Panerai British Classic Yachts Week and Charles Stanley Cowes Classic Week have overlapped this year, making for a truly fabulous week, says William Mills


Classic Yachts Week at Cowes

The south coast yachting centre of Cowes is positively bursting with beautiful classic yachts this week. The reason? Two separate classic yacht events – the Panerai British Classic Yachts Week and the Cowes Classic Week, sponsored by Charles Stanley – have this year coincided.

For competitors and spectators, on or off the water, this is a truly fabulous week, and it ends on Saturday 25 July at 1100 with a spectacular grand parade of sail past the Royal Yacht Squadron and Cowes Green. Don’t miss it.

Italian watch maker Panerai sponsors a number annual regattas around Europe for traditionally built sailing boats. Indeed Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati oversaw the complete restoration of the 72ft Fife-designed Bermudan ketch Eilean, built in 1936, which briefly found fame in Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ video.

Eilean isn’t here this week but, like many of these classics yachts, she would have been lost without the support of wealthy individuals who have lovingly restored these magnificent craft to their former glory. One of those is Griff Rhys Jones, here this week at the helm of Argyll, his 57ft Olin Stephens-designed yawl.

Classic yacht

Comedian and television personality Griff Rhys Jones steers Argyll out of Cowes Yacht Haven

Cowes Classic Week is sponsored by London’s financial City firm Charles Stanley, and their regatta has attracted entries from the classes of smaller day sailing keel boats such as the Darings, Sunbeams and Solings, many of which are locally based in the Solent although the crews are from further afield.

Sumurun (top) is here, the 94ft Fife-designed Bermudan ketch built in 1914. Other stars of the show include the giant Eleonora, a replica of the original 1910 America’s Cup challenger. At around 150ft in length, depending on whether it is measured along the deck, or if the 30ft bowsprit is also included to give a length overall (LOA), it is the largest here.

Classic yacht

Eleonora glides downwind under a huge spread of canvas

You can’t miss Mariquita, 100ft on deck and built by W.Fife & Sons in 1911.

Classic yacht

‘Are you sure that’s the right spinnaker?’ Mariquita barrells downwind on a broad reach