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  • Writer's pictureClassic Regattas Limited

Mariquita lifts the Richard Mille Cup

As a Channel storm buffeted the Normandy coast outside, the atmosphere in the Société des Régates du Havre was jubilant for the prize-giving of the Richard Mille Cup 2024. 

The two-week regatta has incorporated 255 miles of offshore racing, eight days of inshore racing and numerous events ashore. 


This second Richard Mille Cup opened on 2 June in Falmouth, Cornwall, and visited Dartmouth in Devon and Cowes on the Isle of Wight before culminating with an exciting finish in Le Havre on 15 June. 





In each port there were inshore races and the regatta was hosted by a yacht club with strong links to 19th Century racing under sail - the Royal Cornwall YC, the Royal Dart YC, the Royal Yacht Squadron and finally the Société des Régates du Havre, whose president Hélène Taconet said: “This is the second time that the Richard Mille Cup has been here and it is still a new feeling for Le Havre to welcome this classic fleet, because we are so used to them being on the Mediterranean coast of France. 


“It’s marvellous for us, because sailing has such a long history here in Le Havre. Mariquita was racing here around 1911. To see her racing here yesterday was fantastic and meanwhile we had a large group of young people from our sailing school visit Atlantic.” 


William Collier, whose company Classic Regattas Ltd organised the Richard Mille Cup, said: “It’s been an incredible two weeks. When we set out to create the Richard Mille Cup, most of all we wanted an event that celebrated classic yachts by racing them as they were intended to race. We believe that the quality of the restorations and the skills of the sailors shines through, creating great racing and worthy winners.” 


Addressing the large group of owners, skippers, sailors and many others who had followed the regatta from Falmouth, Collier said: “We also wanted to celebrate our love of classic yachts by bringing you all together on and off the water with a range of enjoyable events. Our opening evening at Trelissick House now seems a world away and that says something for the intensity of what we’ve all experienced over the last two weeks.” 


The biggest cheer of the afternoon came as Collier thanked watch-maker Richard Mille, whose patronage of the event​ and his role in the creation of Team Fife in Brest have proved a great fillip for the classic yachting scene.

 

Throughout the fortnight there had been many tributes paid to Benoît Couturier, owner of Mariquita and Moonbeam and a driving force in the creation of the Richard Mille Cup. Today again he received lengthy applause. Couturier said he was delighted with the event and pleased for Mariquita’s crew. Referring to the epic showdown between Viveka, Moonbeam IV and Mariquita in Cowes, he said: “The whole event was worth it for that one race. Overall we had more wind that last year and we had a great range of winds - that was great because every yacht in the regatta had its day.” 


When the trophies were handed out, it was to Mariquita that the spoils went, after a series of victories in the regatta’s early stages and consistent racing in week two. The yacht’s young crew were cheered on stage through an archway formed by their rivals on Viveka.  


Benoît Couturier and Mariquita’s skipper Jacques Caraes were presented with the Black group trophy and amid tumultuous cheers from around the yacht club’s packed upper deck, they then lifted the overall winner’s trophy of the Richard Mille Cup. The 1 metre high sterling silver cup was created for the event by Garrards, the exclusive British jeweller that made the America’s Cup. 


Caraes reflected on the fortnight: “These boats are so magic when we can fight together. When you like racing, what’s important is to be close. And we had that, particularly with Viveka and Moonbeam IV. 

 

“On Mariquita it’s a very young team. They started practising on the yacht 15 days before the regatta, so we were improving day after day, but we’ve had a very nice atmosphere on board and each day we learn something. We won a few, Moonbeam IV won a few and Viveka won a few. It has been great. On this kind of boat with such a big crew, when you win, you have 23 people who are very happy.” 



Romain Le Gall, skipper of Moonbeam IV, said: “It’s a very beautiful regatta. We saw some marvellous towns and we had great racing. They took a good decision on Wednesday to come here to Le Havre early and we had a superb sail through the night, with the boat at 10 knots all the way. The crew is happy. I’m happy.” 


Sir Keith Mills, owner of the 12-Metre yacht Viveka, which also came second in the overall rankings for the Richard Mille Cup, said: “The final race yesterday was disappointing for us but overall I’ve really enjoyed the regatta - some great racing, lovely people, good organisation. It would have been lovely to have more boats, but the three of us in Black group had some really good racing and the last day in Cowes was exceptional. In a classic yacht, I’ve never had racing like that before, with constant lead changes and really close mark rounding - really good fun.” 


There were loud cheers for the regatta’s smaller yachts, who battled just as fiercely in Blue group. The group winner was Patna, restored and sailed by Greg Powlesland and family, who also came third in the overall rankings. 


A great feature of the regatta was the presence of the two giant schooners, Elena and Atlantic. Steve McLaren, captain of Elena, which won the racing between the two, said: “It’s been fabulous. The support of the Mille family is a very genuine thing and it’s a happy event for us all to be involved in. It was a big effort to get here but it paid off. We had a 2,000 mile trip from San Remo, wind on the nose all the way. Once we got here it was amazing and brilliant sailing. I am Scottish and I left Scotland to get away from this weather, so I never imagined sailing Elena up here - the whole event is away from the boat’s comfort zone in the Mediterranean - but we had amazing sailing, that was the highlight. Elena is a Herreshoff design and she sails among the Fifes beautifully. She was originally a race boat. Over the Channel we were trucking along with Atlantic, sitting at 15 knots. Unfortunately some of it was at night, so nobody could see us! But it was fabulous.” 


Fosse Fortuin, captain of Atlantic, said: “We had more wind than last year and we tried some new things with the sails. Normally the Fishermen [staysails] would come down on every tack and you’d rig them again. Last year we put a few extra halyards in so everything can stay up there, so after you’ve tacked you have a nice full set of sails up there. It helps us on the race course but it’s also just nice to see and so we can put on a bit of a show!” 

The Richard Mille Cup race officer Charles Hall-Thompson, of the Royal Yacht Squadron, said: “It’s been simply fabulous and one has to admire the owners for keeping these gorgeous things alive. It’s also been terrific to see so many young people on these boats learning the ropes.” 


Watch richardmillecup.com for news of the next Richard Mille Cup. 


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