Popular regatta set to be a classic again

Cowes Week is a great spectacle. Picture: onEdition

Cowes Week is a great spectacle. Picture: onEdition

Sir Ben Ainslie

Ainslie on a mission for Queen and county

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Cowes Week gets under way tomorrow with a spring in its step and hopefully good sailing weather to look forward to.

Now supported by Aberdeen Asset Management, financial uncertainties are a thing of the past and The Solent will be a very busy place over the next week for the world’s largest sailing regatta.

Though the number of state-of-the-art racing machines may be lower in this non-Fastnet Race year – the classic biannual offshore event is held in odd years – there is plenty of interest in the small boat classes, who have always, in any event, been the backbone of Cowes Week.

And one fleet in the spotlight is the Portsmouth-based Victory class, a common sight in the harbour with its distinct Z sail insignia, which is celebrating its 80th year.

To mark its anniversary year, the class will take the first start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line on Monday as sailors compete for the Royal London Yacht Club Victoria Cup.

And the class will be centre stage off Cowes Green next Wednesday evening for an invitational event.

‘Cowes Week marks the culmination of our season and our 80th anniversary and we’re looking forward to some great racing at this great regatta,’ said Victory class captain Gareth Penn.

He added that the class was continuing to grow in popularity: ‘We put it down to the passion our members have for the boats, combined with the introduction of glassfibre boats.

‘Since then the fleet size has continued to increase.

‘The boats live either in Haslar Marina, Gosport, where we have a Victory Village made up of purpose-built pontoons, or on swinging moorings next to the Gosport Ferry pontoon, which gives us the enviable position of being able to meet in Old Portsmouth at 6pm and be racing by 7pm.

‘We also have a fleet in Gibraltar and we regularly visit each other for great, competitive racing. We particularly like visiting Gibraltar because of the better weather.’

With up to 40 different handicap, one-design and multihull classes, Cowes Week is nothing if not welcoming.

Also celebrating alongside the veteran Victorys, the Quarter-Ton class is one that has recovered from near extinction.

The old IOR rating era race boats have been brought back to life by enthusiastic owners.

‘We are expecting a good turnout this year as we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the revival of the class,’ said Cowes-based Louise Morton, one of those responsible for the class revival.

Elsewhere, many others race in IRC handicap classes and make the most of the Cowes experience even at the rear of the fleet.

Racing in IRC7, Martin Moore, the owner of the Mini-tonner If, said: ‘We run our campaign on a tiny budget and with a mixed crew of four dinghy sailors.

‘This will be our fourth Cowes Week and we are usually to be found towards the back of our fleet, having great fun battling the tides and time limits with a few other similarly challenged competitors.

‘Combining that with the fabulous Cowes Week après sail, we would not change a thing.’

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