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.