Swanning around

TheDailySail's Andy Nicholson reports on progress at the Rolex Swan Europeans

Thursday June 23rd 2005, Author: Andy Nicholson, Location: United Kingdom
The Italian crews are feeling very at home here in Cowes as the temperature has soared at the Rolex Swan Europeans – the only problem today is a serious lack of breeze. The nearest isobar is in Holland and a seabreeze is refusing to announce an arrival.

The fleet is split into three groups, with the Swan 45s doing their own thing on a windward leeward course over towards the mainland shore. All the remaining Swans are in two classes, with Class A starting at 46 feet and finishing at 70 and Class B starting at 36 feet and finishing at 47 feet. We are racing under the Swan handicap system with the Class B boats getting a rating allowance for ‘Live Aboard Crew’ – Cimaroon, a Swan 38 has eight onboard overnight.

A and B Classes have so far completed three races which have played into the hands of the smaller boats.

The seabreeze has been reasonably weak, the most we have seen is 16 knots, and the spring tides are smoking. The courses have taken us down the western Solent with tide under us on the upwind legs and against on the downwind. This has meant that the advantage has been to sail square on the long runs and close into the shore to avoid the worse of the current – a benefit for the smaller boats. The smaller boats have also benefited from the vagaries of the seabreeze and on both days have brought slightly more pressure down with them on the final run back to Cowes.

All our starts have been off the Squadron line and it has been a real test of time-on-distance sailing. A few boats were caught out on the first day with one Swan 601 breaking early with a SOG of around 12 knots! Island Fling was the boldest of our class yesterday and as a result of a perfect start was able to control much of the first part of the race.

The four 601s are having a good battle, and have sailed aggressively against each other. Overall their results are mixed and they are spread through the fleet. Cour di Leone has the legs on the others upwind and it is an impressive display since the brand new boat only went into the water three days before the regatta started.

It is quite a Nautor boatshow on the water with vintage Swans battling with the latest creations. A boat can be aged visually by how high they point going up wind.

Amongst the Swan 601s is the rather attractive Swan 70 Stay Calm of Stuart Robinson. They didn’t quite get off the line in yesterday’s race and were then trapped in a four way 601 battle. Stay Calm had what looked like an expensive days yachting on Tuesday – a spinnaker drop went wrong and the sail had to be cut away. On finishing however they took a rib back out to the scene and found the spinnaker still floating and recovered it - and all the ropes that got knifed! It was repaired overnight and was the weapon of choice yesterday.

After two days of racing I now know the names of all the people on our boat, Edward Leask’s Magical. We are a Swan 56 with something like 18 onboard. There are four of us in front of the mast and with all the halyards on their own winches they are all manned by their very own pit-man. Towards the back end of the boat all sorts goes on when we gybe, apparently. The yacht is a cruiser-racer model and they have to juggle with the available winches in the cockpit.

The benefits of this specification comes in comfortably winning the white-goods chat in the beer tent. Down below we have a washing machine, fridge, freezer, four burner stove, microwave and a dishwasher. Unfortunately the TV has been taken off, but at least we still have the air-conditioning…

The yacht is a beautiful classic Swan. Down below the standard of the woodwork is impeccable and you can barely hear the engine when motoring around at seven knots. While it is a challenge to take around the race track - it is a good change. Sometimes you feel you are competing with the boat rather than the other yachts on the water.

The best explanation of Swan sailing is the Yellowdrama example. Stephen Matthew’s Swan 57 is in excellent order even though it is around 22 years old, all the more remarkable is that the Matthews have owned her for 20 years and the boat has a three-quarters of a million sea miles under her keel.

The 601s get all the photographers in a tissey but my Kodak vote goes to one of the smallest boats here – the 1967 Sparkman and Stephen’s designed 36. Three are present: Icon, Flyover (below) and Carte Blanche.

The racing is scheduled through to Saturday and we still have a long coastal race planned. This was postponed on Wednesday in the hope that the wind conditions will improve on Friday. All in all the Squadron have done a very good job in the difficult conditions and their smartly dressed officers are a match for Rolex and Swan.

The talk in the marina today is of no racing at all. Any chance of a seabreeze maybe from the south east – but that in itself causes another problem. Because of the Trafalgar Day Celebrations next week the eastern Solent is filling up with warships from around the world, these are to be reviewed by the Queen on Tuesday. There is now an exclusion zone in force which prevents us from racing a mile or so east of Cowes.

Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in


Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top