An historic race on the Solent

Scores of yachtsmen out for a summer’s day sail on the Solent could hardly believe their binoculars as three iconic yachts sailed into view. For the first time ever, three of the most famous world-girdling yachts – Gipsy Moth IV, Chichester’s 53ft ketch, Lively Lady, Alec Rose’s 36ft yawl and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s 33ft ketch Suhaili – were sailing together, side by side. Well, almost.

The historic encounter was made possible by the restoration of GMIV, following a campaign by Yachting Monthly. The proud new owners of the yacht, the UK Sailing Academy, organised two friendly round-the-cans races. For the first, the wind was south-east Force 1-2 as Suhaili, flying a spinnaker, chased GMIV under cruising chute. Lively Lady sported no downwind canvas but was surprisingly sprightly.

After rounding the first mark off the Royal Yacht Squadron, GMIV was in the lead , skippered byJohn Walsh, the UKSA’s project director for her restoration. The tactician aboard was Paul Lees, proprietor of Crusader Sails, who made GMIV’s £20,000 sail wardrobe free of charge. As the breeze strengthened, GMIV came into her own, skimming over the south side of the Brambles Bank before reaching back to the finish line in one hour and 49 minutes. Lively Lady crossed 21 minutes later, winning the race on corrected time. Suhaili retired.

Honour was satisfied in the second race when GMIV was first over the start line but Suhaili slowly overhauled her under spinnaker and held the lead downwind for a while. At the prizegiving, Alan Priddy’s crew received a bottle of Plymouth gin which they donated to Suhaili’s crew.
For the full story and more pictures see October’s issue of YM on sale on 8 September.