100 years of development on show

A weekend of brilliant late summer weather for the Royal Southern Yacht Club's September Regatta went a long way to salvaging a sailing season ravaged by wind and rain - it also presented a snapshot of where the sport of yachting is today in the UK. Two of the J-Boat classes (J/111 & J/80) were settling their national championships while four classic 6-Metres, some J/70’s, a sportsboat handicap class and a handful of XODs meant that over 100 years of design development was on display. 

Add to that the diversity of yachts in the IRC divisions with Sir Keith Mills’ ‘Invictus’ as highest rater in the ‘Fast40’ class and Jonty Sherwill's 1926 vintage ‘Cockleshell’ the lowest in class 4, a span of over 25 minutes per hour separating them across the five classes.

The contrast in speed was brought into sharp focus in Sunday’s final race (see Rick Tomlinson's photo below). With the Fast 40's 'Rebellion' and 'Invictus' fast reaching on port tack under A-sail just a few boat lengths apart they met Cockleshell close hauled, also on port. Having cleared across the bow of Rebellion, Cockleshell’s immediate tack away onto starboard avoided a potentially hazardous windward-leeward situation with Invictus and ensured this dramatic dog fight would continue unhindered to the finish line.  

While the plumb bows and bowsprits of the current breed of yachts and sportsboats exemplified by the minimalist Fast 40’s conjure up an aesthetic link with the equally radical but narrow raters of the mid-Victorian era it's tempting to muse on what will arrive next to satisfy the ever-present thirst for progress. Only time will tell but might it be foil borne inshore racers and if that's feasible then there must be at least one that’s ready to go on some designer’s drawing board!   

Jonty Sherwill
Photo by Rick Tomlinson http://www.rick-tomlinson.com/