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10th Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta

by Oliver Dewar on 18 Jul 15-16 July 2017

The 10th Anniversary of the Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta in association with Charles Stanley held in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, over the past weekend delivered spectacular racing in the Western Solent with a strong and challenging flood tide pumping eastwards and westerly breeze keeping the water relatively flat for the 178 boats competing in the South Coast's most popular yacht club regatta.

Conditions were Mediterranean for the Champagne Taittinger Reception on Friday night on the waterfront lawn of the Royal Solent Yacht Club, but Saturday morning dawned grey with Hurst Castle and the Needles obscured in the gloom with the WSW breeze gradually building throughout the morning from 12 to 26 knots. On the Mainland shore off Lymington, the Black Group fleet of Sigma 38s; Contessa 32s; IRC Swans; J109s and four IRC divisions had the better breeze for the start of Race 1, while the White Group of J24s; Folkboats; XODs; NHC; J80s and YODs on the Island shore starting close inshore off Yarmouth Common suffered initially from the Island's wind shadow with the AP flag making a frequent appearance during the starting sequence for the first race.

RSYC member Nick Bradley of Yarmouth-based Contessa 32 Merak II realised that beating into the punishing flood tide was a crucial part of the regatta: "On the first race we got a phenomenal start and were able to sneak out of the tide and head inshore before everybody else," Bradley explains. Sailing with a crew of family and friends, he applied the same winning tactic for Saturday's second race and Sunday's single race, producing a scorecard of 1-1-1 in the 12-boat Contessa 32 fleet.

Merak II underwent a thorough refit over the winter and Bradley was concerned how this might affect the boat. "I was wondering whether the boat would have suffered as all the marks on the boat for rigging and sheeting have gone and with a new suit of sails, she's a very different boat, but it didn't affect us and the boat is fast and she looks shiny and pretty!"

Bradley, his family and crew didn't miss any of the regatta's busy shoreside entertainment schedule: "We all went to the Towers Party and I think our crew put a significant amount towards the party's charities through conspicuous rum consumption," he commented at the regatta's prize giving on Sunday afternoon and despite the mix of hard racing and partying, Merak II won the Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta overall. "This event is always an outstanding success," he added shortly after receiving a Jeroboam of Taittinger from the event's title sponsor. "It's well run and well sponsored, the courses were all good and the feedback I've heard from other boats confirms this," says Bradley. "The weather has been fantastic and what else can you really ask for. Winning the event overall just tops-off a stunning event for my family and crew."

For John Smart and his crew on Cowes-based J109 Jukebox, the regatta was a test of nerves and equipment: "We blew a spinnaker, we tore a genoa, we hit the bottom, we had a guy taken to hospital, we had a snapped jib sheet, we were protested, shackles failed and we spent the whole time wondering what was going to happen next," Smart admits. Despite the litany of problems, Smart and his team won all three races in the nine-strong J109 fleet. "Basically we were going round the boat all saying Hail Mary's throughout each race and seem to have got away with it although I'm fairly certain we should have come last!"

In Black Group's IRC Division 1, Michael and Sarah Willis raced their J122 Jahmali with a total of 11 crew. "The weather was great and the conditions really suited the boat with flat water and nice breeze," said Michael Willis during the regatta's prize giving. Keeping out of the strong flood tide was a priority and Jahmali's crew held their nerve: "There were good long beats really close-in along the shore with the echo sounder alarm going off all the time and – on some legs – the depth alarm was sounding continuously!" This drastic tactic paid-off and Jahmali had a 1-3-1 score, winning first place overall in the highly-competitive, 19-strong IRC Division 1. This year marks the seventh time the Willis family has competed in the Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta and the crew are very familiar with the event: "We had quite a big night at the Champagne Taittinger reception on Friday, so Saturday night was a quiet one for us," admits Sarah Willis. "We had a really lovely team on the boat and they all did their jobs brilliantly. It's a perfect result."

The International Folkboats deliver some of the closest racing at the regatta and with 18 boats in the fleet, it was a tough event for all crews. Chris Hills of Lymington-based Folkboat Padfoot won the class overall with a 3-2-1 score card and sums-up the event: "It was a fantastic regatta, well run and it just worked out really well us," says Hills who has raced Padfoot for 12 years. "Every year it gets better and better and the result is people keep coming back and new and interesting boats are always entering."

The dates for the 2018 Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta in association with Charles Stanley are Friday 20 – Sunday 22 July.

Full results for the 2017 Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta can be found here.

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