Year on year the BlueBird Cup is gaining momentum and growing larger and stronger. Its 9th Edition on the Golfe of Saint-Tropez was no exception. With the added support of Leading Hotels of the World in 2019, joining the line up of luxury brands Hennessy, Bentley, BOYD and North Sails, the event was the most exciting yet.
The BlueBird Cup itself was raced between Stormy Weather owned by Christopher Spray and the defending Skylark helmed by the talented yachtsman and international sailor Tara Getty. The Challengers Race, to decide the 2020 event, was run between Havsornen, chartered and helmed by Nick Barham, the 54ft Blitzen owned and helmed by Sir Charles Dunstone, Argyll owned and helmed by actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones, Manitou owned by Hamish Easton, Moonbeam owned by Carsten Gerlach. As in previous years, the contemporary race boat Spectre, owned and helmed by Peter Dubens, participated as an honorary guest.
Sky TV filmed the event from a helicopter during its filming of the drama ‘Riviera’.
The Challengers Race was first to begin, with the start gun fired by Bubbles from onboard the magnificent 104ft BlueBird which defined the startline. The other end of the start was defined by the huge motoryacht Talitha.
The race was a pursuit event with the respective handicaps for size built into the different start times. Skylark was the scratch boat and led the fleet across the start in very light wind which worked against her. As the breeze died away Stormy started making it advantageous for the larger, faster boats starting behind.
A big wind shift then closed the gap between all the boats, followed by another shift which was nearly 180 degrees. Considering the massive changes in wind direction and strength, it was a near miracle that all the boats arrived at the first mark at the same time, having taken radically different courses and wind speeds to get there. Essentially, the race started again half way through which gave advantage to the bigger boats.
Coming into the last leg to the finish, Argyll was in the lead and looked a likely winner. But the weather turned events on its head once again and metres before the finish Nick Barham and Rupert Cleavley on Havsornen snuck ahead to cross the line first.
Then followed the BlueBird Cup race itself. After some circling before the start where the boats competed head to head, Stormy won the start convincingly and from that point Skylark struggled to over take her. Whilst the gap between the boats closed to a few metres, Stormy extended on the last leg crossing the finish over a minute ahead of the turquoise crew on Skylark.
At the prizegiving onboard of Talitha, Leading Hotels of the World presented fabulous awards whilst Hennessy presented its 100 year old Paradis Imperial cognac and Bentley invited owners to loan its latest cars. Each competitor was then presented with a commemorative BlueBird Cup 2019 polo shirt made by North Sails. It was a fabulous occasion. As BlueBird weighed anchor in the setting sun, “The Best Day of the Season” was declared by all. A fitting tribute to a fabulous event. An amazing occasion enjoyed by all who attended. Stormy Weather, worthy winners of the 9th Edition.
Celebrities, television personalities, film stars, rockstars, entrepreneurs and glitterati attended a fabulous reception aboard BlueBird, the famous 1938 motor yacht commissioned by Sir Malcolm Campbell holder of multiple world speed records. The event celebrated the announcement of the 430 Leading Hotels of the World joining Bentley, Moet Hennessy (LVMH), Purdey (Richemont), NetJets, Faberge, Canon and Monaco Yacht Show in the BOYD luxury brand experience on mobile.
Leading Hotels of the World includes glamorous properties including The Ritz, the incredible Sir Norman Foster designed Dolder Grand in Zurich and The Metropole and L’Heritage in Monaco. It is responsible for 87,000 reservations per night across the group. It will partner BOYD to showcase, through interactive experiences, its luxury properties around the globe.
Monte Carlo, centre of Monaco, was the glamorous setting for the bi-annual Monaco Classic Week, held at the prestigious Yacht Club de Monaco. Renowned for its light winds and waves, the event is a challenge for the heavy Skylark.
Yet again Cippino was Skylark’s major contender, joined in the line up of favourites at this event by Sir Charles Dunstone’s Blitzen. Blitzen was sailed by a very good crew with a lot of America’s Cup experience including Matt Cornwall and Chris Mason. She was helmed for the week by Sir Keith Mills.
The first race Skylark sailed incredibly well winning line honours against the much lighter Cippino, helmed by Argentinian Olympic Medalist and multiple World Champion.
Race 2 was just as challenging. Skylark started well then got on the wrong side of a wind shift. She fought back as the wind died completely and moved up her position to mid-fleet. However the wind then died completely and the race was abandoned.
The last race was again incredibly shifty. Both Skylark and Cippino sailed right round the becalmed fleet out to see and looked to have a massive lead. Then the wind came in strong from the east allowing all the becalmed boats to overtake Skylark. After finally rounding the windward mark, Skylark managed to sail a better course in the light winds and again over took Blitzen, Manitou and all her competitors (except … you guessed it … Cippino!). A long reach in light winds allowed Skylark to extend on those behind securing her another 2nd Place Overall.
It was a great achievement at an event which really doesn’t favour heavier boats.
After some hard core racing it was time for a little relaxation … Sadly the weather did not play its part for one of the two days.
So we headed for the Michelin Guide … and ashore in both Cannes and Villefranche, settling of the Kathleen Turner & Michael Douglas movie ‘Jewel in the Nile”.
On her first showing at the Vela d’Epoca Imperia in Italy, Skylark has won her class overall narrowly beating the Italian 12m Emelia.
Three races were held off the old port, the first in 18-20 knots requiring all yachts to use smaller headsails on a long beat upwind. Skylark made healthy gains on her competitors and when the breeze ran out close to the finish, was lying in first place.
Unfortunately a slow gybe left her lying further offshore than she wanted to be and Emila managed to lead Skylark over the finish beating her on handicap by less than a minute.
Oiseau de Feu winning track to the left – Skylark to the right
Race 2 was in lighter wind and again a wrongly timed gybe was Skylark’s undoing and she finished in 3rd place not being able to keep up with the larger Emilia and Oiseau de Feu, who won her first race at the event – again less than one minute ahead of Skylark on correct time.
Each evening Skylark’s crew completed long cultural bike rides to visit old Italian villages in the area. Shoreside, there was spectacular entertainment laid on each evening close to the boats.
With a discard coming into play after 3 races, it was essential that Skylark won the last race in order to win the event. On the start a big wind shift went against Skylark putting her immediately at the back of the fleet. Excellent upwind speed and two very fast and well sailed reaches let Skylark cross the line just a few minutes behind Emilia, meaning she won the race by more than 3 minutes on correct time.
With this fine score she narrowly won the event, including a handsome trophy.
Cippino … Cippino … Cippino … it’s always Cippino! Skylark sailed two excellent races in Mahon – the third race cancelled due to the light and variable winds. Despite sailing incredibly well and beating Cippino on the water, Skylark again finished 2nd in both races sailed.
Her performance won her a beautiful trophy for the Copa del Rey de Barcos de Epoca.
Each evening Skylark’s crew headed out on electric bikes for a tour of the island, on one evening stopping for drinks with friends and a beautiful house on the water.
The third and final race was eventually cancelled early due to no wind – right before a huge storm coming across the Bay of Lyon. Both Skylark and BlueBird left early, heading east straight for her next challenge. Imperia!
Following a solid day’s training for all – who certainly needed it – Skylark headed out to the start line for Race 1. As BlueBird was unable to reserve a berth by the RCC Savoia, half the crew were accommodated 16 miles away by sea on the beautiful island of Capri, meaning that Skylark was managed in Naples by Captain Carl and her full-time crew William & Emma, under the watchful eye of Commodore Tony.
A downwind start provided a tactical challenge and despite being infringed by a little wooden underwater boat at the start, Skylark fought her way back, metre by metre, to eventually lead the fleet into the gybe mark near the finish. A faulty shackle release and a problem re-hoisting the spinnaker cost her the overall line honours trophy, which was the biggest trophy ever seen. Earlier that day, the polished tin-pot monstrosity had been ear-marked by Master Bates who had eyed it, knowingly, in the yacht club with Argyll Ma Julie. But despite the issues, the performance was enough to secure Skylark the race win on corrected time – her first of a full set of bullets.Race 2, Day 2, was a triangular affair. A heavily-biased start line, again favouring the Committee Boat (what’s wrong with these people) led to a lot of barging and a complete EU pile up at start with all boats, excepting the charging Brexitists, barging in, knocking Skylark off her course and timed run to the line.
Despite the multiple infringements against her, Skylark picked away at her opposition one by one. A bold tack off to the right of the course gave Skylark a handsome lead which she then extended to the finish. It was a fine performance considering Skylark had no idea what the course was. Win 2, Day 2, and a sunset dinner for 22 rounded off the day.
Gusts of 24 knots met competitors on the morning of Day 3. And what a day. A reaching start on port allowed Skylark to nail the line at full speed, hoist her spinnaker and staysail and immediately catch a tow with a larger faster Italian boat all the way down the first reach. The tow gave Skylark a handsome lead on her larger rivals who, in the stronger breeze, slowly began to reel her in.
By the 2nd half of the race the wind was still gusting strong and Skylark reefed her lightweight main. As she gybed and hoisted her spinnaker for another fast run, either Gucci or Mansell (we are not sure who) asked Master Bates for a turn to be taken off the spinnaker sheet winch which he was faithfully trimming. Before ‘The One Who Is Always Right’ and ‘The One Who Is Always Wrong’ could stop him, the keen Rugbyarian released tension in the drum which exploded the winch handle dragging Captain Rich down the deck burning his leg. A number of visits to Grandma were required that day … but what a day it was. A cooling swim over on Capri, facilitated by Captain Cautious aboard the good ship Emilie, celebrated Skylark’s 3rd straight race victory.
Mizzen Man Mouse (aka Landi) joined Skylark for the final race. Now promoted to foredeck, he spent the day in the cockpit trimming the genoa and spinnaker, frankly better than the ‘Marma-Lady’ he replaced. Not surprisingly, it was a more peaceful day for all aboard.In Race 4, the final race, a long tactical beat followed by a long tactical downwind provided a fabulous end to a fabulous week. Oh, and did I mention, Skylark’s 4th straight win? A full set of race 1sts gave Skylark undisputed regatta victory and a fine silver trophy for her efforts and troubles.
On the podium, everyone was happy, particularly Whidden-Wiggin who had saved his reputation with a race win on the main.
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.