By Mark Jardine, YachtsandYachting.com
I had the pleasure of sailing in the Sunsail F40 fleet on Wednesday at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week aboard the Chatham yacht. 32 yachts are out racing making the fleet the second largest at the event behind the mighty XOD fleet. The F40’s are chartered out to various companies ranging from city investors to local marine sector businesses to those charted out to menagerie crews wanting a day’s racing.
Wednesday saw an incredible range of conditions – the ominous forecast had already forced the Race Committee to decide that all White Group racing and many of the smaller Black Group classes should be cancelled. As it was, at the F40 start, things were relatively normal with a prevailing south easterly breeze and a course set in the central Solent.
Conditions changed rapidly as a huge storm cloud made its way up from the North West, making steady progress against the prevailing wind. First there was a big wind shift into the south, then a torrential downpour which felt tropical on this humid day, then followed a massive squall coming in from the south west which led to flogging mainsails and crews rapidly adding reefs. It really was four seasons in one day.
The F40 is proving an ideal yacht for Cowes Week racing; the large wheel gives the helm a great line of sight, the boat is well behaved, looks racy and the fleet are clearly very well matched. Putting the reefs in proved a manageable task, even in the 40 knot wind that we encountered on the fetch when the squall hit. Our Sunsail skipper and mate for the day were both very active sailors and knowledgeable, our skipper being a regular Osprey sailor, competing in many national championships. They were both an absolute pleasure to sail with.
We had a diverse range of experience amongst our crew for the day and the most important thing for sailing as a sport was how the newcomers enjoyed their experience. Chatting at the Sunsail bar in the Cowes Yacht Haven after racing showed they clearly had a very positive view of the sport after their day. All were asking how to continue in the sport, both in dinghies and yachts, where they could go on courses and how to find a local sailing club. This wasn’t just idle chat – they were taking notes of names of sailing schools and types of boat to try. This all after a day that saw only a brief glimmer of sunshine, a complete drenching and 40+ knot gusts that could have put someone off sailing for life in the wrong circumstances.
Sunsail complete the daily racing experience with a prize giving where each crew in the top 3 are brought onto the winners’ rostrum and given prizes and champagne. Chartering a yacht for the week can prove great value for a company to get one-design racing at Cowes Week and with individual special offers from £99/day to go sailing on a skippered yacht this is a great way to experience sailing or for dinghy sailors to try yacht racing. Why not give it a go?