by Marina Thomas/Sail Couture
A fleet of more than 800 yachts from 18 countries and around 100,000 people enjoyed one of the highlights of the English sporting and social calendar, despite very light winds.
With most classes starting and finishing on a line off the exclusive Royal Yacht Squadron, Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week is synonymous with style and society parties.
On the water, 40 races a day were held across different classes, ranging from the three Maxi 72s in the IRC Big Boat class, to the 14 vintage Seaview Mermaids, which have been racing since 1907, to Etchells, Redwing, XOD classes and more.
In the inclusive Squib class, a fleet of 30 boats took part, with a mixture of male and female skippers, families and youngsters competing.
Charity event the Artemis Challenge, where the world’s biggest yachting names on IMOCA 60s, Volvo 65s and multihulls circumnavigate the Isle of Wight as a precursor to the Rolex Fastnet Race, took place on Thursday.
Various celebrities including British Royal Zara and her former Rugby-player husband Mike Tindall also raced in the challenge event.
The race was won by MOD70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail, skippered by France’s Sidney Gavignet. He said: “We have a bit of a love story with the UK. Last year, we broke the Round Britain and Ireland Record, and earlier this year we added the Round Ireland record. We didn’t break the Artemis Challenge Record today, but maybe next time.”
Blasting her way around the Solent during the week was Jim Clark’s Comanche, which has created a lot of attention on the circuit. She finished just behind Wild Oats XI in the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart shortly after being launched, and then broke the monohull hour record in the TransAtlantic Race in July. The 100ft maxi is known as the ‘aircraft carrier’ for her incredible 7.8 metre beam, and reached speeds of 15+ knots in the Solent on a day of only a few knots of breeze. Watch out for the American supermaxi in the Rolex Fastnet Race.
The epicentre of the off-water action, Cowes Yacht Haven, hosted entertainment every day on the GILL stage, and a number of independent food and drink pop ups.
New English craft gin brand, Chilgrove, the Official Gin of Cowes Week, did on-water sampling, delivering around 1,250 Gin and Tonic cocktails via rib to yachts finishing races that were flying a Chilgrove flag. Over the week, the pop up Fever-Tree bar served 1200 bottles of the Chilgrove gin, which uses botanicals and grapes and has its origins in recipes from 16th century Holland and the Juniper-based drink Jenever.
Managing Director Christopher Beaumont –Hutchings said: “We are very local to Cowes, and of course sailing and gin have a long history going back to the Royal Navy, so becoming a partner of Cowes Week was a great opportunity. We have had a very fun week serving up our gin to thirsty sailors in the pubs and bars of Cowes, and on the water.”
A bar on a peppermint green 1968 Routemaster bus was home to Nyetimber, the event’s Official Sparkling Wine partner, which served up English cuvee, Rose and Blanc de Blancs. Nyetimber bubbly was served up at Tuesday’s Ladies Day, where the Ladies Day Trophy is awarded for outstanding contribution to, or achievement in sailing for the last year. Libby Greenhalgh, the British chief navigator of Volvo Ocean Race Team SCA, was the winner of the 2015 trophy following the all-female team’s success in Leg 8 of the competition.
2014’s winner, Brit Dee Caffari, wearing a navy nautical striped dress, presented fellow SCA member Libby Greenhalgh with the trophy. The ladies also won the VO65 class category on board Team SCA in the Artemis Challenge two days later.
Nautical fashion was the order of the day as women were encouraged to wear stripes to celebrate Ladies Day. Sponsor Liz Earle awarded spot beauty prizes.
Famous London club Mahiki, which has hosted celebrities including Prince William and Harry, also made a return this year with a pop up in the yacht haven dishing up its famous Tiki-inspired cocktails including the treasure chest. And the Mount Gay Rum tent hosted its annual Thursday night party, alongside Kings Road Chelsea, London, club, 151.
The week culminated in a display by the RAF Typhoon Display team and the famous annual fireworks display.
On Sunday, a record 365 yachts started the world’s biggest offshore race, the 2015 Rolex Fastnet off Cowes, UK.
Having made good progress yesterday with conditions improving somewhat, the forecast today is not good with the lobe of high pressure due to expand creating a windless zone between the Scilly Isles and the Lizard.
Boats and crew from more than 25 countries from five continents are represented, with some of sailing’s biggest names competing.
Star entries in the 46th edition include Comanche, Rambler, Spindrift 2 and Musandam-Oman Sail.
The biggest boat is 131ft/40m trimaran, Spindrift 2. In the Classic Class, new for 2015 are two Sparkman & Stephens classics and past Fastnet Race winners: 52ft yawl, Dorade owned by Matt Brooks (winner 1931 & 1933) and 53ft yawl, Stormy Weather of Cowes owned by Christopher Spray (winner, 1935).
The symbol of the race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point for a challenging race.
Marina is press officer for the Clipper Round the World Race and enjoys living out of a suitcase while traveling as much as possible. She also works as a freelance journalist and is a news addict, London and Sydney lover, trance music aficionado and sports and adventure nut. Her website: http://www.marinathomas.com/.
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