It will undoubtedly be a busier year than ever on the Solent this summer, the highlight of which will be the arrival of three J class yachts, Lionheart, Velsheda and Ranger during the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Bicentenary International Regatta from 27 – 31 July. There’s always a buzz of interest when these mammoth boats race, particularly in the Solent where waters are restricted and where the local marine community turns out en masse to watch the spectacle.
All three of the J class yachts competing measure over 130ft long and despite their outwardly elegant varnished woodwork, they fully utilise cutting edge technology. None of the boats are identical and although the relative differences in speed between them are small, they sail to a J class handicap enabling them to compete equally. If the sea in some of these shots look rather bluer, warmer and altogether more inviting than you might imagine the Solent to be, most of the photographs were taken in the Mediterranean.
When the J class yachts last appeared in the Solent in 2012, the whole area was a seething swarm of watercraft from RIBs to gin palaces, all trying to get a view of the action. The sea quickly became a boiling mass of confused, choppy water while the air was filled with a fine mist that fogged camera lenses and spectacles alike. Among this melee a small yacht, Snow Goose, made its way across the Solent with a husband and wife team at the helm. Quite how they missed being mowed down by the Js or the scrum of boats surrounding them I’ll never really know. Once the whole shebang passed by, Snow Goose stopped, with the crew sitting side by side to survey the chaos. I half expected them to break out a pork pie and a flask of tea while they enjoyed the scene. It’s the one photograph of the event that really makes me smile!