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Classic Yachts Regattas in the Mediterranean

May 27, 2016

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Towards the end of summer, the classic yachts of the Mediterranean start sailing westwards, port to port and regatta to regatta. This is the annual migration of the classic yachts fleet.  

The season of races starts in Italy and ends in Spain, though some of the yachts continue on to the West Indies for the winter. The Voile de St Tropez regatta is the main and best regatta for the tourist to visit, as it brings together around 300 of the most immaculate yachts in the world. Even if you cannot go out on a boat to participate in the racing, you can simply enjoy walking along the hundreds of metres of beautiful harbour quayside, which is extraordinary and uplifting.

 

Classic yachts can be defined in many ways for the purpose of racing. They can categorised be by reference to their age, their construction, which is usually but not always wooden, by the materials used in the sails and rigging and the handicap rating derived by measurement.

However, these yachts are appreciated for their beauty and their history. They are functional works of art in everyday use. The definition of a classic yacht was a yacht designed by a classic marine architect, for example, yachts designed by William Fife of Scotland, where all his boats may be distinguished by the carved dragon on their bow. Other classic yachts were designed by Olin Stephens from the US, who still attends regattas today in his nineties; or by Herreshoff, or Nicholson, or one of a handful of other creative geniuses.

Normally, these yachts are old, sometimes more than a hundred years old, but they are in gleaming museum condition, having been restored again and again over the years to meticulously maintain links back to the wonderful craftsmen that built them and the designers that designed them.

In extreme cases, the classic yachts may have been restored from a few pieces of a rotten hulk, using traditional materials and traditional crafts to exactly reproduce a hull, accommodation and rig of that particular period. The restoration of these yachts is a devotedly precise process, only able to be carried out in a tiny number of boatyards, mostly to be found in Italy. evt_sainttropezyachtcharter_2

Classic yachts are usually old, but there are also some modern day classics that are under construction right now. Some are openly modern, like the Wally yachts from Monaco, designed with no other consideration other than extreme elegance, performance and quality. Others are built in the spirit of tradition, with carbon fibre masterpieces that remind the flavour of a traditional boat in an ultra-modern package.

Classic yachts may also be very big, like Lulworth. Some of the biggest are called ‘J-class boats’ at over 50 metres.  Unbelievably, several of the regular visitors to the regattas, such as Adix or Adela, are far, far too big to fit into the harbours and they may be seen anchored offshore.

The Mediterranean classic yacht racing brings together hundreds of magnificent yachts and thousands of spectators, crew members and sailing enthusiasts every year. The yacht spotters can be seen strolling the quayside at Beaulieu or Antibes. There are some very expensive super yachts that can be seen, but the classic yachts are different, because they are rare and they have the power to sweep us back, in our imagination, to a bygone age of glittering style.


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