Category Archives: Skylark Racing

Muchas Gracias Mahon!

Mahon, Menorca … one of the most beautiful islands in The Balearics played host to three days of racing with a competitive fleet of over 50 classic yachts coming together from countries around the Mediterranean. The event was also the first time the new Vintage Classic Yacht Club presented by BOYD visited Spanish waters.

The first race day was challenging with 18-20 knots wind from the north and a sizeable swell running outside of the harbour. For the first time in the event’s history the race was started by the moorings in front of the Club in the port. It made a dramatic sight as the fleet reached in close formation out of the harbour.

Exciting start in front of the Club inside the harbour was not liked by some boats on the grounds of safety … but we say …YES!
There’s just no telling some people …!

Skylark was placed well after she left the harbour leaving behind the bigger yawl Varuna. On handicap she was tied for first place with Argyll. But Skylark’s day it was not to be. On the first and only gybe of the race the lazy sheet came out of the block and as the kite filled the sheet skied off the winch. It took 4 or 5 minutes to sort the problem out running the old sheet around by that time Skylark was back in 9th. She held this position till the end of the race.

Like always … that result proved to be decisive. Had Skylark been 7th that day or better she would have finished the regatta in 3rd overall behind Varuna and Rowdy and ahead of Comet … but it was not to be.

Powering upwind to the finish

Race 2 was an entirely different affair. With a start offshore outside the harbour the wind was very light and yet the swell remained from the day before – not normally Skylark’s conditions. She (yet again) mistimed her run to the pin end and arrived early, gybed around and started on port on a lift tack crossing the sterns of the fleet. By continuing to the right side of the course she gained back the initial loss and rounded the top mark in a good position alongside her nemesis Comet and miles agreed of Argyll who had a 2nd on day one. A long light downwind followed to the island where Skylark held her position. The finish was right up inside the harbour and Skylark was unable to over take Comet but finished a respectable 5th out of 12 in class.

After racing the pure bred Menorcan horses did their thing … which is not everyone’s thing …
A cheeky sausage party hosted by Manuelle the owner of Argyll

Race 3 was Skylark’s day. Yet again her useless tactician misjudged the time on distance by a similar 10 seconds (one boat length) however an early decision to gybe and return to the line on port was simply genius 😉

Skylark held her own for the initial part of the windward leg but when finding herself in a lee bow with Fjord designed by Frers tacked early to keep out of phase with the fleet. This gave Skylark a clear lane to the windward mark which she rounded just ahead of German and Mani Frers on Racluta.

Time on distance waits for no man … or sailor of any identity. Having identified we are 30-40 seconds from the pin we pull the trigger 10 seconds too early. Hard to judge in light winds on a 22-ton boat. The key to being early is to acknowledge it early and take action. Easy said – hard to do.

After a long 4-sail reach on which Skylark extended her position, she enjoyed a great race with the larger Racluta all the way to the finish line with both boats crossing the line in front of the Club overlapped.

Marriette and Sumurun cross the finish right by the Yacht Club – such a beautiful sight.

After a racing a Whispering Angel drinks party was held aboard BlueBird of 1938, the flagship of the Vintage Classic Yacht Club, which was attended by the members of the VCYC fleet. Jonathan Greenwood, President of VCYC, gave a speech thanking all for their support of this new yachting club.

And so brings to an end the A-Team’s time with Skylark at Vela Barcos Clasica di Menorca …

Muchas Grazias Mahon!

Te Veo Pronto!

Mille Grazia Argentario!

Porto Santo Stefano is nestled under Mount Argentario on the west coast of Italy within sight of Elba … which can be seen …sometimes.

Race 1

Race 2

The Vintage Classic Yacht Club is supported by Whispering Angel – the world’s most fashionable rose

Race 3

Chips arriving back from the race course alongside Skylark

And so comes to an end the A-Team’s time with Skylark at Porto Santo Stefano …

Mille grazie Argentario!

A Presto!

‘Twas the night before Christmas

'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!"

Skylark – Champions of France 2021

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.

Tied in Tropez

Startline action in light winds for Race 1

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.

The Irish classic yacht Erin cuts across Skylark’s bow leading to a protest. She was later disqualified.

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.

Exciting startling action from Race 2

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.

Race 3 start with architect Andre Hoek supporting Tommy Tom Tom Tom

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 …

Final Race 4 start – pushing our luck on a likely discard
BlueBird Bubbles salutes the return of Skylark from her last regatta of 2021
Customary water fight ensues – now becoming an end of season tradition
Do any other boats have this much fun?
It gets serious …!

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.

BlueBird Cup 2021

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.

BlueBird Cup Film 2021

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.

With special thanks to North Sails & Peter Dubens for the generous gift of souvenir polo shirts for all competitors

Windy Wednesday … à pleine vitesse!

1st downwind run Day 2 of Les Voiles

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.

Temple on Guy (not the captain!) Tommy Tom Tom multitasking winding things. Booms kiss the water

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.

Hoisting the headsail to reduce weather helm and depower the spinnaker – as Blitzen broaches to port

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.

Tommy Tom Tom on mainsheet calling the gusts and inspiring MBK to greater things …

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.

Skylark made good gains on the 2nd downwind by not flying her spinnaker – the 2nd upwind got even more windy. Milky Bar gets a soaking
Ease! Ease! Ease! Depowering the overtimed main

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.

On a normal day these over canvassed gaff riggers keep up with us … but not today. Offshore design – Offshore conditions – Offshore performance

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.

Photos by ©James Robinson Taylor here

Comet in Cannes

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.

The start that was ever so nearly right. But wasn’t.
A late drop at the leeward mark beautifully executed soaking down from above the layline

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.

Race 4 start was another exciting affair with Skylark crew showing excellent boat handling skills. Comet again pulls out a great result and there seems little Skylark can do at this regatta to match her.

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.

Some great crew work on Skylark sailing her pre-start like a dinghy. Squiffy and Tommy working together on the main (did I just type that?). Mogensie trimming the Genoa with great skill and coordination. The boats ahead at the pin stack up – we tack away on the header onto port and have a good lane upwind on the first leg.

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.

Another lovely late drop with excellent crew work and coordination. Following White Wings around the last mark just ahead of Manitou
After a long, hard day on the water Squiffy Hawkins let’s off a little steam. His job was to screw in a little block.
Skylark crew Mark, Sarah and Captain Martin pick up the prizes for another podium finish

A-Team A-Game in Antibes

Some say … success at the pinnacle of any sport is a carefully balanced combination of:

Preparation

Determination

Dedication

Technique

100% Commitment and …

experience

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.

BlueBird enjoyed Place d’Honneur in the centre of the regatta

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.

Hells Bells on Mizzen and we win! Again.
Evan McDarcy cleverly overlays the MarineTraffic AIS data onto one chart in order to replay the races.

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.

Perfect drop gybe rounding (half Kiwi half Mexican) finally feels like we are really sailing this boat. Stunning crew work and helmsmanshipping.

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.

Evan McDarcy cleverly overlays the MarineTraffic AIS data onto one chart in order to replay the races.
Meerblick barges on the line and is later disqualified for not keeping clear. It takes her out of contention for an overall regatta win.
Deep into the leeward mark with two top lighter narrower faster day boats converging either side. Considering how much heavier and more complicated our yawl is to sail our crew does really well here. All those long hard days of practice … finally paying back?

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.

The professional crew and helmsman on Racluta are a threat to Skylark going into the start of the 3rd race. She’s a much bigger boat and comes from leeward on a timed run. We can see the bowman checking his watch signalling back to the helmsman. Skylark slides across in front of her and weaves about on her line throwing disturbed wind right onto her sails. Onboard Racluta it would feel terrible. Skylark holds her position just in front of her as she reaches the line just as the gun goes. A great start in the end and Skylark secures a 2nd place to put her in 1st Place overall with one race to go.

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.

Approaching the top mark
Gybing behind Comet into Mark 2

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.