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  • Writer's pictureClassic Regattas Limited

Overnight to Normandy

The Richard Mille Cup bid farewell to Cowes on Wednesday, 12 June, as Black group yachts Mariquita, Moonbeam IV and Viveka crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron start line at 16:10, racing to Le Havre. 

The 100nm course across the Channel to the regatta’s final stage, hosted by the Société des Régates du Havre, was an exciting prospect, not least because of the epic battle these three yachts enjoyed the previous day around the cans. 

The longer course would test their performance characteristics offshore. Conditions were light, with around 10 knots from the west making it a broad reach south for most of the way, with the final stretch upwind as the breeze freshened overnight.


Viveka was first over the start but it wasn’t long before the two big Fife designs caught up and Moonbeam IV led the race past Osbourne Bay. The previous day’s duel between the waterline length and sail area of the Fifes, against the more nimble staysail schooner rig of Viveka, had resumed! 

Some of the regatta’s smaller yachts had chosen not to make the crossing, given the forecast for strong winds and a big Channel swell later in the week, but the two big schooners Elena and Atlantic, plus Moonbeam, opted to cruise the distance to Le Havre at their own pace.  

The racing fleet, meanwhile, had six marks to observe, including two of the historic Solent forts, before the yachts could turn their bows south. Off Ryde the rivals were still together. Viveka, by some way the smaller of the group, was holding her own. (Mariquita is 38m/ 124ft on deck; Moonbeam IV is 29m/ 95ft on deck; compared to Viveka at 22m/ 72ft on deck.) The only schooner ever to rate as a 12-Metre, Viveka was playing the angles close in to the island shore and perhaps benefitting from her British owner’s local knowledge to avoid the adverse tide. 

Having rounded the final Isle of Wight mark off Bembridge, the yachts were sailing at around 10 knots in fine conditions. It was a glorious evening with clear skies and flat water. At 21:00 they had around 70 miles to go and were still remarkably close, with Viveka and Mariquita to the west and marginally behind Moonbeam IV. The order had not changed as a blazing red sun disappeared behind the horizon and darkness fell over the Channel shortly after 22:00. 

Having covered the distance from Cowes in a little under 11 hours, it was just before dawn that Moonbeam IV eventually passed the Richard Mille buoy marking the finish off Le Havre at 04:00 local time, cheers and whistles ringing across the water in the dark from her jubilant crew. A torch was shone from the deck to highlight their sail number 8. 

Moments later after 100nm of racing came Mariquita, her three headsails and topsail silhouetted against the brightening dawn sky. Almost half an hour after her, Viveka slipped across the line, sailing at 7/8 knots. 

On corrected time, the positions did not alter, with Moonbeam IV taking the race victory and ramping up the pressure on her class rivals. Overall so far Mariquita remains in a commanding position for the class win and overall regatta win, however she could be toppled if the racing in Le Havre goes Viveka’s way.  

The Richard Mille Cup, having visited historic racing yacht clubs at Falmouth, Dartmouth and Cowes, now looks forward to two days hosted by the Société des Régates du Havre, before the final prize-giving this weekend. 


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