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  • Writer's pictureClassic Regattas Limited

Dartmouth delights

After a well-earned rest following yesterday’s challenging 65nm race from Falmouth to Dartmouth, crews enjoyed a peaceful start to the day in the early morning sunshine. The Richard Mille fleet of yachts lying off the quayside in Dartmouth, looked resplendent with polished brass and immaculately clean topsides reflecting in the glistening water. 


As the sleepy town gently came to life with crews and support teams busying themselves with essential boat work in preparation for the next leg to Cowes, there was a real air of excitement among the visitors to the town especially who were treated to the fine display of stunningly beautiful classic yachts moored up in the river. 

With the Royal Dart Yacht Club just across the River Dart in Kingswear, and easy ferry access to and fro, this was the base for teams to head to for bit of R&R, and to enjoy the stunning waterside setting and fine Devon hospitality. 


Others spent the day exploring the surrounding area enjoying the scenic walks and cultural visits to places like the fortress with its 15th-century tower that guards the entrance to the Dart Estuary. 


Some of the main crew of Elena including Stephane Benfield (crew boss) said several had opted to go walking and explore the delights of St Petrox Church within the fortress at the mouth of the river, while others were just taking time to relax. There was still plenty of action on board though preparing for tomorrow’s 90nm coastal race to Cowes, Isle of Wight. 


Benfield commented: “Although the yacht is in good order, it was a tough race yesterday in the 20+kt breeze so we need to check everything before tomorrow’s departure. In theory, yesterday’s downwind leg looked fairly straight forward but in actual fact we were carrying out sail changes constantly throughout the day. It’s good to have a bit of time out today, and re-charge for tomorrow, which looks like it could be fairly light winds to start with at least.” 


Chatting about the number of crew aboard the 136.5ft schooner replica of the 1911 Nathaniel G. Herreshoff-designed Elena, Benfield continued: “We have a full time crew of nine, and for yesterday’s race we had 25, which was just about fine, but in order to reach our full, speed potential for the next leg, we’ll have 30.” 


This next leg of the three-leg series from Dartmouth to Cowes is an overnight race and, with a planned finish on the Royal Yacht Squadron finish line on Sunday morning, the race committee – headed by Race Director David Kent – has carefully planned a 1400 start time tomorrow afternoon. “The idea”, said David, “is to make sure we don’t arrive in Cowes before daylight. Obviously it depends on the wind conditions but ideally the leading boats should pass the Needles around 0700 so they have a fair tide going into the Solent.” 


On board Sir Keith Mills’ Viveka, the 1929 72.75ft Fred Lawley schooner, preparations for tomorrow’s passage race to Cowes were finalised this afternoon. After four races in the no-discard series, Viveka is currently lying in second place to Mariquita overall, so the pressure is on to notch up another good result. 


Alex Mills chatting about the forthcoming race said: “For this leg we’ll have eight crew onboard, which is five less than we have for round-the-cans racing. We are really looking forward to the race, not least because of the fact we are a Royal Squadron Yacht Club boat and we are finishing on the Squadron line. It is the first time Viveka has visited her home club, so that’s is really special for us.” 


Revealing the team tactics, Alex continued: “I think the start is going to be quite difficult and the first couple of hours into the race and, like the leg from Falmouth, there is going to be some interesting tide to be played. Depending on how the wind is at the start, there could be an advantage to hug the coast and do a few extra miles before Portland Bill. From Portland Bill it looks fairly straightforward; aim at Hurst Narrows and hope the tide take you in. That’s assuming the wind doesn’t completely fail.” 


The superb setting at Royal Dart Yacht Club was the venue for the skippers’ briefing this evening, followed by a welcome reception and buffet, which gave teams a chance to swap stories and enjoy the hospitality laid on by the host club. 


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