Cowes Week, UK - 2001

Summary

With a turnout of over 16 Escaped Aussies (numbers grew during the week) we had to charter two boats and found some neat racing boats, Dehler 33’s, in a one design division of 22 boats.

Called XKP and Dexterity, they were perfect to create our internal Escaped Aussies competition for the prized “Bundy Cup”, a bottle of the finest from that Queensland town.

The team from XKP headed by JK got their act together quickly and despite a loss on the first day handled the very tough conditions superbly to not only win the Bundy Cup but to give the rest of the fleet a fright, some of them the top sailors for this design in Europe. Getting a fifth place in this fleet was indeed a fine achievement and the rum well deserved.

The conditions really got the sensors going with on the edge sailing creating more survival tactics than a lot of strategic thought. Constant 30 plus knots that built during the week, 4-6 knot currents, thousands of other boats with wet and cold conditions made this the toughest of all our regattas. Mark roundings would get the knees shaking as we would have to fight the current and avoid collisions with bigger and faster boats (including the big AC boats) then hoist the kite in 30 plus knots only feet from the other boats in the fleet.

Cowes radio was a unique addition to this event where continual commentary is provided on all the races with BBC type voices and distinguished guest commentators including royalty. Dexterity made the radio on day one after winning the start then again on day 5 after coming across the line with a horrendously wrapped spinnaker around the forestay. That was an embarrassing moment in front of the hundreds on the shore line then amplified by the radio commentators.

Numerous round ups and a few Chinese gybes kept the crew on its toes. One recalling how he was going through the crew bag inventory in his mind as he contemplated letting it go to the bottom after he swam to shore. Fortunately these boats are tough but XKP did break a spinnaker pole in half on the first day. Dexterity had a few breakages and the mornings were often started early with sail and gear repairs. We repaired a broken outhaul and got to the start just 10 minutes ahead of the gun after running madly around the shore carrying the dismantled boom looking for help. The most humorous damage though was when our over enthusiastic Escaped Aussie and Oxford and Olympic rower pulled the jib on so tight he snapped the thick jib sheet. There were a few sinkings and major collisions at Cowes but none were us.

One race day provided some hairy moments starting with a sheet wrapped around the prop eight minutes before the start. It took some time for the skipper of Dexterity to get it loose after diving in the freezing Solent in his underwear. What were the race committee thinking as he crossed the start line

shivering in wet boxers ? This day also provided a minor pitch pole after the bow dropped deep into a wave close to shore and some weird current, the boat stalled and the bowman went under. A few minutes later as we approached a mark rounding the skipper could not see the bowman anywhere. He heard a noise and there he was poised on the most aft rail of the boat being very quiet. “ We are approaching a mark rounding, what the hell are you doing here? What are you thinking? , “Life” came the reply as we all thought this odd timing for reflection could only have been brought on by the cold dunking on the bow.

After we finished the race and dropped the sails the engine stalled and the key broke off in the socket, there was no way we could turn the engine on as the current pushed us in the wrong direction. Hurriedly looking for a tow in a panic we shouted, grabbed makeshift tow ropes, got on the radio, when the cool and collected Screwy had dismantled the ignition and hot wired a very relieving engine start.

Needless to say, after days like these, the crew was exhausted. An Escaped Aussie in bed at 7:30pm? You better believe it. Most though did their best to make the most of the superb on shore entertainment. Most of the action prior to the nightclubs opening was in the big tent with entertainment provided bands from the seventies such as Boney M.

We stayed in a rented private house, 4 levels, about a five-minute walk from the festivities. Owned by a nice family who we got to know. It was superb and had everything we needed. Great restaurants and pubs were in close proximity, most thriving on the biggest week of the year. The regatta over we made our way back across the Solent past South Hampton to Hamble where we dropped the boats off and caught the train back to London with plenty of time to reflect on an amazing week.