Around the turn of the century and beyond, a very famous yacht building yard at Fairlie, Ayrshire was producing the finest yachts in the world. These yachts have long since left our shores. The Fife Regatta 2003 brought these spectacular yachts back to their home waters for the second time to race and celebrate William Fife III.
The boats were designed and built in Fairlie on the Clyde estuary, near Largs. Five years before, there was a gathering of 11 Fife yachts, and in 2003, 22 yachts made the trip to Scotland.
‘The Cumbraes Race’ – Saturday 21st June
22 William Fife designed yachts lined up for an 11.30am start in a light southerly breeze and cooling ‘Scotch mist’. Almost inevitably, the course, which could either be clockwise or anti-clockwise around the Island of Cumbrae, was misread by a number of boats who found themselves on the wrong side of the line at the start gun, and hence liable to a 3% time penalty.
After a slow first beat through the 200-strong spectator fleet, the wind increased to 10 knots along the south edge of Cumbrae. A rain cloud soon dimished what wind there was, and race officer Donald McLaren decided to stop Class 2 at the south-west tip of Cumbrae, fearing the smaller yachts would not reach the next mark before the time limit of 4pm.
Hatasoo, the oldest and smallest Fife yacht in the fleet won Class 2 on corrected time with Pierrette and Siglen in second and third places.
In Class 1, The Lady Anne led the fleet up the west coast of Cumbrae. Mikado and Clio came from behind and gybed close in to the Cumbrae shore and made ground on the larger boats up ahead. The race was shortened at the north tip of Cumbrae and The Lady Anne crossed the line after 3 hours and 12 minutes of racing. However, Mikado and Clio grabbed the top two places, with Sunshine also finishing strongly to take third.
‘The Clyde Race’ – Sunday 22nd June
The Fife fleet travelled from the main venue of Largs to Rhu, just to the north of Helensburgh. Sunday dawned with a gusty easterly wind coming down off the hills behind Largs. Class 1 started at 11.30am, and immediately the yachts furthest east close to the Largs shore pulled away in better pressure. Class 2, starting 10 minutes later, jostled for the committee boat end of the start line to take advantage of the better pressure to the right side of the course.
In keeping with traditional Largs Channel conditions, the wind did not last long and a wind hole developed to the north. The Lady Anne and Moonbeam IV were the first yachts to break out of the hole, escaping to a 12-15 knot northerly. Kentra and Belle Aventure followed some distance behind. After rounding a buoy at Skelmorlie bank, the boats in Class 1 headed west towards the island of Rothesay.
The wind slowly increased to 16-20 knots, making the long beat hard work for the smaller boats in Class 2. The course for Class 2 was shortened at Skelmorlie bank, and the Bermudan Sloop Rosemary revelled in the wind and chop to take first. A close race between the Menai Straits One Designs Thelma III and Siglen resulted in second and third places respectively.
In Class 1, the course was shortened off Dunoon in a dying breeze. The Lady Anne sailed superbly to take line honours and to win on corrected time. Unfortunately for Moonbeam, a problem with their topsail meant Belle Aventure and Kentra were able to close the gap, and in the dying breeze, both overtook Moonbeam before the finish. Sonata sailed very well towards the end, and was able to take second place, with Kentra third.
‘The Rothesay Race’ – Tuesday 24th June
Tuesday’s race, ‘The Rothesay Race’, saw the fleet sailing down the Clyde from Rhu to Rothesay. The wind, a westerly swinging southwest and varying in speed from 6 to 16 knots, allowed the entire fleet to complete the passage, albeit Class 2 finishing just east of Rothesay Bay in a dying breeze.
Class 1 started at 11.30am, with yachts opting either to the Greenock or Kilcreggan shores. The Lady Anne complemented her good start by choosing the right hand side of the beat, towards Kilcreggan, and found the best wind to lead round Cloch Piont.
The Class 2 fleet, unfortunately without Hatasoo which developed hull problems during Sundays race, started at 11.40am. Rosemary sailed well to lead the class past Cloch Point, closely followed by Tern and Jap.
The wind settled for the upwind leg to Toward lighthouse, and The Lady Anne, leading Class 1 on the water, soon reached her turning mark to the north of Cumbrae, and crossed the finish line at 2.29pm. She was soon followed by Belle Aventure, and Mikado and Sonata who finished within two seconds of each other. In a very close race, The Lady Anne won her second race of the week by just 30 seconds on corrected time from Mikado, with Sonata taking third.
The finish for Class 2 was shortened slightly, and Rosemary stayed ahead to take line honours and a win on corrected time from Jap and Tern.
The results from ‘The Rothesay Race’ mean both Classes 1 and 2 had tied points for first position. The Lady Anne and Mikado both had 7 points in Class 1, and in Class 2 Rosemary and Thelma III were both on 11 points, setting up an exciting finish in Largs on Thursday.
‘The Kyles of Bute Race’ – Thursday 26th June
Wow, what a day! Glorious sunshine, amazing scenery, perfect breeze and beautiful yachts. Thursday began with the fleet motoring through the East Kyle and Burnt Islands to the start area at Kames Bay off Tighnabruaich. They were greeted with an 8-12 knot southerly. The course, south through the West Kyle, around the south of Bute and back to Largs, meant that once again, the race was purely upwind.
Race officer David Witton started Class 1 at 11.30am, and it soon became evident that the yachts which could point the highest had a big tactical advantage short tacking up the West Kyle of Bute. ‘The Lady Anne’ once again led the fleet south towards Inchmarnock Island.
Class two similarly saw close tacking, with many boats opting to tack up the west shore looking for wind and tidal advantages. Pierrette, Jap and Rosemary jossled for the lead south through the Kyle.
As the yachts made their way south past Inchmarnock Island, the wind strength began to decrease to 4-8 knots, forcing the race officer to shorten Class 1 at the southern end of Bute, and Class 2 to the south of Inchmarnock.
The Lady Anne crossed the finish line at 3.02pm to take her third win and Class 1 victory. Belle Aventure had by far their best race of the week and finished at 3.14pm to take second, just three minutes behind Anne on corrected time. Moonbeam finished at 4.01pm with seconds to spare before the race time limit expired one hour after The Lady Anne’s finishing time. The remainder of Class 1 were unfortunately unable to finish the race.
In Class 2, Pierrette sailed well in the dying breeze and adverse tide to take line honours from Rosemary and Jap. But it was a first race win for the well-sailed Conway One Design Thelma III, with Pierrette and Rosemary taking second and third respectively. Despite being beaten by Thelma in the race, Rosemary did enough with her third place to take the Class 2 win.
More photos from the 2003 Fife Regatta are available to view in the 2003 Gallery.
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