … Monsieur Le Tommy Écoute de Grand-Voile Franglais

2020 Season Update

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.

Baruna 1938

2021-09-27T19:35:00

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Baruna 1938