Monthly Archives: June 2019

Victory before Vesuvius

Skylark’s crew gathered in a Mediterranean destination new to them, that of the Italian city of Naples, Pompeii and the stunning island of Capri. For the first time this season the team boasted the talented appassionati di vela Ken ‘Master’Bates and Tom ‘Wiggy’ Whidden-Wiggin, both multiple winners of many important things. Other specialists contributing to crew ‘presentation and well-being’ were shore-side glitteratti – stylist Lexy London and Poeny Bates, Head of Flowers & Fauna.

Following a solid day’s training for all – who certainly needed it – Skylark headed out to the start line for Race 1. As BlueBird was unable to reserve a berth by the RCC Savoia, half the crew were accommodated 16 miles away by sea on the beautiful island of Capri, meaning that Skylark was managed in Naples by Captain Carl and her full-time crew William & Emma, under the watchful eye of Commodore Tony.

Skylark charges to the front

A downwind start provided a tactical challenge and despite being infringed by a little wooden underwater boat at the start, Skylark fought her way back, metre by metre, to eventually lead the fleet into the gybe mark near the finish. A faulty shackle release and a problem re-hoisting the spinnaker cost her the overall line honours trophy, which was the biggest trophy ever seen. Earlier that day, the polished tin-pot monstrosity had been ear-marked by Master Bates who had eyed it, knowingly, in the yacht club with Argyll Ma Julie. But despite the issues, the performance was enough to secure Skylark the race win on corrected time – her first of a full set of bullets.

Race 2, Day 2, was a triangular affair. A heavily-biased start line, again favouring the Committee Boat (what’s wrong with these people) led to a lot of barging and a complete EU pile up at start with all boats, excepting the charging Brexitists, barging in, knocking Skylark off her course and timed run to the line.

Despite the multiple infringements against her, Skylark picked away at her opposition one by one. A bold tack off to the right of the course gave Skylark a handsome lead which she then extended to the finish. It was a fine performance considering Skylark had no idea what the course was. Win 2, Day 2, and a sunset dinner for 22 rounded off the day.

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Gusts of 24 knots met competitors on the morning of Day 3. And what a day. A reaching start on port allowed Skylark to nail the line at full speed, hoist her spinnaker and staysail and immediately catch a tow with a larger faster Italian boat all the way down the first reach. The tow gave Skylark a handsome lead on her larger rivals who, in the stronger breeze, slowly began to reel her in.

Powering upwind to a Race 3 win

By the 2nd half of the race the wind was still gusting strong and Skylark reefed her lightweight main. As she gybed and hoisted her spinnaker for another fast run, either Gucci or Mansell (we are not sure who) asked Master Bates for a turn to be taken off the spinnaker sheet winch which he was faithfully trimming. Before ‘The One Who Is Always Right’ and ‘The One Who Is Always Wrong’ could stop him, the keen Rugbyarian released tension in the drum which exploded the winch handle dragging Captain Rich down the deck burning his leg. A number of visits to Grandma were required that day … but what a day it was.

A cooling swim over on Capri, facilitated by Captain Cautious aboard the good ship Emilie, celebrated Skylark’s 3rd straight race victory.

Mizzen Man Mouse (aka Landi) joined Skylark for the final race. Now promoted to foredeck, he spent the day in the cockpit trimming the genoa and spinnaker, frankly better than the ‘Marma-Lady’ he replaced. Not surprisingly, it was a more peaceful day for all aboard.

In Race 4, the final race, a long tactical beat followed by a long tactical downwind provided a fabulous end to a fabulous week. Oh, and did I mention, Skylark’s 4th straight win? A full set of race 1sts gave Skylark undisputed regatta victory and a fine silver trophy for her efforts and troubles.

On the podium, everyone was happy, particularly Whidden-Wiggin who had saved his reputation with a race win on the main.

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Skylark

A toast in Porquerolles at Classic 2019

50 knots (well, 45) cancelled the first day of the 2019 event meaning that Skylark’s crew headed out on electric mountain bikes around the stunning island, to the incredible Fondation Carmignac museum, followed by a fine lunch onboard BlueBird. The museum provided much entertainment for some and cultural enlightenment.

The day before the crew had trained hard at improving down-speed boat control and it was a frustrating beginning to the regatta. That night we headed for Porquerolles’ best restaurant, named “Porquerollais“, somewhat predictably.

Day 2 and two races were held in the Baie de Hyeres. Skylark started the first race and immediately was headed in her own private patch of wind allowing the fleet to climb above her and take a significant lead. By taking offshore, Skylark was able to take advantage of a right shift in the breeze and was the 3rd boat to round the windward mark in a fleet of 32 – 22 being in the same class.

Two long reaches and a beat followed on which Skylark sailed extremely well, taking the race win by 1 min 35 secs.

In the second race of the day there were 3 general recalls giving Skylark and her crew plenty of starting practice. When the race finally got underway, Jour de Fete tacked to port and tried to cross Skylark’s bow. However, she failed to give way and keep clear of Skylark who had to tack to avoid a collision. Skylark protested under Rule 10 which she later won, disqualifying Jour de Fete.

On the evening of Day 2, onboard the mothership BlueBird, a toast was given In Memoria to Skylark’s longstanding and faithful Quartermaster, Big Bill. A slideshow was projected onto BlueBird’s funnel and, as the sun set, a toast was given to our late friend. His name is now embroidered on Skylark’s goodie bag which was his role onboard, to administer.

Race Day 3, the final day, began slow with no wind but as they sea breeze built the race committee made the strange decision to send the fleet round the island where there was a large swell in light wind. Skylark was barged at the committee boat and lost nearly a minute having to tack off to clear her air.

She fought her way back through the fleet ahead of Mignon and Comet her nearest rivals for the overall regatta win. After 3hrs of racing the committee cancelled the race – giving overall victory to Skylark who had won both races sailed.

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Crash & Burn in Antibes

With ex-racing driver Squiffy ‘Hunt’ Hawkins once again onboard, Skylark headed for the Voiles d’Antibes for her first big event of the season. On arrival, it was apparent that the line up of competition was as competitive as ever with many top boats importing professional sailors. Skylark was also aided on her after-deck by Jose ‘Ze’ Duarte Los Lobos di Championos Mondialos who flew in from Lisbon the night before the event.

After a day’s training, Skylark’s valiant crew of young and very old headed out to the first start line. The Committee Boat end of the line was heavily favoured and, as Skylark approached the start, two 30 ton 70ft boats barged into a gap only wide enough for one, narrowly missing Skylark.

The incident destroyed Skylark’s start and she started well down the fleet, fighting back in a 15 knot breeze to a 4th place, 15 seconds behind Argyll in 3rd and only one minute behind the winner Comet, helmed by Olympian and multi-world champion Stuart Childerly. One unfortunate foredeck incident badly twisted the knee of Skylark’s new captain Carl, who was then whisked off to hospital unable to compete in this event further. Command of Skylark was again under the auspices of the long-serving and patient Captain Tony ‘Commodore’ Morse.

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Day 2 was cancelled due to a big swell and gale force wind from the east. Genoa trimmers Evan ‘That’s my D’Arcy’ Marshall and Mogens ‘RB’ Tholstrop joined Skylark’s owner, Los Lobos and The Headmaster on a cultural tour of Pablo Picasso’s Mediterranean residence. Never has so much, been so incomprehensible, by so few.

Race 3 was a tactical affair with a big wind shift during the start sequence catching out most competitors. Stormy Weather, Skylark and Comet started together at the pin of the line and pulled out a healthy lead in the rest of the fleet. Only Comet and Jour de Fete remained and Skylark battled it out with these two well-sailed, well prepared, well tuned boats. As the breeze died Skylark managed to shake off repeated challenges by Comet but was unable to catch the lighter, narrower Jour de Fete, settling for a well earned 2nd. This strong performance placed Skylark in the lead of the event by one point, with one race to go.

After an extravagant evening aboard the motor yacht Talitha, Skylark’s rather jaded crew headed out to the start of the final winner takes all race. With one point separating 1st to 5th everything was to play for.

The race started badly with Skylark being blocked by a yacht not competing and with a lull in the wind Skylark was nearly 5 minutes late crossing the line near the back of the fleet. Importantly, Comet was over the start line and had to restart and both Fete and Varuna had imperfect starts. Skylark held her nerve in the light winds and large seas and sailed off on her own to the left side of the course, arriving at the top mark after some challenging sailing clear in the lead.

With Squiffy Hunt calling the waves whilst skillfully, single-handedly trimming the main, aided by his equally talented counterpart Los Lobos di Championos Mondialos di Lisbonas on mizzen, Skyark maintained her lead in the rough and challenging conditions all the way to the finish. Her race win gave her a 3 point lead overall and a regatta victory which was mostly, in part, sort of, a lot to do with some people.

With Squiffy Hunt taking the stage at the Final Prizegiving, the amassed nations applauded as he lifted the trophy to the iconic Queen rock anthem ‘We are the Champions’. It was a worthy celebration of a moderate and mostly humble display of racing talent.

Trophy in hand, Squiffy Hunt and his followers, groupies, fans and pit crew now move to the Porquerolles regatta where more local challenges await.