The class where a 103-year-old gaffer can spar with once great one-designs and revival IOR quarter tonners


Yesterday, I raced at Cowes with Sir Michael Briggs and his crew – his son Richard and friends Ted, Edward and Johnny – on his Fife-designed 30 metre rater Mikado. A gentleman requires a ready supply of agile young men to race a classic yacht with a toothpick bow and no stanchions or guardwires.

Mikado is 103 years old this year, the oldest yacht taking part in Skandia Cowes Week and she sails beautifully. Originally a gaff cutter with a long bowsprit and huge overhanging boom, she was given a taller and lighter Bermudan rig in the 1920s. Upwind, she’s a witch and is unbelievably light on the helm. Her very low freeboard also makes her pretty wet.

It was interesting tacking up the mainland shore against the quarter tonners and Sigma 33s our class, and matching them tack for tack. IRC Class 8 is the battleground of changing fashions. The Sigma 33s and 38s, remnants of once great one-design classes that dominated Cowes Week, are scrapping here.

So are the IOR quarter tonners, the pocket rockets that fell by the wayside but have spectacularly revived and are all the rage again. They are inexpensive to buy and huge fun to race, though the arms race has begun again: owners are reportedly spending tens of thousands of pounds modding them and doing new rating enhancing plastic surgery.

To see yachts designed without compromise for a rating rule some 80 years apart is fantastic.