With less than seven weeks to go before the opening race of Lendy Cowes Week 2017, overall entries across the board are up 10 per cent on this time last year writes Sue Pelling.
Equally encouraging is the fact that international entries are on the rise too with a total of 41 teams already signed up.
Although it is a Fastnet Race year, which generally tends to attract a larger than usual foreign contingent, the 33-strong international entry from last year has already been topped, with potentially more to come which could make it one of the biggest international entries ever seen at Cowes Week.
This annual, world-recognised regatta (29 July-5 August), affectionately known as a mecca for yacht racing, continues to attract entries from all parts of the globe. Often, those keen to take part in this quintessentially English regatta, sail thousands of miles for the experience, while others take the shipping option.
Jonas Grander and team from Runmarö Yacht Club, which is located on a small island in the Archipelago just outside Stockholm, Sweden is competing at Lendy Cowes Week for the first time aboard Matador (Elliott 44CR). Although Sweden is all but a short sprint across the North Sea, the boat was actually based in Sydney, which meant shipping was the only option.
Having competed in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, Grander shipped the boat from Sydney directly to England and she is currently moored in Lymington at Berthon’s ship yard.
Commenting on what attracted him to compete at Lendy Cowes Week, Grander said: “Cowes Week comes with a very strong reputation for giving sailors lots of bang for the bucks! Not in the monetary sense but you get a lot of time on the water under intense conditions with fellow sailors. Also, the race organisers are known for doing a great job to give the sailors a great time both on and off the water, which for us is equally important.
“We are planning to take part in three to four days racing then take two days or so to rest and to prepare the team and the boat for our next adventure – Rolex Fastnet Race.”
Although this is the team’s first time competing at Lendy Cowes Week, Grander says it won’t be the first time on the Solent: “I raced on the Solent once before at the J/109 UK nationals back in 2008 when I just took delivery of my – at the time – new boat. It was certainly a new experience because back home we have no tides or low/high water that we need to take into account when sailing. It will be a great deal of fun to be racing on the Solent once again, and now with a new and fun boat.”
Finally, Grander puts his love of sailing down to his dedicated, fun crew and confesses that without them, life would be different: “The majority of the crew has sailed with me for a very long time (or I with them). We have known each other for a long time (some for more than 30 years). The crew is actually great and the main reason for me to keep on sailing these races. Without them I would stop racing for sure.”
Another international team keen to test their skills at this world class regatta is BlueOne, a Beneteau First 36.7, owned by CNCE asbl – a Brussels-based sailing club – and sailed by Massimo Farrugia (skipper) and an amateur crew of club members. Despite their amateur status however, it appears that some crew members, who range in age from 16 to early 50s, have experience in the Rolex Fastnet, the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the Clipper Round the World Race.
As well as actually competing in Lendy Cowes Week, this team has used the occasion to give other members of their club and opportunity to experience offshore sailing by organising cruises across the Channel. Farrugia commented: “We have one group sailing the boat from The Netherlands to the Solent, and once the racing is over, another crew will bring her back to Wemeldinge, our home port in the Netherlands.”
With her previous owner – Leonardo Servi – BlueOne was successful on the racecourse in the Mediterranean during 2014 and 2015, which according to Farrugia means the team have a lot to live up to: “Leonardo Servi had kitted her out for the racecourse and upgraded her with a formidable wardrobe (which we no longer have), installed a fixed carbon bowsprit, lightened the boat considerably and studied every minute detail for her to work well on ORC. He also had a great, dedicated crew.
“We’re working hard to keep the boat in the great shape it was when we bought it, but I’m afraid we will not be able to match Servi’s racing record. That said, I don’t subscribe to the-important-thing-is-to-take-part mantra. That’s the attitude of a motley crew, and I don’t like to think of us as such. We’re going to give it our best in the Solent. That does not mean we’re not aware of our limits. Our aim is to do well, at least on our own terms.”
Commenting on what he is looking forward to most during Lendy Cowes Week, Farrugia concluded: “I hear Cowes’ Week is a great party, besides being a place for great racing. Let’s say that if we end up tailing the fleet (hopefully not), I’ll be looking to wash down my sorrows with a pint or two come the evening.”
Leading the charge at the professional/performance end of the international entry list is CQS, the 100ft multi-winged supermaxi from Australia skippered by Ludde Ingvall a former round the world yachtsman, world champion and record holder.
Ingvall, who has raced more than 12 times at Cowes Week said the introduction of the Sevenstar Triple Crown event for big boats is the reason he and his team decided to race this year. “We only wanted to race against boats of our size. We couldn’t have done the event any other way, we’re too big and too deep; it was critical to our decision to be at Cowes Week.’
Given the team’s busy race schedule this year, CQS was shipped from New Zealand to Zeebrugge. Before she heads to Lendy Cowes Week she’ll be in Stockholm for the Gotland Runt, then to the Solent for the RORC Channel Race and Lendy Cowes Week. Next stop is the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Not surprisingly Team CQS sports an all-star crew including Chris Dickson, Harold Cudmore, Rodney Keenan, and Charles Egerton-Warburton. Commenting on his team, Ingvall said: “Chris Dickson is the primary helmsman, Rodney Keenan – one of the key figures in the modifications of the boat, designing the new sail plan – is mainsail trimmer. Also Harold Cudmore was my hero and mentor, he helped me a lot in my early career, so I’m looking forward to sailing with him again. He will have a role in tactics and local knowledge.’
by Cowes Week