Lady Van travelled to Europe in September and October, 2012 to compete in a series of Classic Yacht regattas on the Italian and French Riviera. Events include:
- Vele D’Epoca Di Imperia – Imperia, ITA – Sep 6-9, 2012
- Regates De Nice – Nice, FRA – Sep 20-22, 2012
- Regates D’Royale – Cannes, FRA – Sep 25-29, 2012
- Coupe D’Automne De Yacht Club De France (Cannes to St. Tropez) – Sep 30, 2012
- Les Voiles De St. Tropez – St. Tropez, FRA – Oct 2-6, 2012
With no challenge for the Alexandra Cup to defend, the 2012 racing season for Lady Van consisted of a big adventure to compete in a series of classic yacht regattas on the Mediterranean. Accompanied by Alex Foley and Findlay Gibbons and their R-Class arch-rival Aloha, Lady Van was shipped to Europe in order to compete in regattas in Imperia, Italy and Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez in France. Lady Van sails with a crew of 5, and a collection of RVYC members made the trip to Europe to make up the crew for various events: Past Commodore Don Martin, Maynard Marceau, Mark Allison, Rich Ballantyne, Barry Van Leeuwen, Judy Day, John McCorquodale, and John Robertson.
Transportation to Europe was made a little easier as Lady Van just fits with little room to spare into a 40ft, overheight container. But the start of the adventure was a spring refurbishment at Strait Marine to remove the blemishes collected from two hard years of racing and to restore Lady Van to boat show condition – the public viewing is as important in these events as results on the water; and to cut the sitka spruce mast in half so it would fit into the box. Lady Van was then shipped via Deltaport to Genoa, Italy and was transferred to a boatyard and readied for the Vele D’Epoca Di Imperia – the first regatta in Imperia, Italy.
The handicap system for classic racing in the Med is a complicated affair combining the potential speed of a boat with how close the boat’s configuration is to original. Lady Van’s reconstruction resulted in a stiffer handicap than would normally be expected and it showed in the results. Despite mostly good weather, wonderful sailing conditions, and great tactics, Lady Van sailed consistently well but could finish no better than 3rd; and gave time to not only Aloha, but also to larger Q-Class and 8-metre Class boats. But the team did manage to reach the podium with 3rd place honours in Imperia and St. Tropez. Aloha also did quite well gathering second place finishes in races in Cannes and Imperia.
But classic yacht racing is more about the event than the results. The Italian hospitality and post-race food in Imperia was something quite beyond the experience of any North American regatta. And hanging out in the old French harbours with their sidewalk cafes, excellent wine and food (did I mention the wine?), and watching the stylish people come out of their exclusive apartments to oogle at the boats and talk about their love of sailing was an experience not to be missed, and so different from home.
And these regattas attracted some of the most famous classic yachts of the world: J-Class boats Shamrock V (also designed by Lady Van designer Charles Nicholson) and Valsheda, Cambria with the world’s tallest wooden mast and old classics from the 1880’s such as Marigold and Partridge. It was made for a great sight to be sailing alongside a host of famous gaff rigged boats such as Bona Fide (winner of the 1900 Olympics and still the fastest boat on the course), Rowdy (an exquisitely restored New York 40), Moonbeam, Elena, Avel – the Gucci family yacht. And the list goes on an on. And of course there were the Pen Duicks, the series of 5 utilitarian, but revered boats sailed by Eric Taberly, the father of French long distance sailing and a national hero.
The weather was close to perfect throughout the whole tour – temperature was in the mid 20’s, the ocean was deep blue and warm, and there was enough wind to make the event exciting. But the stop in Cannes for the Regates Royale, was a bit more trying with one day of very strong winds and another where a thunderstorm totally obliterated visibility. Everyone was soaked, but the experience getting warmed up from a wave over the bow was a refreshing change from our local icy waters. And on a beam reach with winds over 20 kts, it was a little disconcerting to learn that Lady Van could come close to “bone-yarding” where the surfing stern wave catches the bow wave and causes water to cascade over the whole boat. With Lady Van’s open cockpit, constant pumping and the 2 inch coaming were all that kept her afloat.
The last stop at Les Voiles de St. Tropez is the most celebrated regatta in France and has to be the ultimate yacht racing experience. While the courses were mundane and the weather benign, the whole harbour was choked with classic yachts, an equal number of modern racing sleds and sportboats, and the uber-modern Wally Centuro fleet – over 300 boats in all crowded into a harbour not much larger than Jericho marina. And it seemed like everyone in the whole south of France was on the water in spectator boats to watch. It was a scene out of a movie with the competing raing and classic yachts, super-yachts with their splashy tenders, ferries, normal cruising boats, fishboats and anything else that floated all crowded together and vying for space on the water. And the town was electric with the presence of Les Voiles, including hosting a parade of the crews where the Lady Van team made appropriate fools of themselves with moose hats and the red mittens from the Olympics.
But it all had to come to an end. After St. Tropez event, Lady Van was moved to a boatyard for re-packaging and then trucked to Marseilles for the return voyage via containership; and arrived back in Vancouver on November 27 and was unshipped from the container and put up for the winter.
Our friends on Aloha had so much fun they decided to leave their boat on the hard in St. Tropez to make for an easy return for competition in 2013. One would not have to think too hard about wanting to join them for a repeat of the great events and great times next year.
Prior to departure Lady Van was restored to Boat Show condition in at Strait Marine in Steveston, BC (2 years of hard racing has left a few dents and scars).
A key part of the preparation will be repairing a couple of scrapes in the topsides resulting from close quarter sailing against arch-rival Aloha (who will also be making the trip to Europe) and a full repaint job. After all we want the old gal looking her best for showing off along the piers of the Riviera.
Also needing repair are the decks to remove dings in the coating and wood from the banging of spinnaker gear, poles, and hard metal bits on sails, etc. Here is the repair of the mast partners after the affair of almost loosing the rig on Day 1 of the Alexandra Cup
Here is a picture halfway through the most complex task of sawing the mast in half, as the 50 ft. mast will not fit into a 40 ft container. The next step was the removal of reinforcement fittings to allow the installation of a sleeve, and then refinishing.
All arrangements being organized by Aquamar Shipping Inc.