Skylark’s motherships BlueBird and Talitha accompanied a fleet of large boats from Cannes to Saint-Tropez to celebrate the 30 Year Anniversary of the Pendennis Shipyard. The fleet included Haida a near sister ship to Talitha.
Onboard Talitha were ‘The General’ Nick Edmiston, the revolutionary naval architect Andre Hoek, rock guitarist John Hiscocks and famous restauranteur Mogens Thulstrop.
Following racing during Regates Royales in Cannes the Skylark crew visited the Monaco Yacht Show to view some of the most glamorous yachts on display
14 yachts lined up against Skylark in the annual Corsica Classic regatta, in which traditionally Skylark participates every other year. Lighter, faster, contemporary boats were mixed with the classic fleet, which gave everyone the rare chance to compete directly against each other.
The race course over several hundred miles took the fleet in 10 days almost all the way round the island of Corsica, between a number of beautiful bays and beaches and idyllic fishing ports. The first race from Ajaccio to Bonifacio ended under spinnaker in 30 knots of wind. The participating yachts thundering across the finish near the port. Skylark started well and pursued the faster Mr Fips all the way to the finish, eventually beating her on corrected time.
From startline to finish, from port to headland, from beach to bay – no matter what course configuration was put before Skylark she managed to win every race on corrected time. The greater test was line honours against the more modern boats which she managed to achieve on several races.
Sadly, several race days were lost due to Mistral winds cancelling racing. Unfortunately, this detracts from Skylark’s intention of winning the over classic yacht rankings for the 2018 season organised by AFYT.
At the final prizegiving Skylark was awarded a myriad of trophies including the Dorade winch which she has won each time she has competed.
For some of the event, the crew of Skylark were joined by Sandy Oxley (Argyll), Doris Sangeorzan from National Geographic and Michael ‘Papou Never Loses’ Kakinis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.