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 …! 🙂
Year on year the BlueBird Cup is gaining momentum and growing larger and stronger. Its 9th Edition on the Golfe of Saint-Tropez was no exception. With the added support of Leading Hotels of the World in 2019, joining the line up of luxury brands Hennessy, Bentley, BOYD and North Sails, the event was the most exciting yet.
The BlueBird Cup itself was raced between Stormy Weather owned by Christopher Spray and the defending Skylark helmed by the talented yachtsman and international sailor Tara Getty. The Challengers Race, to decide the 2020 event, was run between Havsornen, chartered and helmed by Nick Barham, the 54ft Blitzen owned and helmed by Sir Charles Dunstone, Argyll owned and helmed by actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones, Manitou owned by Hamish Easton, Moonbeam owned by Carsten Gerlach. As in previous years, the contemporary race boat Spectre, owned and helmed by Peter Dubens, participated as an honorary guest.
Sky TV filmed the event from a helicopter during its filming of the drama ‘Riviera’.
The Challengers Race was first to begin, with the start gun fired by Bubbles from onboard the magnificent 104ft BlueBird which defined the startline. The other end of the start was defined by the huge motoryacht Talitha.
The race was a pursuit event with the respective handicaps for size built into the different start times. Skylark was the scratch boat and led the fleet across the start in very light wind which worked against her. As the breeze died away Stormy started making it advantageous for the larger, faster boats starting behind.
A big wind shift then closed the gap between all the boats, followed by another shift which was nearly 180 degrees. Considering the massive changes in wind direction and strength, it was a near miracle that all the boats arrived at the first mark at the same time, having taken radically different courses and wind speeds to get there. Essentially, the race started again half way through which gave advantage to the bigger boats.
Coming into the last leg to the finish, Argyll was in the lead and looked a likely winner. But the weather turned events on its head once again and metres before the finish Nick Barham and Rupert Cleavley on Havsornen snuck ahead to cross the line first.
Then followed the BlueBird Cup race itself. After some circling before the start where the boats competed head to head, Stormy won the start convincingly and from that point Skylark struggled to over take her. Whilst the gap between the boats closed to a few metres, Stormy extended on the last leg crossing the finish over a minute ahead of the turquoise crew on Skylark.
At the prizegiving onboard of Talitha, Leading Hotels of the World presented fabulous awards whilst Hennessy presented its 100 year old Paradis Imperial cognac and Bentley invited owners to loan its latest cars. Each competitor was then presented with a commemorative BlueBird Cup 2019 polo shirt made by North Sails. It was a fabulous occasion. As BlueBird weighed anchor in the setting sun, “The Best Day of the Season” was declared by all. A fitting tribute to a fabulous event. An amazing occasion enjoyed by all who attended. Stormy Weather, worthy winners of the 9th Edition.
It was billed as the Revenge Match of the BlueBird Cup, Sir Charles Dunstone’s opportunity to level the score with her near sister ship Skylark after she beat Blitzen convincingly in the BlueBird Cup 2016.
As the boats headed back upwind, with Blitzen now 18 seconds in the lead, Skylark made her 2nd mistake. She headed too far into Canoubieres trying to get leverage on Blitzen to windward. However the breeze died inshore. It transpired, once the breeze returned, that Skylark, having changed down her headsail to a much smaller one, was significantly faster than the over pressed Blitzen who was still flying her largest genoa. Having lost further distance inshore, Skylark closed the gap with Blitzen quickly en route to the tower, but Blitzen sailed well and rounded ahead, maintaining her lead of around 15 seconds all the way to the finish.
Aboard Talitha, the 7 crews celebrated with 100 year old Hennessy Paradis Imperial presented to the owners by HRH King Juan Carlos of Spain and Anthony Davoigniot of Moet Hennessy. The BlueBird Cup was then presented to Sir Charles Dunstone, owner of Blitzen, the trophy winner for 2018.
In the Qualification Race, Stormy Weather owned by Christopher Spray was victorious over Griff Rhys Jones on Argyll and Hamish Easton’s larger Manitou, once sailed by American president JK Kennedy and his close friend Marilyn Monroe.
The 2017 pursuit race, held traditionally on the Challenge Day of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, was fought between the challenger, The Blue Peter – a 65ft Alfred Mylne design – and the 53ft Skylark of 1937. Five other boats competed in the Challenger Race for the next event in 2018 – Griff Rhys Jones’ S&S yawl Argyll, Christopher Spray’s S&S yawl Stormy Weather, the classic 6m Alibaba, Peter Dubens’ contemporary Spectre and Sir Charles Dunstone’s S&S sloop Blitzen.
The BlueBird Cup challenger, The Blue Peter, was launched in 1930, although the teak used in the construction of her hull was brought from Thailand in 1870. She was designed by Alfred Mylne and built by W. King & Sons of Burnham-on-Crouch.
Her first owner Desmond Molins decided in 1938 that he wanted a bigger boat, but he loved The Blue Peter so much that he decided to have her lengthened by nearly 10 feet. She remains true to these plans to this day, though she no longer sports a bowsprit.
She was named The Blue Peter for luck, after the ‘P’ flag, which is used as the preparatory signal before starting a race. It worked, The Blue Peter won over 50 races in and around the south coast of England over the next 20 years, sailing out of The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham-on-Crouch, UK.
The Blue Peter passed into Italian ownership after the war. She had three different Italian owners before her present owner, Mathew Barker, bought her in 1999.
After a long delay waiting for wind, a fine south-westerly breeze swept across the Gulf of Saint-Tropez from Talitha anchored to the north-west and BlueBird anchored to the south-east, allowing the race to get underway. Skylark started exactly 2 mins 20 secs ahead of The Blue Peter due to the size and predicted speed differential of the boats.
On the first two legs of the course in the building breeze, The Blue Peter was catching Skylark very quickly but at the first rounding of BlueBird, by now the leeward mark, The Blue Peter’s spinnaker inverted and jammed on the shrouds preventing a quick gybe-drop at the mark. The delay allowed Skylark to extend her lead over the remaining three legs of the course.
At the finish, Skylark crossed the line with a handsome lead over The Blue Peter thereby successfully defending the challenge and the BlueBird Cup Trophy. At the prizegiving party onboard the classic motoryacht Talitha, owners were presented a carafe of 100 year old Hennessy Paradis Imperial cognac, after which crews of all seven yachts were offered a small glass each of this rare cognac to both sample and celebrate.
In the Challengers Race – to determine the BlueBird Cup Challenger in 2018 – Charles Dunstone’s Blitzen swept the board with a resounding win, not least with assistance from her tactician Sir Ben Ainslie, assisted ably by both Yasmin and Simon Le Bon in the crew. In the S&S yawl battle between Argyll and Stormy Weather, Stormy won the start and led for the duration of the race – with Peter Dubens’ Spectre, with silver Olympic medalist Nick Rogers as tactician, blasting by on a longer course at over twice the speed of all the classic boats.
The 54ft 9″ Blitzen, the latest Sparkman & Stephens renovation to hit Mediterranean waters, was the 53ft Skylark’s combatant for the BlueBird Cup 2016.
One of the most famous of the S&S designs, Blitzen was built by Henry B. Nevins of City Island, New York. She was launched in 1938. She was designed and built for R. J. Reynolds, the son of the founder of the R. J. Reynold Tobacco Company. She was built as an all out ocean racing yacht with minimal interior. She was a very successful racing machine, winning her division in the Bermuda Race on her first outing. Now restored by British businessman Sir Charles Dunstone, she is faster today than she has ever been. With a tall sloop rig, powered by a large coffee grinder to the stern, Blitzen is built for speed and was crewed for the BlueBird Cup by a strong team of top sailors which included rockstar Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran.
Two other remarkable yachts joined the race, though not eligible for the overall trophy prize. Alibaba II, designed in 1948 by famous Tore Holm for shipowner Sven Salén, is one of the most famous 6 metres ever built, participating in the London Olympics in 1948 representing Sweden (Bronze) and also again in Helsinki in 1952 representing Finland (Bronze). She was powered for this event by brand new hi-tech North Sails and crewed by a professional Spanish racing team which included talented sailors from the Volvo Ocean Race. In addition, Peter Dubens’ magnificent Spectre participated alongside Alibaba with a royal guest on board, His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, himself a talented sailor. Built in Italy in more recent times Spectre is a 60ft speed machine, designed in contemporary style by famous architects Mani & German Frers. Aboard her for this event was a crew of top sailing professionals including double Olympic silver medalist Nick Rogers, Volvo Ocean Race skipper Neil McDonald, America’s Cup winning tactician Tom Whidden and talented sail trimmers from North Sails.
A big wind shift just before the start caught Skylark at the wrong end of the line and her 69 second handicap advantage was almost eradicated by the time Blitzen and Skylark crossed the start only 8 seconds apart. On the first and second of the five legs, Skylark managed to stay in a lee bow position and so keep Blitzen behind her and she maintained her 8 second lead. After the first lap of Talitha and BlueBird, both boats dropped their spinnakers very late and Skylark pulled 30 seconds ahead on that rounding. From that position she then extended her lead on the second lap to finish 1m 28s ahead of Blitzen. Whilst sailing different distances and courses, Alibaba was first to cross the line one minute ahead of Skylark whilst Spectre with The King on board rocketed across the finish at 15 knots a mere 20 seconds later having completed and additional lap of the course.
At the prizegiving ceremony aboard the 80m classic motoryacht Talitha, His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain presented Tara Getty with the perpetual BlueBird Cup Trophy presented by the United Nations to Sir Malcolm Campbell in 1938, along with beautifully presented bottles of Hennessy Paradis Imperial to the owners of the boats competing. In addition, Tara Getty presented invitations to The King and each of his fellow owners, for each to stay at the Hennessy Chateau in Cognac, yes Cognac, France.
The BlueBird Cup, inaugurated in 2011, was a challenge this year between three yachts, Manitou, Spectre and Skylark. In customary fashion, Tara Getty challenged the owners of Manitou (Philip Jordan) and Spectre (Peter Dubens) to a race of ‘Speed Under Sail’. The larger 63ft Manitou gave the smaller 53ft Skylark a 1 min 12 sec head start, whilst the ultra modern Spectre was required to race two laps versus one for the classic yachts. In strong wind and waves Manitou managed to catch Skylark by the halfway point, however Skylark executed a more efficient gybe under spinnaker and led Manitou around the last mark which was created by the stern of the superyacht Talitha. At the finish, Skylark led Manitou across the line by a mere one second, with Peter Duben’s modern yacht Spectre following close behind. The BlueBird Cup and carafes of Hennessy Paradis Imperial were awarded at the prizegiving onboard Talitha by His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain.
‘Speed under Sail’ is the inscription on the beautiful Blue Bird Cup and in 2014 this could not have been more relevant with the two yachts match racing head-to-head finishing alongside each other after 45 minutes of intense competition.
The owner of Skylark challenged Christopher Spray, the owner of the famous 53ft S&S yawl Stormy Weather, to a race twice round a windward-leeward course set between the classic motor yachts Blue Bird and Talitha. In very light winds there were 5 lead changes during the two laps of the course, with Skylark finally taking control of the race in the final 100 meters and crossing the line only a few metres ahead of her near sistership Stormy.
Following the race both crews met aboard Talitha for presentation of the winner’s trophy, a silver art deco trophy originally presented to Sir Malcolm Campbell by the United Nations in Geneva for his land speed record achievements in 1937, the year Blue Bird was launched.
The Blue Bird Cup was offered in 2011 by Skylark’s owner, Tara Getty, to the winner of a race between Skylark and a yacht she chooses to challenge in a head-to-head sailing competition. The Cup, originally made by Garrads of London and presented in Geneva in 1938 to Sir Malcolm Campbell by the United Nations for his Land Speed Record of that year, is now engraved on its base for “Speed Under Sail”. In 2011, Skylark challenged Argyll, a larger S&S yawl, owned by TV actor and keen sailor Griff Rhys Jones. Argyll won the first event which was two short circuits of a course in the bay of Saint-Tropez.
In 2012, Skylark again challenged Argyll in what she considered “unfinished business”. The course was agreed between both yachts – a start between Blue Bird and her tender to a windward mark (the 80m superyacht Talitha) round twice. An exciting start to the race saw both boats approaching the pin end on port. Skylark appeared to try and sail between Argyll and the mark but, at the last moment, dipped Argyll’s stern and powered beneath her to take a commanding position to leeward. Skylark then covered Argyll in the building breeze and extended to a handsome lead by the finish.
Both crews then lunched aboard Talitha where Griff Rhys Jones presented the Cup to 2012 winners Tara & Jessica Getty.
On Challenge Day of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, Tara Getty presented a new cup called the Blue Bird Cup (formally Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Grand Meeting International de Canots-Automobiles et Hors-Bords presented to him by the United Nations). The challenge was made with the Sparkman & Stephens yacht Argyll, owned by actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones. The race between Skylark and Argyll was closely fought in the fickle breeze. While Skylark led most of the way around the course, Rhys Jones and his crew on Argyll picked the shifts well, managing to sail into more breeze on the last leg and finished in front of Skylark to win the Blue Bird Cup.