Porquerolles Classic 2018

The stunning island of Porquerolles played host to the 2018 Classic Yacht Regatta. 47 boats gathered from around the Mediterranean including the much favoured Cippino from Argentina, Jour de Fete from France, Fjord III from Argentina and Argyll and Skylark from the UK.

Race 1 was a 14 mile clockwise tour of Porquerolles Island. Skylark had an excellent start and lead the fleet around the 1st quarter of the island until the lighter and larger boats slowly overtook her in the light breeze. A long spinnaker run down the southern side of the island favoured Skylark and she finished the race in a respectable 3rd position behind Cippino and Jour de Fete.

Race 2 was started in a building westerly breeze and Skylark again had an excellent start, crossing the line on port at the pin end of the line. Despite a large swell and light wind she performed excellently on the first legs of the course staying on touch with the top yachts sporting professional crews. After a long spinnaker run and, in a building breeze, Skylark rounded the last mark alongside the leaders. However, Skylark had chosen on the run to switch to a smaller heavier head sail and this proved to be a mistake as she was under powered on the long beat home. By the finish Skylark had slipped to 3rd place being beaten by Cippino and Fjord, owned and sailed by famous Argentinian naval architect German Frers. This still placed Skylark in a joint 2nd Overall along with Fjord and Jour de Fete.

Race 3 of 3 was exciting to say the least. It was a reaching start on starboard and Skylark successfully threaded her way in and out of the boats jostling before the start to cross the line on the gun at full speed. After performing well to the first mark, latterly under spinnaker, the yachts gybed and headed for the centre of the bay to the 2nd mark some 5 miles away. The leading boats were caught with little wind allowing the boats behind to sail in a big loop around them. Skylark’s owner had spotted this opportunity early but his tactician, The Headmaster, did not want to split from covering the top boats. Consequently as the breeze dropped the boats at the back of the fleet took the lead. Once the breeze did fill in it was too late for Skylark to catch the leaders.

Skylark finished the event a respectable 5th over all out of 25 boats in her class.

Voiles d’Antibes 2018

The arrival on the Mediterranean scene of the American yacht Santana, owned by Wendy Schmidt wife of Eric Schmidt the CEO of Google, provided much anticipation ahead of the Voiles d’Antibes 2018. A near sister ship to Skylark (larger at 55ft but over two tons lighter), she was once owned by famous actor Humphrey Bogart. During his years of ownership he once rescued Skylark’s tender whilst the two yachts were cruising in company.

On the race course the newly restored Santana flew in the light winds experienced during this heavier Skylark found the light winds hard going and posted a disappointing 4th in race one.

With her full crew and owner onboard for race 2 she placed well in 2nd leading Santana around most of the course and beating her on handicap by a mere one second.

Races 3 and 4 were also good for Skylark with another 2nd and finally a 3rd in the light winds of the last race.

The fleet now moves to the beautiful islands surrounding Porquerolles.

Coupe des Dames 2018

A return once again for the season opening Ladies Cup was once again postponed then cancelled due to the conditions. Last year it was too much wind. This year no wind at all. On the second day the committee started a race but after 30 mins of the fleet trying to cross the line it was abandoned.

The fancy dress parade was a highlight of the event, with female crews dressing in imaginative clothing.

Hennessy BlueBird Cup 2017

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.

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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.

Voiles Saint-Tropez 2017

“Probably the most exhilarating race we’ve ever done – certainly best of the season!” was the unanimous call by the turquoise clad crew of the classic yawl Skylark. “Fantastic conditions”. “A real blast…”

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On two beautiful days during Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2017 the breeze from the west built during the day to give champagne sailing conditions – well, enough wind and waves to spill your champagne to be honest.

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Mahon Mayhem 2017

The emerald waters surrounding the natural harbor of Mahon, Minorca, created a stunning backdrop for the biannual Panerai Copa del Rey di Barca’s Classica 2017. Over 45 boats from France, UK, Spain and Italy competed over three days for the silverware which included Panerai watches for the eventual winners.

The three days of racing were notable for the waves that are commonplace for this region. In contrast to the flat water normally experienced at classic regatta venues, Mahon’s remote location 95 miles south of Barcelona means that the courses are more exposed. On day’s 2 and 3 in particular, huge waves rolled across the course making it difficult to handle and manoeuvre the yachts around the course.

After some tough races which included some gear failure, unusual on this well-prepared classic, Skylark finished the regatta in 5th Place overall.

Argentario Race Week 2017

One of Skylark’s favourite regattas is Argentario Sailing Week in Porto Santo Stefano on the coast of Western Italy. She has competed four times and won her class overall four times, despite a very competitive class and complex and testing variable conditions.

The light and variable winds led to close mark roundings, meaning crew work, momentum and strategy were at a premium. In the video below we can see Skylark overtaking her main competitors by overstanding the layline in light winds to come into the mark on port with enough speed and momentum to carry her round the outside of her competitors.

With her main competitors White Wings, Cholita, Argyll and Stormy Weather all being sailed by competitive crews, Skylark had her work cut out in 2017 winning enough races to win overall. In the last race, the first 5 yachts finished within two minutes of each other on Corrected Time which is testament to the level of racing between these beautiful classic boats. In the final results Skylark discarded her 3rd place in Race 2 leaving three 1sts to win the regatta overall. Happy Birthday Sean!

Porquerolles Classic 2017

Porquerolles Classics, set around the wonderful Islands off Hyeres, France, was simply a stunning event. The beautiful island, friendly people, and flat, tactical waters made for both great racing and a fun social programme. Each evening after racing Skylark’s crew headed off on rented electric mountain bikes to tour the gorgeous islands – with navigation left on the water – often way more ‘off road’ than anyone anticipated.

This fabulous event heralded the return of two key crew members from 2015/6, who’d taken a year’s sabbatical from responsibilities. Bill ‘Quartermaster’ Ennis dropped straight back into his established role on board, motivating his team from his central position low in the cockpit with victuals, provender and sustenance, reliably allocated by need and in timely fashion. Mike ‘Papou’ Kakinis, also leapt aboard for this regatta taking charge of the new fully-battened mizzen and staysails. Requiring no familiarisation since his outstanding race wins in Spetses, Greece, Kakinis yet again generated enough horsepower from his charge to lead Skylark to another regatta victory in Porquerolles, winning 2 races out of three – the final day 4th place breaking Kakinis’ perfect score of 5 wins from 5.

Other crew on board, racing under the stewardship of the Papou/Quartermaster ‘Dream Team’, included Mogens Thorstrop who did something important and Tara who drove whilst the autopilot wasn’t on and Tony who fixed stuff. Toby, Letitia, Wouter, BB Tom and Richard ran around doing lots whilst The Headmaster rambled on.

A definite ‘must do’ event for 2018. And a nice watch too!

Voiles d’Antibes 2017

Skylark’s first race with her new mizzen mast and repairs completed could not have gone better. With Skylark’s Captain Tony Morse at the helm for Race 1, and an entirely new foredeck crew, Skylark had a great start at the favoured Committee Boat end of the line and performed well in the lights winds right around the coastal course which took the fleet near to Les Isles des Lerins off Cannes. A win was just reward for a race well sailed.

For Races 2 & 3, with Skylark’s owner back at the wheel, Skylark again fought for the favoured Committee Boat end but on both occasions was ‘boxed out’ (pushed out) as the gun went. This required a tight circle around to approach the line a second time, losing over a minute in the process. However, on both occasions Skylark fought back to place well in the fleet.

The final race was particularly exciting. In stronger breeze Skylark had a great start and with her A-team crew of Evan Marshall, Mogens Thorlstrop and Nigel ‘Squiffy’ Hawkins trimming, she led her main competitors right around the course winning the race over all across all classes.

The final race win meant that Skylark was able to discard her worst score leaving a full set of bullets for her return event. With crew Toby, Leticia, Richard and BB Tom doing all the hard work.