Matthew Sheahan reports on the first day of the Swan Europeans at Cowes from the weather rail of Eva, a Swan 65
As the remnants of the cold front passed through early in the morning of the first day of the Swan European regatta, the northerly 15knot breeze set in and the sun broke through to provide a perfect start to the week if you’d brought hats, sunblock and an enthusiasm for plenty of boat handling. However, if you were the race officer and planning to run the ideal course with a perfectly square 3 mile beat followed by an equally balanced set of reaches and runs, you were going to be disappointed.
When the wind is in the North, the Solent seems to shrink as the longest beat only just stretches to a couple of miles and when you’re dealing with 60 and 70ft boats with drafts to match, the shallower no-go zones of this famous stretch of water make the area seem smaller still.
Just such a problem faced today’s race officer who had little choice but to set a reaching start from the Royal Yacht Squadron down tide setting the boats off into the eastern Solent, after which the 60 strong fleet wove their way back west to the finish at the Squadron Line.
Crew work on the bigger boats in particular was put to the test as legs of only a mile or so are only just long enough to prepare for the next mark rounding. Our crew, like many others, were put under pressure as we twisted and turned around a course that started off with no less than 14 mark roundings and a sail change at virtually all of them. On a 65ft ketch that’s plenty of grunt but the combination of fresh muscles and some seriously hard work was rewarded with a 4th in our class, class F.
Overall victory in this class went to the vintage German Swan 48 Elan with Peter Ogden’s Swan 60 Spirit of Jethou coming second and Terry Robinson’s Swan 48 Assuage picking up third.
In class G (the second of the two classes), the French Swan 42 Xaossa owned by J-M Carpentier carried off first prize with the evergreen Menenes of Graham Deegan coming second and Alain Foulquie’s Swan 441 Saga coming third.
This year’s fleet is the biggest ever for Nautour’s bi-annual European Championship with entries from all sizes and vintages of Nautor’s famous range. Smallest in the fleet are the three 1967 Swan 36s, Flyover, Carte Blanche of Helford and Shaytana, whereas the largest boat taking part is the Swan 68, Lady in Red. Old and new feature side by side in this event and boats from the current generation of designs are represented in good numbers too. Among the modern fleet there are four Swan 60s, four 58s and four 48s.
The provisional entry list also boasts that the overall length of the fleet, if all the boats were put end to end, would measure 0.87km (2853ft). But what I really want to know is what’s the overall displacement of the fleet? Set 60 of these powerful boats off on a thundering reach and it’s the towering quarter waves that go with the territory that grabs your attention first. I had hoped to do some quick mental arithmetic to work this out before we got back to shore, but the demands of a course that was as straight as a London cabbie’s short cut across town meant that I never got the chance to work it out. If you think you can guess the weight of these ladies then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you know the answer at the end of the week!
For more details and full results see www.swanregattas.com/european/