A windless first race at the 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

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….