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You are here: Skip Navigation LinksHome > Articles > From the magazines > 2001 > Saluja at the America's Cup Jubilee

Saluja spends the week at the America's Cup Jubilee

The Admirals Cup
The Admirals Cup

It all started when we were given a copy of the Cowes 2001 Handbook in the bag of goodies which all entrants receive at the end of the HOYA "Round the Island Race". On reading the preview to the America's Cup Jubilee Regatta it was quickly decided that this 'once in a lifetime' event just had to be attended.

Saturday 18th August saw us set off from Emsworth bound for Cowes. A light easterly meant a nice spinnaker run. However on approaching Cowes it quickly became apparent that this was no ordinary regatta. For those of you who attended you will appreciate just what an enormous number of boats (I guess most valued in millions not 100's of thousands) were lying to moorings. With a big spring tide under us as well, and not wishing to have problems slowing down, a quick decision was made to drop the spinnaker. A sensible move because we were, within minutes, dodging hundreds of spectator craft looking at the spectacle. And the competitors hadn't even started sailing them yet!

Australia II
Australia II
Endeavour with spinnaker
Endeavour with spinnaker
The Sunday saw the windiest day of the week with gusts pushing 30knots against a

big spring ebb in the Western Solent. With two slabs in the main and the No. 3 headsail we had plenty of manoeuvrability to get in close to the action. No, you can't keep up with most of the super-yachts but by reaching backwards and forwards we just waited for them to run back under spinnaker.

Wow! What a sight! - The classics, the three J's and Cambria, Stealth etc. with many of them being buzzed by chase boats. I guess the J's were going downwind in excess of 15 knots and the wash from them and the following RIB's made for some tricky handling. At one point we managed to fill the cockpit from the wash.

Crowds at Yarmouth
Crowds at Yarmouth
Spinnakers
Spinnakers
Spinnakers
Spinnakers

On returning to Cowes, that evening, the engine packed up as we entered the harbour. A rapid picking up of a mooring under sail allowed us to bleed the diesel and get ourselves up to the Folly. The Harbour Master did come up to us slightly concerned as to why we were sailing in! Most of Monday was spent sorting the diesel supply which was a more fundamental problem than we had hitherto thought.

Whatever else, Tuesday was to be the highlight of the week with every yacht re-enacting the original 1851 race clockwise round the Island. Trinity House even stationed a lightship at the site of the original Nab buoy which was to be a mark of the course. (That was before the Nab Tower had been built) We stuck around for some of the starts but, not surprisingly, things were pretty hectic in the spectator areas. The decision was then made, along with a few thousand other spectator craft, to go westward down to Hurst Narrows to meet the competitors as they rounded the Needles and ran under spinnaker back to Cowes. We anchored on the Isle of Wight side at the narrows and what a decision this proved to be! With one of the biggest spring tides of the year, some of the most priceless yachts in the world were cheating the tide by running under spinnaker through! the moored yachts. With anchor ball up we just sat there and watched what proved to be one of the best yachting spectacles of our lives, with the yachts literally passing within metres. I couldn't zoom the camera out enough to get full frame shots of the closest! Leading the whole lot, not surprisingly, was Stealth, complete with man being lowered down the forestay, then some more of the superyachts: Mari Cha II, Chernikeef, Timoneer to name but a few. Even with an entry list we had trouble keeping up with what was what! Not much later another highlight of the day was Australia II just metres behind South Australia trying to gain advantage out of the tide and wind shadow each other with their spinnakers. (More of Australia II later) And yes, some of them did touch bottom! Despite their age, and having one of the later starts, the J's were well up in the fleet. Firstly Endeavour, closely pursued by Velsheda. I managed my best 'J' photo of the week of Velsheda with spinnaker and the sun behind her. Then the middle pack of the fleet. All fighting for the best position out of the tide. It was like watching a dinghy fleet such was the level of competition to gain every inch on the next boat. The teamwork was a joy to watch and quite incredible to see huge spinnakers gybed with such ease. In the end we got quite blasé about what we were in fact witnessing.

The last of the ebb saw us beat down to the Needles to see the tail end competitors rounding. I think we had seen every one of the yachts throughout the afternoon. Jonathan, my son, and our guest, John Winton, had never seen the Needles from the Sea so that was the least we could do. Keyhaven was our destination for the night followed by a late start the next morning when we motored back to Cowes. Virtually no wind meant that all races were delayed, fortuitously allowing me some close up shots of the names on the J's and the bronze winches on Shamrock V.

Stealth
Stealth
Velsheda
Velsheda
Prada
Prada

The late part of the afternoon saw us pull off the second unforgettable highlight of the week. Having entered the berths at Cowes Yacht Haven (officially "Berth Holders Only" but non-one seemed to mind such was the relaxed atmosphere after races) to take a few photos, we found ourselves helping with the lines to a RIB which was in danger of becoming tangled with Australia II. John Winton suggested asking to be shown aboard Australia II. "Yeah sure"! was the reply from Phil Smidmore, one of the original crew members from the successful 1983 challenge. As my Dad used to say to me when I was young - "If you don't ask you'll never get"! We couldn't believe it, and what a really nice guy. He let us photo what we wanted on the boat, look through the hatches into the stripped out interior, pose for a photo with Jonathan and me on the coffee grinders and finally one of Jonathan behind the wheel. As we left Australia II we just looked at each other with a grin from ear to ear. Australia II, probably so famous and priceless that she doesn't have a 'value' and would return to her museum never to be sailed again. That was her first outing since 1983 as it was! What a coup!

For the remainder of the week one night was spent in Beaulieu and the whole of Saturday 25th in Cowes. We had only to sit down for a drink at the Beer Tent and within minutes we'd be talking sailing to someone from New Zealand, The States, Germany or wherever. At the other extreme from Australia II, which had multi-million pound sponsorship, we got chatting to a German lad who had paid his way to be aboard "Anita" - a classic 12 metre, built in 1939, and now used as a sail training boat of the Kiel Yacht Club. She had 300,000 miles under her keel and had already been to Norway, the Shetlands, and the West Coast of Scotland as part of her season's itinerary. He was due for a crew change the following day as a new team would be sailing her back to Kiel. Having invited us aboard we were able to see a very different boat to the modern 12 metres, and enjoy some rather nice German wine! This was another stroke of luck as we witnessed many of the other 12 metre fleet returning from their race - most being towed alongside with RIB's as they don't have engines: Crusader; Kiwi; Kookaburra; Enterprise; Freedom; Intrepid; Lionheart; Valiant- the list goes on and, in total, reckoned to be the largest collection of 12 metres ever likely to take place. As the evening wore on we were introduced to Anita's skipper who was a bit of a character, to say the least, and had never seen the Isle of Wight. He had heard of the Hoya "Round the Island" race and wanted to quiz us about going round the other way! We were all so pleased for them since they had had such a perfect day, the previous Tuesday, when they had gone round in the 1851 re-enactment. It could not have been better and they had a few good tales to tell. Not least Anita calling starboard on Endeavour who thought they were a spectator boat because there were only about two of the crew who didn't have a camera taking a photo of Endeavour!

Australia II
Australia II
Jonathan at the helm
Jonathan at the helm
Australia II
Australia II

The only fleet we didn't see much of was the modern America's cup boats as they were based in Portsmouth and raced off Bembridge. No doubt we will hear more of the GBR challenge and the Italians over the next couple of years. For those of you who didn't get to the Solent for the 18th to 25th August 2001, I hope this gives you a flavour of the event. For us it will certainly go down in history on a par with the '99 total eclipse and the Millenium evening 00/01! I guess the 200th anniversary will be as good but as Jonathan said during the week: "Dad, I'll be 61 then and you'll be in your 90's". Let's hope he remembers a tale or two for his children and grandchildren!

David Holmes
Co-owner of Super Seal 26 No. 51
16 Sep 2001