The mistral that held us all shore bound in Mahon for the final two days of racing attempted to restrict the progress of those planning on the Italian instalment of the end of season’s Panerai regattas. Imperia was 290 miles away ‘as the crow flies’ and yet the 3-4 metre swell denied us an early exit towards the region of pesto and Liguria’s sweet wine, Sciacatra.
Moonbeam IV decided to call it a day and headed to Palma de Mallorca to wait for the waters to calm before heading to Cannes. Meanwhile, Eilean, Halloween, Manitou and Kelpie were all exchanging weather thoughts debating the earliest window to set sail. All finally left on the Tuesday, Kelpie later in the afternoon, into an eager 3 metre swell and a 25 knot breeze from the NNW. Finding the closest course possible to the wind and waves that seemed most comfortable to Eilean’s fair lines we made our way northeast, and after 12 hours the waves started to subside allowing us to slip more keenly towards our goal.
Mr Bonati takes the helm
After 42 hours of motor-sailing we finally arrived at 03.00 on Thursday 6th September, with Halloween coming in a close second at 05.00(I’ve learnt to love the twin screw in times like these!). Fortunately the day’s racing was delayed to a 13.00 start so we had a little time to prepare for the ensuing competition. After the strong winds of Mahon, light airs were forecast for the next days and after rushing north we found ourselves sitting outside with the 82-strong fleet waiting for slightly more than a flittering zephyr. We eventually started and Mr Bonati guided Eilean round the days short course in competitive style.
Eilean sailing in company
Friday 7th September brought more light airs but we had a start around midday in around 7 knots of wind from the NE. At the start we tacked out for clear air and split from the rest of the fleet. Mr Bonati was at the helm and steered her beautifully to the windward mark where we gybed around just after the bigger and faster Halloween. Then we had a 16 mile downwind leg where we closed agonizingly closer to Halloween. Looking back at the rest of the fleet was like gazing at an oil painting: still, colourful, endless, yet full of exquisite motion and obliqueness. Finally the leeward mark beckoned. Action: Mizzen staysail down, headsails up, main and mizzen in, runners back, strike the kite, trim on the headsails, watch that boat coming inside – “No water, no rights!” – and focus on boatspeed. 1 knot, 2 knots, the breeze was fickle to say the least. A long, slow, single-tack home ended the day, and as we crossed the finish line the 4 awe-inspiring 15-Metres tussled for clean air as they started their day’s contest.
The 4 ’15 Metre’ yachts start off Imperia’s Porto Maurizio
Cambria heading upwind
The impressive sight of Kelpie and Sunshine making the most of the breeze
Elena and Halloween head for home
On Saturday we missed the racing and had the privilege of entertaining children on board to be a “Skipper For A Day”, part of Panerai’s initiative to give excitement, focus and care to those less fortunate. Some of Eilean’s race crew joined us and were instrumental in making the day a complete success. Big thanks to Sarah, Amy, Tigger, Tim, Spud, Massimo and Alessandro and of course the permanent crew, Stef, Chef & Flora. All our guests seemed fantastically happy and missing a race to do something as wonderful as this is never a chore.
Eilean and Panerai Crew
Sunday we were out waiting for the wind to fill in again. On this occasion it really looked unlikely that anything was going to happen other than a quick dash ahead of the fleet into port. Crews everywhere were jumping over the side to ‘clean the waterline’ and three of Eilean’s angels commandeered a tender dressed as pirates and ‘boarded’ a number of the competitors with covering fire from our cannon on board. It’s not just about sailing but having fun, and once the race was cancelled we made it as one of the first into port!!