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Crewsaver 2015 Lifejackets

Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta

by Oliver Dewar 27 Jul 2015 21:57 BST 24-26 July 2015
2015 Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta © Keith Allso

Record numbers and tough sailing

With 181 boats entered in 17 classes ranging from the mighty Classic Swan division to the bantemweight Viper 640 sports boat class, expectations were high for the Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta held in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, from 24th July – 26th July and despite tough conditions on Sunday, racing continued throughout the weekend.

'This is a unique regatta and very different from events held a little further east from here,' commented the Royal Solent Yacht Club's Commodore, Mark Hall, at the regatta's prize giving on Sunday afternoon. 'The Western Solent is a very special place and we believe that partying and socialising is just as important as the sailing which we really take seriously,' he continued. 'Saturday was a stunning day of good wind and sunshine,' said Hall of the crisp westerly that peaked at 21 knots on the first day of racing, 'while today was a little grimmer,' he added as 30 knot south-westerly gusts and horizontal rain shook the club house windows.

While conditions on Sunday caused cancelled racing at the America's Cup World Series 20 miles to the east in Portsmouth, around 45% of the Taittinger fleet left the shelter of Yarmouth Harbour into conditions that were later described as 'busy', 'biblical', 'brutal' or – from one shell-shocked competitor - 'I really don't wish to talk about it.' There was a price to pay for racing on the edge and Julian Tickner's Archambault A35 Aztec broke her mast at the first set of spreaders early in the racing. 'We'd just put the kite up heading downwind on the first leg in about 25 or 26 knots and the mast folded forward before the backstay brought it aft and over the side,' explained Tickner. With considerable skill and avoiding any injuries, the crew secured the buckled aluminium mast and motored into Yarmouth Harbour without assistance. As his crew calmly cleared the damage alongside a pontoon in the harbour, Tickner recalled the moment: 'It was going very well until then!' he laughs. 'We'd just seen the boat in front of us broach and I thought "let's try and avoid that," and then...bang!'

Meanwhile, in IRC1, Paul Findley's team on Kerr 32 Raygun were putting in a stellar performance with three bullets. Sailing eight-up and crewed by a highly-motivated team in their early twenties, Raygun delivered a faultless racing: 'We've got a very, very young crew with many coming from the British Keel Boat Academy,' explained Findley. 'They are really very driven kids and sailing is their passion in life and they are totally focused,' he adds. 'Racing on Sunday was a splendid effort in the gusty conditions and a big "thank you" to the Taittinger Race Committee and all the RSYC's support boats for putting on racing in spectacular weather!' The hectic social side of the regatta failed to dent the Raygun team's effectiveness. 'We did go to the Towers Party on Saturday night, but an early morning RIB ride to Yarmouth from Hamble into a gale and driving rain quickly put us in the right mood for racing,' says Findley.

'It was wild out there,' commented Stuart Watson of Lymington-based Folkboat Crackerjack. 'Hitting ten knots in a Folkboat is as close as you can get to planing!' Watson and his crew took three bullets over the weekend stamping their mark on the 24-boat regatta fleet. 'It's never as easy as it looks on the result board,' he explained. 'The main competition for us was Padfoot and Aries, but we managed to get away although the starts were very tight as usual.' Crackerjack also won the Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta overall. 'The running of the races was just outstanding,' said Watson as he received a jeroboam of Taittinger at the prize giving. 'This is a very special regatta,' he confirmed.

One of the biggest comeback stories of the regatta was Yarmouth-based XOD Sirena sailed by husband and wife team Dugald and Nicky Henderson and joined by Neil Payne for the Taittinger RSYC Regatta. 'We broke the mast during Classic Week in Cowes on Thursday, but managed to find a second hand mast locally and were still rigging it on Saturday morning before the racing,' explained Dugald. 'We were towed out of the harbour, sails up and straight to the start line while still setting the boat up,' adds Nicky Henderson of their massive game of catch-up. Despite the hurried preparation, Sirena took 2-2 in the 20-strong XOD fleet on Saturday. Sunday was a less successful as five XODs braved the thumping gusts hammering in from the Needles. 'It was really horrible with endless water coming in,' admits Nicky. With one XOD retiring mid-race, Sirena was leading and while their automatic bilge pump struggled to keep pace with the distracting slabs of green water rolling over the bow, Black Rock just off Yarmouth Harbour claimed another victim. 'We touched it,' admits Dugald. 'It wasn't a heavy hit, but it meant we had to do a turn which took us from first to last place.' Despite this encounter with Yarmouth's notorious hazard, Sirena's 2-2-4 scorecard assured them XOD victory in the regatta.

Introducing a Sport Boat class was a new innovation for the regatta this year and the conditions proved challenging but exhilarating. Adam Broughton and Ian Martin with VX One Zhik returned to the Mainland with the Sports Boat silverware, but Sunday's gale proved decisive. 'It was a great weekend,' confirmed Broughton. 'Saturday's racing was champagne sailing with windward-leeward courses giving us all the angles of sail,' he reports and Zhik took 4-1 in the first two races with Nathan Batchelor's Ovington Boats at 1-4 in the seven-boat fleet. The gale on Sunday provided a dramatic backdrop for a two-boat gunfight between Zhik and Ovington Boats: 'It was pretty ugly out there and the boat is really for offwind sailing, so there was a lot going on upwind!' However, Broughton and Martin survived: 'Ovington had gear failure with a broken jib halyard and retired, so we took the gun.' Having crossed the finish line, the victorious duo had to sail from the Island shore to Lymington reaching across the Solent in the building gale: 'We had a lively trip back across and hit 17 knots!'

While the action out on the water was tough in harsh conditions, the regatta's onshore entertainment was equally demanding with around 900 guests attending the Champagne Taittinger Reception on Friday night in the waterfront grounds of the Royal Solent Yacht Club and the sell-out charity Towers Party on Saturday night attracting the majority of regatta crews. 'Once again it's been a first class regatta with outstanding race management and the club's staff have excelled themselves,' explains Nick Ramsey of leading investment management company Charles Stanley & Co who – with Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners – support the regatta in association with Champagne Taittinger. 'For us it's a great opportunity to come down here and be at the centre of a very social and entertaining event which continues to grow in popularity and provides a quite unique regatta atmosphere.' Find the complete results for the 2015 Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta at www.royalsolent.org/taittinger-rsyc-regatta-results