Witness the 1915 vintage 138ft schooner Mariette at full pelt in the Solent

The power and the glory of the big schooner is breathtaking to behold. And today I had one of the best day’s racing I can ever remember, experiencing it firsthand today on Mariette, the 138ft LOA Herreshoff schooner built in 1915.

Getting away in the morning on the second race of the Westward Cup, Mariette heeled to the wind, the halyards humming like an enormous engine under their immense loads and water spouting in fountains into the scuppers. Mariette is rock steady, you feel no pitching – not her, not in the inconsequential waves of the Solent – but the land rolls steadily by telling you that you are punching along at 9, 10 knots.

Everything takes time and careful preparation on boats with this many sails, sheets, halyards and crew. A tack or gybe can be three to five minutes in the making, and these boats tack through 110°, even more if kicking the tide.

You might think that with only four yachts taking part in the regatta, not really all that similar, the racing would be distant. Not a bit of it. Approaching the windward mark on our 38-mile Solent course today, the 160ft Eleonora closed on starboard tack and put us about. Minutes later we were tacking again to stay right on top of the 125ft gaff cutter Mariquita.

At the leeward mark, right out in the eastern Solent beyond the forts, there were still only minutes between the three of us.

This was a fantastic race in a good, steady breeze, and when we held our lead to take line honours back at Cowes, Mariette’s owner Patrice Mouirriau invited us to celebrate with a glass of Veuve Cliquot in the yacht’s beautiful wood panelled saloon.

Sorry if I sound like I’m rubbing it in, but honestly it doesn’t get any better than this.

Below is a video taster of the day’s racing aboard Mariette. It shows us blasting upwind to the start line, tacking beside Mariquita, a gybe set at the windward mark, hoisting the fisherman and later recovering the kite.

(I’m having no luck editing the embed code to fit the video in the YW website frame but if you click on the image below and it will open another bigger window to scale up.)

And just for the record, on the downwind leg we were at some stage carrying (I think I’ve got this right; it did get confusing): jib, jib top, staysail reacher, kite, fore, fore staysail, fisherman, mainsail and main topsail.

What a sight. And what a handful!