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Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta

by Oliver Dewar 2 Aug 2016 09:30 BST 29-31 July 2016

Patience and concentration for the competitors and nerves of steel for the Race Committee were key to the success of the 2016 Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta off Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, over the weekend.

With 178 boats competing, expectations for the ninth edition of this popular regatta were high and – initially – a total wind vacuum in the Western Solent threatened to reduce the event to a frustrating drifting competition.

However, after a long wait on the first day of racing, the breeze arrived first for the Black Group of 89 boats (Classic Swan; Contessa 32; IRC1; IRC2; IRC3; IRC4; J109 and Sigma 38) on the Mainland shore just east of Lymington with the White Group (Folkboat; Gaffers; IRC Classic; J24; J80; NHC1; NHC2; XOD and YOD) starting soon afterwards as the light north-westerly breeze reached the Island shore off Yarmouth.

With the wind peaking at around 15 knots on Saturday and eventually climbing to 25 knots on Sunday as the racing finished, most competitors agreed that the generally light conditions over the weekend were strenuous with most classes completing two races on Day 1 and one race on Day 2. Local sailor, James Meaning, won the 26-strong XOD Class and also won the Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta overall on X156 Gleam: 'It was really hard work, especially today,' admitted Meaning at the event's prize giving on the lawn of the RSYC. 'We had Neil Payne [Dugald Henderson's X94 Sirena] just on our heels all the way round.' Gleam scored 2-1-1 over the regatta weekend, but the final race was the tightest. 'All four boats across the line finished within four boat lengths,' says Meaning of the intense competition within the XOD fleet. 'Today was just brilliant and the whole regatta has been great,' he continued. 'The Race Committee were amazing getting two races on Saturday in such fickle conditions.'

The second biggest White Group class after the XODs were Folkboats with 19 teams competing and university student Hannah Muskett helmed Lymington-based Svane to class victory with a 2-2-5 scorecard. 'Dad owns the boat and was on mainsheet and Sam, my brother, is on the bow,' Hannah explained shortly after collecting her trophy. 'The Three Musketeers!' added her delighted father, Sean Muskett. Incredibly, the Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta was Svane's competitive debut with the Muskett family: 'We've only just got the boat and Friday was our first race,' Hannah explains. 'It was really tough with strong tides, light winds and good competition within the Folkboats,' she says of the racing. 'We really had to concentrate 100 per cent of the time,' she admits. 'We really hope to come back next year,' adds Hannah.

With nine boats competing, the J80 fleet saw some of the closest racing in the regatta with James Harrison's Megstar taking the prize. 'The first race on Saturday was a bit rough with such light wind and we were really struggling,' said an exhausted but overjoyed Harrison who bagged a fourth place in Race 1. 'We were very lucky today,' he continues of the first place on Sunday. 'Plus they were match racing the rest of the fleet and keeping them all busy!' he claims, pointing to the crew of Chris and Hannah Neve's J80 Stay Calm amid light hearted accusations of champagne bribery between the two teams.

However, the regatta's prime social event on Saturday night – the Towers Party at John Caulcutt's waterfront property next to the RSYC – potentially jeopardised Megstar's performance: 'Great fun racing and a really good regatta and the Towers Party was awesome!' says Harrison. 'But we managed to lose one of the crew at the party and we were about 100 kilos light today!'

Black Group's IRC4 winner, Richard Hollis of Cowes-based X95 Crakajax, agrees with Harrison over the demands of this year's regatta: 'It has been a fantastic regatta and very hard work,' says Hollis. 'Light-airs sailing is not as physically demanding as heavy airs, but you really have to concentrate,' he explains. 'You really have to look for wind and we had a superb guy who called it just right every time.' For Hollis and his crew, the regatta's blend of hard, competitive sailing and onshore entertainment is difficult to beat. 'It's a wonderful regatta and I love the atmosphere and the sponsors are very generous,' comments Hollis of Champagne Taittinger and financial management company Charles Stanley. 'And so is Johhny Caulcutt with a stunning party at the Towers.' Hollis defers to his wife for confirmation of the time that the Crakerjax crew retired to their bunks. Mrs. Hollis confirms that it was well after 1.30 a.m.

The Royal Solent Yacht Club, Champagne Taittinger and Charles Stanley are already making plans for the 2017 Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta

Full results are at www.royalsolent.org/taittinger-regatta-results-2016

More photos at www.royalsolent.org/photo_gallery/?album=Taittinger+RSYC+Regatta+2016

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