Practice makes Perfect

When flying drones …

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.

Mizzens & Motors in Monaco

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.

On Day 3 the Race Committee made brave call to send the fleet upwind on a distance race to the new port of Ventimiglia

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.

An excellent band greeted the hungry sailors upon arrival in Ventiniglia

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.

Crews from about 40 boats dined together on the quayside of the new port hosted by classic yacht owner and Captain of the Port GianBattista Borea.

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.

Helmsmanshipping of the finest order wins us a classic race in Monaco

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 …

Yacht Club de Monaco hosts the fleet on its moorings in the Port

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.

Skylark started the final race at the other end of the line to the fleet but there was little gained or lost – but at least she had clear air.
Final day Parade of Sail
At the end of the first beat Skylark arrived at the same time as Meerblick but was unable to use her starboard advantage as she did not keep clear. Skylark chose not to protest

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.

Riva Aquarama fleet during the Parade of Sail
18m fleet during the Parade of Sail

BlueBird 1938 by Noel Gazzano

A beautiful illustration of BlueBird was produced by artist Noel Gazzano sailing onboard Manitou. It depicts BlueBird’s passage to Cocos Island in search of treasure – the main purpose for which she was built by Sir Malcolm Campbell

Bella Imperia!

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.

Images above ©James Robinson Taylor

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.

Peaking Parking Porquerolles

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.

Perspective of the Race 2 windward mark rounding from the bowman

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.

The larger S&S LYS tries to overtake Skylark to windward but resigns to take a position behind.
“Don’t look back in anger”

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.

The larger S&S LYS attempts to pass to leeward – filmed from Skylark’s mizzen trimmer Kos
Gybing round the leeward mark alongside Jour de Fete racing for the win

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 …

Perfect start for Skylark in the final Race 3

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.

Andale tacks on Skylark’s wind for the long beat around the island – but Skylark anticipates the move and powers through to leeward
Skylark powers through to leeward after regatta leader Andale tacks on her wind. In the background, BlueBird leaves for Greece

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.

LOCKDOWN LOCK-IN

The normally busy Port of Saint-Tropez under 9pm curfew during lockdown. Fifteen minutes before the restaurants were busy with diners at dinner then suddenly everyone returned home or to their boats respecting the 9pm restrictions. Will we ever see sights like this again?

Antibes Postponed

Voiles d’Antibes has been put back to September due to the Covid-19 global pandemic