Storms, hail, sun and calm confronted a fleet of over 100 classic yachts racing in the famous Regates Royales in Cannes Sept 26th-30th 2012. Whilst there were not cancellations, the fleet combated just about everything nature could throw at it. On Day 2, the race started in 12 knots of wind from the east, and within minutes the sky had blackened and rain lashed the fleet with such force that it reduced visibility to less than a boat length. The rain began to fill cockpits to 10cm where it cascaded from the mainsail and binoculars and iPads in housings could be seen floating from one side of the cockpit to another. As quickly as it had started, the rain cleared to leave bright sunshine and zero wind. The soaked crews drifted for over an hour with less than one knot of breeze.
Skylark’s strategy was to work the southern edge of the fleet waiting for the SW sea breeze to build. Eventually, an unpredictable wind filled in from the north west which gave Skylark a spinnaker reach to the next mark, where others tried, with difficulty, to sail more downwind.
On the final leg to the finish, the wind again died and Skylark repeatedly tried to tack offshore in search of the SW sea breeze for which she had waited all day. After 20 or more tacks in drifting conditions, the crew sighted the wind they had waited for. Within minutes, Skylark was reaching at 8 knots under spinnaker towards the finish, whilst her competitors watched becalmed to leeward. Despite some great performances, Skylark was unable to match the lighter faster Leonore, steered by America’s Cup helmsman Mauro Pellaschier and crewed by a number of his talented friends.