50 knots (well, 45) cancelled the first day of the 2019 event meaning that Skylark’s crew headed out on electric mountain bikes around the stunning island, to the incredible Fondation Carmignac museum, followed by a fine lunch onboard BlueBird. The museum provided much entertainment for some and cultural enlightenment.
The day before the crew had trained hard at improving down-speed boat control and it was a frustrating beginning to the regatta. That night we headed for Porquerolles’ best restaurant, named “Porquerollais“, somewhat predictably.
Day 2 and two races were held in the Baie de Hyeres. Skylark started the first race and immediately was headed in her own private patch of wind allowing the fleet to climb above her and take a significant lead. By taking offshore, Skylark was able to take advantage of a right shift in the breeze and was the 3rd boat to round the windward mark in a fleet of 32 – 22 being in the same class.
Two long reaches and a beat followed on which Skylark sailed extremely well, taking the race win by 1 min 35 secs.
In the second race of the day there were 3 general recalls giving Skylark and her crew plenty of starting practice. When the race finally got underway, Jour de Fete tacked to port and tried to cross Skylark’s bow. However, she failed to give way and keep clear of Skylark who had to tack to avoid a collision. Skylark protested under Rule 10 which she later won, disqualifying Jour de Fete.
On the evening of Day 2, onboard the mothership BlueBird, a toast was given In Memoria to Skylark’s longstanding and faithful Quartermaster, Big Bill. A slideshow was projected onto BlueBird’s funnel and, as the sun set, a toast was given to our late friend. His name is now embroidered on Skylark’s goodie bag which was his role onboard, to administer.
Race Day 3, the final day, began slow with no wind but as they sea breeze built the race committee made the strange decision to send the fleet round the island where there was a large swell in light wind. Skylark was barged at the committee boat and lost nearly a minute having to tack off to clear her air.
She fought her way back through the fleet ahead of Mignon and Comet her nearest rivals for the overall regatta win. After 3hrs of racing the committee cancelled the race – giving overall victory to Skylark who had won both races sailed.
With ex-racing driver Squiffy ‘Hunt’ Hawkins once again onboard, Skylark headed for the Voiles d’Antibes for her first big event of the season. On arrival, it was apparent that the line up of competition was as competitive as ever with many top boats importing professional sailors. Skylark was also aided on her after-deck by Jose ‘Ze’ Duarte Los Lobos di Championos Mondialos who flew in from Lisbon the night before the event.
After a day’s training, Skylark’s valiant crew of young and very old headed out to the first start line. The Committee Boat end of the line was heavily favoured and, as Skylark approached the start, two 30 ton 70ft boats barged into a gap only wide enough for one, narrowly missing Skylark.
The incident destroyed Skylark’s start and she started well down the fleet, fighting back in a 15 knot breeze to a 4th place, 15 seconds behind Argyll in 3rd and only one minute behind the winner Comet, helmed by Olympian and multi-world champion Stuart Childerly. One unfortunate foredeck incident badly twisted the knee of Skylark’s new captain Carl, who was then whisked off to hospital unable to compete in this event further. Command of Skylark was again under the auspices of the long-serving and patient Captain Tony ‘Commodore’ Morse.
Day 2 was cancelled due to a big swell and gale force wind from the east. Genoa trimmers Evan ‘That’s my D’Arcy’ Marshall and Mogens ‘RB’ Tholstrop joined Skylark’s owner, Los Lobos and The Headmaster on a cultural tour of Pablo Picasso’s Mediterranean residence. Never has so much, been so incomprehensible, by so few.
Race 3 was a tactical affair with a big wind shift during the start sequence catching out most competitors. Stormy Weather, Skylark and Comet started together at the pin of the line and pulled out a healthy lead in the rest of the fleet. Only Comet and Jour de Fete remained and Skylark battled it out with these two well-sailed, well prepared, well tuned boats. As the breeze died Skylark managed to shake off repeated challenges by Comet but was unable to catch the lighter, narrower Jour de Fete, settling for a well earned 2nd. This strong performance placed Skylark in the lead of the event by one point, with one race to go.
After an extravagant evening aboard the motor yacht Talitha, Skylark’s rather jaded crew headed out to the start of the final winner takes all race. With one point separating 1st to 5th everything was to play for.
The race started badly with Skylark being blocked by a yacht not competing and with a lull in the wind Skylark was nearly 5 minutes late crossing the line near the back of the fleet. Importantly, Comet was over the start line and had to restart and both Fete and Varuna had imperfect starts. Skylark held her nerve in the light winds and large seas and sailed off on her own to the left side of the course, arriving at the top mark after some challenging sailing clear in the lead.
With Squiffy Hunt calling the waves whilst skillfully, single-handedly trimming the main, aided by his equally talented counterpart Los Lobos di Championos Mondialos di Lisbonas on mizzen, Skyark maintained her lead in the rough and challenging conditions all the way to the finish. Her race win gave her a 3 point lead overall and a regatta victory which was mostly, in part, sort of, a lot to do with some people.
With Squiffy Hunt taking the stage at the Final Prizegiving, the amassed nations applauded as he lifted the trophy to the iconic Queen rock anthem ‘We are the Champions’. It was a worthy celebration of a moderate and mostly humble display of racing talent.
Trophy in hand, Squiffy Hunt and his followers, groupies, fans and pit crew now move to the Porquerolles regatta where more local challenges await.
The first event of the 2019 season was the prestigious Coupe des Dames – the Ladies Cup – held each year in Saint-Tropez. Skylark sailed beautifully in the perfect conditions posting a 3rd place in the first race – a result she repeated in the 2nd race – giving her 3rd Place Overall for the regatta.
Ania Szubert: “It’s fantastic experience I’m so glad that Mr G and Tony take me to Skylark. Feeling this old boat, be at her, and made race, it’s fantastic and fabulous. I was very exciting and scary too when boat go on the side. I love pulling lines it’s very exciting. I love this very much. And also I’m very exciting for tomorrow because I can take with me my 11 old years daughter”
“Alicia Bajor-Szubert, it was her first time and she loved it”
“Like mother like daughter!“
“I was scary because I wasn’t sure if she will be ok, but she smile all the time, and she move well when boat move well without stress. She really enjoy a lots, it will be for her best souvenir in her life be at boat like this, sailing and be at place Number 3!”
Helmswoman Sandy Oxley: “It’s like picking up the reins of a top class showjumper and seeing a perfect stride to a six-foot parallel combination and before you’ve landed looking for a next perfect stride to the next fence the Feeling of the ability power strength and grace beneath you….I don’t have the technical knowledge to describe what it’s like to helm Skylark but can associate the exhilaration… feeling ….. and …. the fear of first competing in the main ring at Hickstead !”
Skylark is currently undergoing a Sail Optimisation programme in conjunction with leading technicians from North Sails, with input from Hood Sails senior representatives in America. Data based on the performance of Skylark’s near sister ship Santana, combined with video and photography analysis collated during the winter 2018/19, which included the use of drones, has led to further developments in Skylark’s sail programme ahead of the 2019 events which commence early this May.
Advanced CFD analysis in Holland and Spain on another classic racing yacht design has led to new conclusions about the performance expectation of these craft. This new data has been built into both the boat set up and sail development programme for Skylark, consolidating performance prediction analysis with polar data collected during over 100 races, rolled into one set of optimised data. The analysis focuses primarily on upwind performance in light to medium airs of 8-14 knots and downwind VMG running in breeze of over 8 knots true.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! from all the Skylark crew
From all the Skylark crew
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.
Due to the size and speed difference in the boats, Skylark was permitted to leave 92 seconds before Blitzen. However, on the first upwind leg, Skylark battled poor wind conditions for several minutes which allowed Blitzen to immediately catch up. By the first windward mark Blitzen had halved her lead. And then, for Skylark, it all went wrong …
The call to bear away set the spinnaker at the windward mark was a wrong one. With the wind in a right phase close to the tower, Blitzen gybe-set inside Skylark and quickly overhauled her on the first downwind run. With the breeze quickly building, both boats converged quickly on Talitha and BlueBird, the downwind mark.
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.