Classes and course setters gear up for Cowes Classics Week

Image: Tim Jeffreys

In just over three weeks some of the prettiest boats and most enduring designs will be battling it out on Solent Waters in the 12th Cowes Classics Week for one of the season’s most prestigious prizes, the Charles Stanley 1792 Trophy.  The 225-year-old cup will be carried off by the overall winner from some 13 classes which will be gathering for the opener of five race days at Cowes, when the event gets going on 29 July.  With Red Funnel as Signature Sponsor and live coverage from on the water courtesy of Cowes Radio 87.7fm the event promises to be a real summer spectacle.

Keelboats include Squibs, Bembridge One Designs, XODs, Darings, Dragons, Swallows, Metre yachts and more, all defined by their classic designs which have to date no later than 1979 to qualify to take part. Yet their age, many from the turn of last century, does nothing to detract from the fierce competition in highly optimised boats around four separate laid mark committee boat courses.   Many are close and cohesive classes, racing year-round while continuing to develop their classes.

Epitomising the class spirit of Cowes Classics Week is the Solent Sunbeam class.  Twelve of these classic keelboats are already signed up for racing at this year’s event with more expected.  Solent Sunbeam representative Sarah Johnson says “We are expecting to see at least 15 on the Cowes Classics Week startline.”

Among this year’s entries is Solent Sunbeam hull no 1, Dainty, which was launched in 1923 and has been sailed for over 50 years by Peter Nicholson. The 96-year-old keelboat will be joined by more recent GRP additions to the fleet including Molly and Sky. Allowing GRP construction has encouraged the class to continue to develop, attracting new members, all competing on a completely level playing field with the classics – and with a great mix of male and female owners.

Like the XOD and the Seaview Mermaids the elegant Solent Sunbeam design came from the drawing board of Alfred Westmacott 96 years ago.  “Sunbeam owners enjoy Cowes Classic Week because of the Solent’s challenging sailing conditions as well as the hugely welcoming social events and enduring friendships,” comments Sarah.

Cowes Classics Week is an important part of the bustling summer in Cowes.  The iconic Fastnet Race starts immediately after this regatta ends and the competing one design keelboats, along with a range of classic cruisers including S&S Swans, Contessa 26s and Gaffers, will all be jostling for space on the waterfront.  “Competitors need to get their bookings in early!” Regatta Chairman David Gower reminds the fleet. Other one-offs like Neil Martin’s William Fife III design Intombi will add grace to the scene, while the many dozens of XODs which make up the biggest class at Cowes Classics Week will be unmissable.

Making their mark again in the event are the Nordic Folkboats, whose owners are increasingly looking to include Cowes Classics Week in their calendar. Returning yachts include James Hoare’s Samphire which has regularly attended over the past few years and Claire Sowry’s Mistral.  Coming to the event for the first time are Gill Thomas and Nigel Campling in their newly purchased Fritha.  “We bought the boat especially to take part in Cowes Classics Week” says Gill.  “We were looking for a boat to sail on at the event but decided to buy our own instead, and we chose the Folkboat,” she explains.

Benefitting from the event will be official charity National Coastwatch which will receive donations form the entry fees.   The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) is a voluntary organisation set up to restore a visual watch along UK shores after many small Coastguard stations closed. Specifically, the event will be supporting the NCI’s nearby Needles Station.

Race teams and committee boats from the organising club, the Royal London Yacht Club, are ready for action and the stage is set.  The Winkworth Tea and Cakes, held after racing each afternoon at the Royal London Yacht Club are legendary.  The Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club are co-hosting the busy social calendar, while the RORC, Royal Victoria Yacht Club and the Royal Thames Yacht Club are helping on the water.  Red Funnel has been busy helping to get the hundreds of competitors to Cowes with their generous discounted travel fares to the event.

Information, including the race programme and social events, are on the 2019 website www.cowesclassicsweek.org.   Racing takes place from 29th July to 2nd August 2019.