Now is the winter of our lack of sun made glorious summer by a glorious sailing trip. Or something like that. In other words, this summer, the best way to cool down in all this glorious heat is to go sailing and, if you're lucky enough to live on or near the Isle of Wight, you're in for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Sailing events in the Solent this summer have piled up like never before. Already we have seen the return of the BT Global Challenge to Southampton at the end of June, and the record-breaking Round-the-Island race.
The Round The Island Race
Back on the 16th June, the Hoya Round The Island Yacht Race took place, in record-breaking time. This year, over 1,700 yachts took part, and Double Olympic gold Medallist Rodney Pattisson, from
Dorset, broke his 15-year-old record of 3 hours 55 minutes and 28 seconds (anti-clockwise) set in the trimaran Paragon. He also beat the American Steven Fosset's clockwise record of 3 hours, 35 minutes and 38 seconds, to gain the fastest around the Island sailing ever in his 60ft. grand prix trimaran Dexia Eure et Loire. His new record time was 3 hours and 8 minutes.
Mike Slade's 90 ft. sloop Skandia Leopard set a new monohull record, with a crew piloted by the Cowes based GBR America's Cup
Challenge team. Another yacht to break the old 1996 record was the GBR Challenge's America's Cup Practice Yacht Asura, helmed by Olympic Medallist Andy Beadsworth, and Olympic medal winning rower Greg Searke.
After the teams' success in the Sidney Olympics, the International Olympic Classes Regatta in Kiel and the success here in the Round-The-Island race, the Cowes-based team will prove a very strong challenge for the next America's Cup, to be held in Auckland in 2003.
One thing worth celebrating is the success of the Island's own Ellen McAthur, the woman who sailed the world single-handed last year in record-breaking time. She has been awarded the MBE.
The America's Cup
By far the biggest event this summer is the America's Cup Jubilee. This will be a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the oldest sailing race, the first, original race around the Island, which took place on August 22nd, 1851. This race was won by the yacht 'America' and, alas, this year's race seems likely to be as controversial as the original.
The Original Race:
In 1851, after the first world fair at the Crystal Palace, London, a challenge was given to the newly-formed New York Yacht Club regarding a race around the Island. This was accepted, and a specially designed race boat was built by George Steers, and captained by Dick Brown. After arriving in Cowes on the Island, the 'America' was entered in the Royal Yacht Squadron Regatta in a round-the-Island race for the prize of The Squadron Cup1 valued at 100 guineas.
On August 22nd, at 9:55, six schooners and eight cutters prepared for the round-the-Island race, which was to sail round the Island clockwise, keeping the Island starboard at all times. It was ruled that the ships would, on the Easternmost point, sail on the outside
of the Nab Lightship2 in order to avoid being grounded on the dangerous ledges nearby. However, when the 'America', which was in fifth place, approached this point, instead of sailing around the Lightship as the other vessels did, she sailed inside, therefore taking a short-cut against the rules, and taking the lead. From then on, the 'America' was able to maintain the position it had unfairly won, and returned to Cowes first triumphant.
Despite protests from the ships which sailed the correct course, the 'America' was awarded the winner, and the competition has been the America's Cup ever since.
The America's Cup Jubilee 2001
The controversy surrounding this years' America's Cup,before it has even started, is of a different matter. Island taxpayers paid for the regatta to be held after the Isle of Wight Council was assured by the America's Cup Jubilee organisers that they intended local people to be able to get involved in all stages. However, despite receiving the money from Islanders, only dignitaries, sponsors and millionaires would be allowed to attend the ceremonies paid for by Islanders. Chairman of the Events General Purpose Committee Felix Hetherington has said
'There is tremendous security with these things as there are a lot of extremely rich people.'
Apparently that means that anyone not a millionaire is able to pay for the ceremonies, but isn't worthy of attending them, or of being protected.
Luckily, however, so far the only controversial event with the race itself is do with how the American yachts plan to travel to Cowes. They plan to be transported in a ship which will sink.
The Dock Express, a 460 ft long semi-submersible ship, is designed to flood flotation banks in order to lower itself into the water. Ships are then able to sail into her hold, and then she rises out of the water, carrying her aquatic contents high and dry across the world, to her destination where, once again, she sinks. She is able to carry several dozen large yachts in her dry-dock in safety across the world.
And it's Cowes Week, Cowes Week,
What a sight to see,
All them grotty yachties going
Down to the Deep-Blue Sea.
From Saturday 4th to Friday 10th August, Cowes Week is taking place on the Isle of Wight. This year, for the first time, over 1,000 boats are expected to enter the regatta, many of which have made the journey in order to also take place in the America's Cup Jubilee.
Not only will there be the sailing, but there is an abundance of live entertainment in the form of music and magic shows, not to mention the famous fireworks. The Isle of Wight Council Museums Service has joined with the Newport Classic Boat Museum to show a special boating exhibition in Cowes Maritime Museum.
So far, over £40,000 has been spent by the Isle of Wight
council in an effort to make Cowes Parade and the historic
Nunnery Steps as presentable as possible. Sadly, plans for
a new pier have so far not
materialised. In its place, Skandia Life have sponsored a
temporary 75 metre pontoon.
History of Cowes Week
Racing at Cowes is believed to have started with smugglers and the customs men, and then developed into a game where fishing boats and pilot cutters vied to show off their skills. On June 1st, 1815, a group of men who enjoyed racing around Cowes decided to form the Yacht Club. This grew and, in 1830, the Prince Regent gave his patronage, and the club changed its name to the Royal Yacht Club. When, in 1833 William IV invited members to form a Naval Volunteer Force, it became the Royal Yacht Squadron which still survives to this day and is housed in Cowes Castle. It was the Royal Yacht Squadron which gave the challenge that was to become the America's Cup in 1851. In 1858,
Emperor Napoleon III joined the Squadron, and many other Kings, Queens and other rulers have joined.
Membership of the Squadron is very exclusive - one time
the owner of a 150-ton schooner who had hoped to be allowed to enter,
when hearing of being disallowed, dropped anchor off the Royal Yacht
Squadron and threatened to fire on the building unless he received an apology from whoever it was who had black-balled him. After negotiations, an apology was received, and he sailed away content.
The Cowes-Torquay-Cowes Race
For those of you who find the idea of gentle sailing boring, this summer also sees Cowes host the Honda Cowes Classic, in which many of the worlds' fastest powerboats race 220 miles. The festival will also include the Honda Helen House Powerboat Challenge on the 31st August, and a round-the-Island race on Sunday 2nd September. Eddie Jordan and Jeremy Clarkson will be among the celebrities taking part.
Things To Do On The Mainland
If you are stuck on the mainland then fear not, for you, too, are able to take part. In Southampton, Waterfront Week from the 14th to the 23rd September, features the 33rd Southampton Boat Show at Mayflower Park, and on the 23rd the Volvo Ocean Race leaves Ocean Village for a 33,000 nautical mile journey down the Atlantic to Antarctica, into the Pacific towards Cape Horn and then re-entering the Atlantic onroute to the Baltic.
During the week, the amount of entertainment will rival that of Cowes week. There will be live bands, street theatre and on Saturday the 22nd will be the Power In The Port concert as well as Proms on the Waterfront on the 15th. At the Boat Show over 850 boats will be on display, including the UK's premiere of the Bond Boat collection. This includes the speedboat that set a world record leaping the sheriff's car in 'Live And Let Die', the 'Bath-o-sub' used by Blofeld in 'Diamonds Are Forever', the boat from 'The World Is Not Enough' and the world's first aqua-bike from 'The Spy Who Loved Me'.
Also worth seeing is the Portsmouth Festival Of The Sea.