'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the fleet Not a classic was stirring, not even a sheet; The main sails were furled 'neath their covers with care, In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there;
The Skylark crew nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of first places danced in their heads; When out on the deck there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my berth to see what was the matter. Away to the companionway I flew like a match, Climbed up the ladder and threw open the hatch.
The moon on the bay at the edge of the shore Gave a lustre of midday to the anchorage before. When what to my wondering eyes should glide in, But the beautiful Baruna so long and so thin, With a keen Aussie skipper, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than Blitzen his crewmen they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name: Tommy & Nuts, Temple, Stumpy & Stretch, Die hardened in battle, pressed on a 5-sail fetch, They climbed to the spreaders! to the top of the mast! Now sail away Stormy! sail away fast!"
As sailors that before the wild hurricanes fly, When they meet with a wave, and mount to the sky, So up to the mast head in the spinnaker they flew, With a boat full of toys, and St Nicholas, too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard overhead The scampering of feet, wearing non-skid tread. As I drew in my head and was turning around, Down the Dorade vent St Nick came with a bound.
He was dressed all in oil skins, from his head to his foot, And his foulies were tarnished with salt spray and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a seaman just opening his pack.
His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow; The bit of his pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke, it circled his head like a wreath.
He had a kind face and a little round belly That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and sweet, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, Filling Skylark sea boots; he then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, back up the Dorade vent he rose.
He sprang onto Baruna, to his fine crew he spoke, And away they all flew like a wisp of fog smoke. But I heard him exclaim, sailing past Comets into space, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good race!"
The Overall Results for the 2021 Season are in and Skylark has won her Class under the AFYT Ranking of classic boats racing in France. The Trophy will be presented in December at a Prizegiving Dinner in Paris on the banks of the Seine.
This is a prestigious award as many boats sail more regattas than Skylark. It rewards consistency which is one of the features of Skylark’s performance. It will be interesting to see how we do with Baruna in 2022 – will we be able to replicate Skylark’s performance? She will be a harder boat to sail but we will have more space in which to do it, on most occasions ahead of the chasing fleet.
Straight off the regatta in Cannes, Skylark arrived in busy Saint-Tropez … it almost felt like old times. The boats were packed into the port, the crowds bustled on the streets and the exotic cars cruised along the promenade. The Voiles was back.
Race 1 took the classic fleet out of the Bay in a triangular course. Skylark sailed well but the breeze was not quite strong enough for her to get going relative to the smaller lighter boats. She finished 4th on handicap. In the evening the crew enjoyed a fabulous dinner aboard Talitha which ran late into the night. Very late into the night.
Race 2 Day 2 was a race to remember run in 30-35 knots of wind (see separate report). Skylark achieved an impressive 2nd place just behind Stormy Weather. In the evening the crew visited friends aboard the classic motor yacht Shemara.
With famous Dutch naval architect Andre Hoek joining the crew alongside mentor Tommy Tom Tom Mainsheet, Skylark had another great day on the water posting a conservative but consistent 3rd place. On this result she was tied 1st place in the regatta overall with Stormy Weather. But there was likely still a discard to come … which never helps Skylark’s consistent results.
Going into the last race, Skylark had noticed that the penalty for being OCS at the start was proving to be minimal so we pushed it. We needed to beat Stormy and so it was a risk worth taking. Ducking and diving we were a metre over the line as the gun went and lost one place overall as a consequence. Sadly this dropped us from 2nd Overall to 3rd Overall for the regatta. Naughty Headmaster …
And so ends another season … is that Skylark’s 10th full season? 11th in total. And what a great season it was. Fabulous racing, brilliant crew, amazing boat handling and driving from our talented team, led by one of the most passionate gentlemen in yachting. Bravo Skylark. You are awesome. Chapeau TG! You are brilliant.
This beautiful trophy was once presented to speed king Sir Malcolm Campbell in Geneva 1938 by the predecessor of the United Nations. It is a stunning Art Deco piece of silverware made by Garrards of London. These days, the stunning trophy his competed by sailors … it is a Challenge between Sailors of the Sea. In its 10th Edition, the owner of Skylark challenged the owners of three other famous S&S sailing boats – Stormy Weather, Manitou and Blitzen.
Stormy arrived early at the start, tactician Graham Sutherland securing an early position on what was a short tactical startling between the main masts of Talitha and BlueBird. Manitou, owned by Hamish Easton and Blitzen, owned and helmed by Sir Charles Dunstone with olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup tactician Giles Scott assisting him on tactics.
Skylark, helmed by her owner, came at speed from above the line and rolled over all three of her competitors to win the start. The yawls sailed higher angles than the large sloop Blitzen which allowed her an opportunity to recover. By the first mark Blitzen had a small lead and from there was always giving disturbed air (turbulence) to the slower boats behind her. Blitzen finished nearly four minutes ahead of her rivals which won her the Blue Bird by two minutes on corrected time.
After the race was over, and crews were soaked by large water pistols fired by the BlueBird crew, all competitors boarded Talitha for a fabulous prize giving party.
There are a handful of days over a decade of racing that will be etched in our memories – and Day 2 of Voiles 2021 was one of those days. Warm sunshine, flat blue turquoise water, an offshore breeze and a long downwind run against a big fleet of competitive boats … it doesn’t get much better. The startline was positioned off the tower on the wall of the Port de Saint-Tropez and required a downwind approach which was not easy due to the bias of the line and the short runway near the harbour wall. Skylark was only a few seconds late on the line but well positioned for an optimum angle run all the way to the mark. It was certainly neither a day to gybe or to sail dead downwind, with a death roll and the mizzen effecting the set of the bigger sails.
The loading in the mizzen sheets was extreme and there was a visible bend in the wooden mizzen mast. As each gust came thru Rich on the mizzen would ease the sheets to try and depower the backend of the boat to reduce weather helm and drag underwater. It was a difficult task with a fine line between the sails set pulling 110% power and collapsing and refilling, punching 150% shock load into the rig.
The Milky Bar Kid (Mogensie) took on the enviable task of trimming the kite in the gusty shifty conditions. Only once did the spinnaker collapse. On another occasion we launched into a slow broach with the wheel on full lock. It was a graceful round up and the long-keeled Skylark carried speed right through the incident, both booms in the water in the same gust that wiped out the larger faster professionally sailed Blitzen.
After the first downwind where Skylark held her own against both Blitzen and Stormy Weather, a long upwind followed where Skylark seemed unbalanced, with too small a headsail and too large a main. Consequently she was unable to hold her lead over Stormy who sailed past faster and higher to windward. Gusts over 30 knots rolled over the course and Stormy continued to lead the way onto what was, eventually, a race winning performance.
Towards the top mark and tacking onto the lay line, it soon because apparent that Skylark’s nemesis Comet had retired having split her boom in two. Another large yacht Iduna also retired with a dramatic split in her main mast around the first spreader.
Top gusts were over 35 knots as Skylark headed towards the finish. With a soaked and tired crew Skylark continued her pursuit of Stormy Weather.
It is days like this that make Skylark’s crew appreciate and value a strong, well prepared boat. At no time were any of the crew worried about the boat’s design or integrity – a testament to her original design back in 1937 but also credit to the professional crew (Martin, Mark, Sarah & Tony) who love and look after her. And a passionate owner who treasures restoring and preserving beautiful things … for ever more.
Cannes is always a competitive event for Skylark and her entirely amateur crew. Is it the flat water? The shifting breeze? The configuration of the race courses? Earlier nights for the crew? We will never know.
Race 1 Day 1 kicked off with a traditional course around the bay. Breeze was strong and Skylark was alive. An exciting start began the race with the fabulous Ken & Barbie joining the crew – MasterBates running middle deck and Barbie supervising crew calmness, confidence and control.
For this week Skylark enjoyed the support of JP from North Sails on the main supporting Squiffy Hawkins who, in fairness, probably knows more than anyone. About everything. Especially car racing. And helicopters. And … well lots of things really.
For Race 2 Skylark decided (not the dodgy tactician) that the pin end of the line was favoured and, without software to assist, would attempt a time on distance run at the pin end. It went oh so beautifully wrong – but very nearly right. By two seconds in fact. But that was two seconds too much and Skylark was early, gybed at the buoy and came back across under the fleet on port. It mattered not in the end as Skylark performed well and achieved a top 3 result.
NAUGHTY MOMENTS CANNES 2021
Race 3 was again a classic Cannes course around the bay but with stronger breeze. JP on main sailed her more like a modern boat and in breeze this appears to be faster. MBK coils his Genoa sheet whilst we sail slightly fuller upwind.
Several close encounters with Meerblick on this race appears to be a hangover from previous events. In this scenario they claim to be protesting us for passing inside the yellow markers depicting the limit of powerboats near the shore. By pointing to the flag that is clearly not evident they demonstrate that the protest is invalid before it’s even heard.
All the most enthusiastic owners, captains and crews gathered one evening for the inaugural meeting to the VCYC – Vintage Classic Yacht Club – to discuss plans for future events in 2022 and beyond. Jono masterfully conducted the meeting covering a large number of proposals and comments. Trophies were presented to the winning boats over a civilised cocktail or two aboard Manitou, Rowdy and Chinook.
A challenging rounding in light breeze with Stormy and Racluta. By maintaining better boat speed we sail right round the outside of Stormy and keep clear air on Racluta. Again great crew work means we can take advantage of complex scenarios like this and, on average, come out on top. And that is the philosophy we want with Skylark – the more complex the day or the situation the better we perform as, on average, our crew work and coordination is just that little bit better than those we race against. Our challenge now is to maintain this intensity onboard Baruna where we won’t have boats close around us all the time.
Some say … success at the pinnacle of any sport is a carefully balanced combination of:
100% Commitment and …
In sailing … on Skylark … our ‘Talent-on-the-Team’ initiative takes sporting excellence to a new level.Strength & Stamina are key performance indicators for influencers of the (cooked) Breakfast Club
It was a controversial move for some but loved by many … the 2021 Voiles d’Antibes was relocated from the old harbour wall to the new port where all the boats were moored seemingly closer together. The shops and bar area were positioned right next to the boats which made the atmosphere more friendly – conveniently right behind BlueBird which enjoyed the Place d’Honneur bang in the middle. Whilst the old port has an atmosphere of its own the new location and set up made the interaction of boats more convenient and sociable.
Race 1 started in relatively light wind and Skylark was so close to the line alongside Rowdy we thought for a moment we may have been called over OCS. But we were clear and enjoyed and excellent race finishing at the head of the fleet winning on corrected time with Meerblick 2nd and White Wings 3rd. Of particular note was Skylark’s circumnavigation of a moored super yacht where we passed to windward with the rest of the fleet taking the shorter route through her wind shadow.
Headmaster meets German Frers to view his brand new boat Racluta. Meanwhile, Stretch prepares … Chimney Smith & Gigi Hawkins join Squiffles, Hells Bells & Co for dinner.
Race 2 will be remembered for a long time to come. Full of confidence from the Race 1 win The Headmaster totally ignored everyone saying we should tack and we went on a flier which looked really great for a long while until it didn’t. The wind shifted and strengthened from the other side of the course and Skylark did recover a little but finished 5th. Meerblick (who she was alongside 3/4 of the way through the race) came 1st. This proves four things: 1/ The Headmaster is always right except when he’s wrong. 2/ Even when The Headmaster is wrong it really doesn’t matter (we still won the regatta). 3/ Even when The Headmaster is wrong he was very nearly right. 4/ Just cos The Headmaster was wrong doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else was right.
One of the outstanding moments of these classic regattas – most mornings – is the work out on the dock performed by the most serious of crew. In particular, the crew of Viola lead other teams in an aerobic, stretch session. Each manoeuvre of the day is practised from pulling up sails, hauling on sheets, and winding wenches. It’s always easy to spot the captain of the boat who leads each session. He wears a feather in his hat in order to be recognised.
Going into the final race Skylark was in 1st position. She didn’t;t have to win the regatta but she couldn let her main rivals get too many points back on her. She needed to finish 1st or 2nd. Meerblick stayed on the dock having received a second disqualification for being OCS the day before.
Out on the race course and it was windy! Gusts of 25-30 knots rolled across the course and the start was made difficult by the line being almost in line with the wind. It was essential Skylark was not over the line and in a moment of misjudgement we got rather too close. As it was so windy we really struggled to stop the boat but the helmsman did a fantastic job of holding her almost head to wind. As the gun went we tore off and had a pretty good start as it turned out. But we would not want to do that again …
As we raced into the windward mark just behind Comet we were really flying. The strong gusts made gybing the boats a challenge. Then we rolled straight into a hoist – however, the spinnaker twisted and we spent ,most of the leg trying to unravel it. It was not too painful however as the boat was still at hull speed under just the main and mizzen sails. Comet flew her kite successfully but we all ended up at the bottom mark together. With Skylark holding 2nd place.
Following mark 2 the race was abandoned by the organisers. Not only were the gusts incredibly strong but the marks were starting to move so the course was no longer fair. But that was enough for Skylark and she won an incredibly competitive regatta First Overall!
When it came to receiving the honours … the glory … the awards … racing driver Squiffy Hawkins leapt forward and grabbed the chocolates. A man of experience, a high flyer, no messing about. It was a stamp of authority on a highly competitive event and crews from numerous nations were left in no doubt as to who had beaten them.
Skylark wins the regatta with a one point lead over White Wings. Rowdy finishes 4th, Comet 6th and Meerblick 9th. The crew and Squiffy with Hells Bells take the stage.
Race 1 victory after 2hrs 40 mins is by a mere 10 seconds over MeerBlick. Squiffy Hawkins celebrates his Bullet in the Blue Sky whilst other crews lick their wounds after Sunday. Bloody Sunday.
A fabulous U2 tribute band celebrates the end of the event. Truly one to remember.
Classic Week in Monaco is a biennial event and one not to be missed when it comes around. It’s a very different atmosphere to all the other regattas for two principle reasons – firstly it’s staged in the centre of the amphitheatre that is Monaco, over looked by Monte Carlo. Second, beautiful motorboats are invited too! This creates a wonderful ambiance bringing the two aspects of classic yachting together with, occasionally, the most beautiful car or two.
In 2021 both BlueBird and Skylark participated. BlueBird focused firmly on the Prix d’Elegance and other prizes rewarding quality, history and prestige. Skylark meanwhile, was there to win.
The second day of the regatta was cancelled sadly due to a large swell which rolled across the race course and into the harbour making it uncomfortable aboard the boats.
Despite a pretty good start Skylark was rolled off the line by Comet which took her breeze. Skylark was unable to tack off and struggled to maintain Comet’s pace. In hindsight watching the video, it was likely too much traveller on Skylark for the wind and wave conditions. As the boats ploughed their way upwind towards Ventimiglia thy tacked close to the shore on Cap Martin, right under the big house once owned by Coco Chanel.
Unbeknown to Skylark the race committee shortened the course at the headland and sadly valuable time was wasted sailing parallel to the finish line. As we approached Ventimiglia one of the underwater boats lost its mast. It was windy and bumpy out there.
As the fleet waited patiently to be moored in the harbour, it became evident that a spectacular lunch was in store.
Once dried out and replenished with plates of pasta and local Italian wine, crews enjoyed camaraderie and dance into the afternoon. But more was in store … a long windy full on run back to Monaco.
Skylark had a great downwind start at the favoured end of the line alongside her nemesis Meerblick and soon pulled into the lead under full spinnaker. It was great fun surfing down the waves at 10-11 knots. Skylark led the fleet all the way to the finish and took line honours and victory on corrected time.
Monaco Classic Week is also well known for its parties at the Yacht Club de Monaco hosted by Prince Albert and YCM President Bernard d’Alessandri. Skylark friends Carsten, Mimi & Charlotte partied into the night along with another lovely lady who made a big impression on friendly members of Skylark’s afterguard …
Befitting an event of such importance and prestige, there is a Parade of Sail organised by YCM in front of the port. All boats were invited to participate. The parade was led by SS Delphine with MY BlueBird close behind.
When the final day dawned it was a light wind affair, testing the most hardened of helms, tacticians, trimmers and crew.
Bluebird’s talented chef Conner won the prestigious Best Chef Award but was relegated to 3rd Place on a technicality.
At the final mark of the regatta Skylark again closed up on Meerblick who again infringed her at the mark. Skylark again chase not to protest. Consequently Skylark finished the regatta in 3rd Overall with Meerblick 2nd and One Wave in 1st. Skylark’s main rival Comet finished 4th.
The regatta held on the Italian Riviera in the port of Imperia, located between Monaco and San Remo, is one of the favourites on the classic yachting calendar. Not only is the racing excellent, but the atmosphere shore side is just fabulous with great music, fireworks and a warm welcome from the residents of the town.
The 2021 regatta went ahead despite the problems with Covid still evident in Europe. The fleet comprised many top boats including Comet, Skylark’s near sister ship and nemesis, crewed by top sailors including an Olympic medalist straight from Tokyo.
Race 1 started in a fresh breeze blowing from the east set around a triangular course along the coast. Comet and other competitive boats sailed well on the first beat and at the top mark Skylark trailed by several minutes. A better spinnaker set and close reaching staysail allowed Skylark to close right up to Comet by the gybe mark. But unfortunately, Skylark’s gybe did not go well and the kite wrapped on the forestay just at the point where Comet was vulnerable. On the spinnaker run Skylark overtook Comet but was not far enough ahead by the finish to win on corrected time.
Each night after racing the Skylark crew cycled along the coast. On several evenings this involved a cycle track which passed through the old train tunnel. After, the crew dined at Ristorante Lanterna Blu where friendly local Chef Massimo created the most spectacular dishes and enlightening conversation.
The highlight for the rest of the regatta was a windward mark incident where Skylark and Comet met on opposite tacks. Skylark approached on starboard building speed and, when Comet tacked into a lee bow position beneath her, Skylark rolled right over her forcing her to tack two more times.
The fabulous racing was complemented by camaraderie with Hamish on Manitou. Great stories late into the night.
At the end of the regatta Skylark was tied on 5 points in First Overall with Mariella and Rowdy. On countback to break the tie she dropped to 4rd with Comet 2 points behind on 7 points in 4th.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.