Agony in the eastern Solent

A windless first race at the Superyacht Cup Cowes

Superyacht Cup Cowes

Main picture: Unfurled, Leopard and Athos eventually found a breeze to carry them to the finish but the wind never reached us on Adela....

Those who sail regularly in the Solent know the phenomenon only too well. A windless morning followed by the hint of a sea breeze as the land heats, some of it funnelling in from the west and some through the forts to the east leaving a deathly windless transition zone in the middle. Distant heeled yachts and fluttering flags only add to the frustration of being so close and yet so far from the re-vitalising breeze.

But this is where we found ourselves aboard Adela in the first race of the Superyacht Cup Cowes having successfully negotiated our way east from the RYS line and arrived at the first mark of the course North Sturbridge looking in remarkably good shape for 300 tons of steel designed well over 100 years ago.

We were ahead of Sir Charles Dunstone's brand spanking new WallyCento Hamilton, an all carbon fibre lightweight number that had eased to the mainland shore in search of breeze and Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard which at times seemed glued to the water as she tried to edge forward in an apparent wind which would have been reduced to nothing had the tide not been under us.



Above: Sir Charles Dunstone's brand new Hamilton sailing back to Cowes (where the breeze later filled in) after retiring from SYC Cowes Race 1

You really couldn't fault the combined efforts of  Adela's helmsman Stan Pearson, captain Greg Perkins, navigator Ross ‘Rosco' Monson, Guy ‘Nipper' Salter , Mark Sadler, fresh from a J Class campaign aboard Lionheart, David Dawes and Guy Stanbridge who marshalled a crew who hoisted jibs (no furlers on this boat),  Code sails and all manner of staysail in a never ending quest for boat speed - or should I say movement. Anything to keep her going!

So there we were in line abreast with the likes of Hamilton, Mari Cha 111, Drumfire, Athos, Unfurled, who had started last and caught us impressively, Leopard and Heartbeat at Sturbridge with everything to play for. "You should tell those guys (on Leopard) they need a downwind rocketship like Adela," quipped one of the afterguard as the sun beat down on the giant schooner.

And then we stopped as the tide slackened and turned cruelly against us. The course was shortened to a finish at Warner (if only it had been at North Sturbridge) and immense effort was applied to give us forward movement. Nothing. So down went the anchor. I've never kedged in a superyacht before and all around us giant anchors sploshed into the Solent to stop the fleet slipping west.

Another first was the summoning of a tender to disembark the owner's dog who, clearly expecting the race to have been over by now, was in need of a patch of grass. After a brief discussion about the possibility of outside assistance, the yacht's high speed tender was radioed in from Cowes whose crew duly transported the pet to some greenery (it has to be grass) identified through binoculars in the vicinity of Hill Head. Job done, so to speak.

Meanwhile we were eyeing tantalising catspaws of breeze, which began sneaking in from the right. We just needed one. Just one. But none made it as far as Adela.

Unfurled came right through the fleet from last under a lovely looking light kite, carried her way and picked up the first sliver of breeze. She was off like a robber's dog (my apologies for all the canine reference), followed shortly by ICAP Leopard whose navigator Hugh Agnew had positioned her as close to the new breeze as he could, and then the mighty Athos who had struggled earlier but done well to find the new breeze which took her to the line.

I'm afraid all we could do is sit and hope and amuse ourselves as a crewman aboard Drumfire (close astern of use) was sent aloft to swing off the spreader ends into the mainsail like a human wrecking ball in an attempt to ‘pop' the battens into shape after a gybe. Or was it a tack? It was that kind of day....



Above: Adela de-brief after the racing. We were unlucky....


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