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  • Writer's pictureClassic Regattas Limited

The power and the glory on the sleigh ride to Dartmouth

Updated: Jun 7

The conditions for the fourth day of racing for the Richard Mille Cup – the 65nm passage race from Falmouth to Dartmouth – couldn’t have been better. The north-northwesterly wind angle provided an offwind, point-to-point sleigh ride along the scenic Cornish and Devonshire coastline where it was all about straight line speed racing. 

It was no surprise, therefore, that the largest, most powerful boats in Black group, and White group (schooners), revelled in the freshening conditions and soon took control of the top end of the fleet. Mariquita the 95ft William Fife III design rapidly weaved her way through the earlier, smaller Blue group starters and managed to hold on to pole position for just over two hours before being overtaken by Elena, the 2009 replica of the 136.5ft two-masted, Nathaniel G. Herreshoff 1911 design schooner. 


Once ahead, with her huge sail area, Elena took over position as race pathfinder and was the first to arrive in Dartmouth this afternoon. Mariquita sailed a good race and managed to hold off  Viveka for first place in Black group. Although she didn’t quite manage to beat Mariquita on corrected time, mention must be made of Viveka’s well executed start, which put her in good stead for the long race ahead to Dartmouth and saw her finish in second place. 


A delighted Patrice Clerc, navigator aboard Elena in White group said it was a fantastic day of sailing: “We had a good start and it was downwind most of the way. We even got a close-up view Eddystone lighthouse. We were on a dead run coming up to the finish at Start Point, so we put in gybe to get out of the tide. That was when the wind really picked up to around 20kts.” 


Bruno Jourdren tactician on Mariquita added: “We sailed well as a team and really enjoyed the fantastic downwind conditions. We really put her through her paces in the strong wind against tide conditions so we are pleased to have secured another win to add to our collection this week.” 


The intense competition that has been evident all week in Blue group continued again today with the pretty 57ft Alfred Mylne one-design Kelpie making the best start. However, in a cruel twist of fate in the fresh afternoon conditions, she was dismasted and shadowed back in to Dartmouth under motor. 


Ayesha and Patna enjoyed a good, close race battle in Blue group particularly in the early stages of the race, and Alpha – the 1904 built, 52ft pilot cutter – enjoyed the sort of wind and sea conditions she was designed for. It wasn’t surprising therefore that Alpha finished on the podium today in second place. But it was Thalia, who took first place on corrected time, who was the real star of the show today and should be credited for her and her team’s performance. At just 45ft she’s not only the smallest boat in the fleet but having been built in 1889, she is also and oldest. 


Finally, mention must be made of the special event to mark the 80th Anniversary of the Normandy D-Day Landings that took place this morning before racing. 


Much like the fleet of craft that ventured forth across the channel 80 years ago on 6 June, 1944, the Richard Mille fleet of classic yachts motored out into the bay. They formed a circle just off Black Rock for a minute’s silence to remember the wartime heroes and scatter flowers into the sea. 


Olivier Rabbia, one of the captains of the fleet of Targa motor yachts being used as utility boats for the race committee, officials and press at the Richard Mille Cup said it was a very special, and emotional moment. Also, the connection with the channel and the fact that he and his team are at the event with a fleet of boats from northern France, and making the crossing across the Channel to Le Harvre next week, was extremely poignant. 


“It was a great honour to have been here altogether at this special moment to remember all those who sacrificed themselves for our freedom when they landed in Normandy all those years ago. It endorses the cooperation we have between the English and French. For me, it was quite impressive to be here in England today with our fleet of French based Targas, and in the Channel, the very place where it took place all those years ago, so yes, it is a very special time for us to be here and involved in the ceremony and feel all the respect we have for all the people who gave their lives.” 


All the boats have now arrived in the beautiful, quintessential British maritime town of Dartmouth where crews are taking time to unwind and enjoy the hospitality of the Royal Dart Yacht Club. Tomorrow (Friday) is layday which provides another to opportunity to relax or explore the surrounding area including a visit to places like the 600 year old fortresses that are located at the at the mouth of the river. 


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