Hamble Classics raises the bar for classic yacht regattas

Hamble Classics raises the bar for classic yacht regattas
Hamble, Hampshire, UK 
Report: Jonty Sherwill
Images: Chris Gillingham
The inaugural Hamble Classics Regatta got off to a glorious start over the weekend of 24-25 September with a big entry, big parties, and big weather to match. A total of
65 boats ranging from two tiny Herreshoff gaffers to the mighty Swan 65 Desperado put on show the most inclusive range of classics of recent Solent-based regattas.



When added to the long history of the Royal Southern Yacht Club, now with its new Prince Philip Yacht Haven being able to accommodate half this classic fleet, it was an ideal venue, especially when the Elephant Boatyard supplied a Caribbean-style pontoon rum party along with warm sunshine after Saturday’s racing, as one of six supporting partners.
Others providing generous and enthusiastic support for the event were Spinlock, Ratsey and Lapthorn, Performance Rigging, Classic Marine, the Sandeman Yacht Company, plus the River Hamble Harbour Master who backed the audacious plan of finishing the entire fleet up river to provide the ultimate parade of full sail if the weather was suitable.
Only minutes before the reggae music was turned on (Tom Richardson says it will be louder next time!) half the fleet had hurtled up river, some under spinnaker in 20 knots of southerly breeze requiring two gybes to reach the finish line just 200 metres down river from the Club. 
The first boat home was Steve Powell’s International Folkboat Mahjong in IRC Class 2 proudly taking the gun but soon to be beaten on handicap by John Mulcahy’s Estrella and Jonty Sherwill’s Cockleshell, while close behind came the Gaffer 2 class led by David Pennison’s Sepia and the XODs with Mos Fitzgerald’s Kathleen turning the tables on the two earlier wins that day by Hamish Calder’s Caprice
The bigger boat classes on the outer start line would be safely finished before the river entrance but not until after a delayed start owing to the late arrival of some yachts after a freak incident at the Hamble Spit that left Jolie Brise high and dry for most of the day.  With just one long race per day planned for the gaffer classes, this curtailed JB’s ongoing contest with the Cirdan Sailing Trust’s Duet, skippered by Alex Carpenter, both on matching handicaps, and it was Steve Meakin’s Cormorant that won the class chasing home Richard Jacob’s handsome Ivy Green, a modern classic gaffer built by the Elephant Boatyard.
Using a serious handicap system delivered an all-star entry list in IRC Class 1 and Giovanni Belgrano’s Whooper revelled in the heavy going on both days, taking line honours in all three races. Of the chasing pack of three it was Derek Morland’s She 31 Sheelagh that kept ahead of the bigger boats, Breeze, Misty and Charm of Rhu, only slipping to fourth on handicap in Sunday’s final race as the wind rose to 28 knots.
Usually at home in heavy conditions Richard Loftus’ Desperado only got fully revved up in the final third race of the Sparkman and Stephens Swan Class but Jonathan Wallis’ well-sailed first generation 36 Sheevra was the dominant force on a 1,1,2, with Lionel and Jan Miller’s Swan 38 White Heather in third place, crewed by their sons and the pet Spaniel!
Arguably the most interesting class was ‘Regatta’, with unashamedly ‘finger-in-the-air’ handicapping to accommodate a wide variety of all-comers, ancient and modern. It included the ultimate icon, Sir Robin-Knox Johnston’s national treasure Suhaili, crewed by his daughter Sara, his grandson and other friends. Not only did Sir Robin sail in the regatta but on Saturday night he regaled the packed dining hall at the Royal Southern on his reflections of the day’s activities and his chagrin that the race committee dared to make Suhaili sail to windward!
At Saturday’s Hamble Classics Dinner, the prizes provided by the Race Day sponsor Spinlock, were presented to the leading boats. During dinner, Sir Robin signed original copies of his first book ‘A World of My Own’ that were then sold in support of the Hamble Classics’ nominated charities, the Cirdan Sailing Trust and Geoff Holt’s Wetwheels Hamble, along with donated framed prints from artist and classic yacht sailor Michael Frith. Added to other donations generously given during the event, a grand total of nearly £1,000 was raised for these good causes.     
In testing conditions accuracy of handicaps counts for little especially when a boat like Sabrina, designed by the much-hallowed Dr. Thomas Harrison-Butler, is in the firm hands of Volvo Race sailor Craig Nutter, wife Kate and their two youngsters. They won the Regatta Class in emphatic style with clear wins ahead of one of the three David Cheverton-designed yachts at the regatta, Scimitar, and the Hamble-based Nicholson 32 Bambella of Peter Halliday and Charles Shawcroft.      
In the open boat classes Andy Short’s Nancy took the 6-Metre trophy, Adrian Green’s Aurora won the two-boat Dragon class from Rupert Street’s Tchuss, whilst Hamish Calder dominated the 10-boat entry XODs.  Unfortunately, neither the fabulous looking 8-Metre Ganymede (Jack Gifford) nor Miss U (Avia Willment), made it to the finish line without suffering breakage. 
Delivering this successful first Hamble Classics Regatta required a dedicated team, none more so than Principle Race Officers Peter Bateson and Tony Lovell, and after a long list of thanks at the hushed awards ceremony, class prizes were followed by the special trophies and Concours d’Elegance awards. 
The ‘Tea-for-Two’ Trophy for best shorthanded performance, in memory of John and Dick Sherwill, was won by Craig Cossar and Natalie Gray aboard the Contessa 26 Applejack, and the Kismet Model Yacht Trophy for most enthusiastic and fun crew went to Mark and Susie Tomson with their very young children aboard Destina. Other prizes for the younger sailors went to Lillian McPherson on Samiotisa, Sophie Aisher and Penny Roger on Thalia, and Jack and Molly Nutter on Sabrina.
For the Concours awards, the best GRP yacht was judged to be Robbie Boulter’s Breeze, a fine 1964 example of the C. William Lapworth designed Cal 40.  For Concours d’Authenticité it was another American yacht stealing the limelight, Jason Fry’s exquisite 1946 Philip L. Rhodes designed Shantih of Cowes however, the overall Concours d’Elegance winner for 2016 was Nick and Liz Harvey’s pre-1912 Falmouth Quay punt Sophie, in totally immaculate order.  
Commenting on the weekend, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said, “I thought the whole event was most enjoyable. It is just what yachting should be about.”
With overwhelming demand from competitors for the event to be repeated, those looking for an easier alternative to trucking yachts to the Mediterranean regattas are invited to consider the Hamble Classics as a potential alternative.
The full race results are available at: http://www.royal-southern.co.uk/Afloat/Results.