A day at the races

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Mon 17 Aug 2015 12:26
Hayling Island, UK
Back to blogging with a more nautical twist. Anyone interested in Americas Cup racing would have been aware that the first round of the competition that will end in the warm waters of Bermuda in 2017 took place off Portsmouth UK a few weeks ago. (Yes yes, we’re a little behind with the blogs again).
It’s fair to say that since four times Olympic Gold Medal winner Sir Ben Ainslie helped the Golden Gate Yacht Club retain the Americas Cup sailing on Oracle Team USA in 2013 he has become even more of a sailing hero in the UK. He firmly believes that us Brits can now prize that tall trophy away from the Americans. First he has to see off challenges from France, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden. The USA boat is here and challenging for the Louis Vuitton Trophy, which is the cup awarded to the overall winners of the series of races that decide who challenges for the Americas Cup. Does that make sense to anybody?  It’s a tall order of course and we wait with baited breath to see if Sir Ben can achieve his ambition. Local interest is massive particularly since he erected a campaign head quarters right in the heart of Old Portsmouth, itself alive with the ghosts of ancient mariners dating back beyond Nelson’s time.
The 48ft foiled catamarans are smaller than the class used in San Fransisco Bay but no less impressive in their speed and ability to provide spectacular nail-biting sport around the cans, making these events much more attractive to non race-minded types like ourselves. In fact the only common denominator between our own catamaran and Sir Ben’s, ignoring cost of course, is that we have the same number of hulls. Our top speed is sub-ten knots unless we sail over Niagra Falls whereas these sleek machines can exceed forty mph with all onboard needing crash helmets and dry suits! It does have its risks as we remember the tragic event in San Francisco Bay with the loss of British Olympic Gold medal winner Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson.
We have our good friends Steve & Sheila to thank for offering us a place on their own boat for the day. We joined over two thousand other craft of all shapes and sizes surrounding the designated race area just off Southsea beach which itself was hosting a crowd of forty thousand landlubbers watching either from the grandstand or on giant screens erected on the area of land back from the beach called Southsea Common. It was to be the only day of the entire race event that counted towards the cup competition itself.
The images do little to reflect the excitement and thrills on the day but we gave it our best shot with our humble Fuji thingy.....
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On our way with ‘Skip’ at the helm watched over by Enya’s real Skip !!                                    Locking out of Port Solent into Portsmouth Harbour
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Let’s hear it for the British entry LandroverBAR waiting to enter the affray as we head out of the harbour and join the spectator craft heading for the best viewing spots     
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No doubting where our loyalties lay.....                           .....and most of the shore-side spectators were there to see Sir Ben trounce the competition as well (hopefully)
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Our trusty ‘Admiral’ enjoying our hosts’ corporate hospitality.....                                            .....whilst an an aerial display before the racing had a ‘loverly’ ending
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               Almost all of these craft were NOT anchored, and there was a fair bit of tide running and some wind too so it was a bit of a challenge keeping on station at times
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After some warming up near the start line they were off.....                                                           .....and flying.....
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    Literally!                                                                                                                                     Japan & the USA engage in close quarters dueling
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Having dealt with the Japanese, Oracle the USA entry was now dabbling with the laws of marine physics..........oooooooohhh!!! that was so close!
After the racing it was a mad scramble to get back into harbour, with hundreds of spectator craft, delayed cross channel ferries and even the Royal Navy staking its claim to sea room. It was truly amazing that there were no incidents, at least none that we witnessed (well none that were that serious eh Steve?).
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The stampede back into Portsmouth Harbour.....                                                 .....whilst the racing fleet back on their moorings wait to be plucked out of the water – by their masts!
On the day we were delighted to see the UK entry triumph over all others after the two races concluded, with New Zealand close second. Racing the following day was cancelled due to bad weather conditions so the UK entry won the overall round and we were all happy as Larry. (Who was Larry by the way – must look him up).
But what would the crew of ‘America’ think of todays racing machines. Sadly these yachts have all passed into history – but the cup lives on, and it’s time we brought the damn thing back to these shores! Onwards to Gothenburg – Sweden for the next round folks. Thanks for a great day Steve & Sheila.
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                    Painting by Fitz Henry Lane