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Cowes Week - The Solent Sunbeams at 90

by Sue Pelling on 17 May 2013
The Solent Sunbeams at 90 Rick Tomlinson © http://www.rick-tomlinson.com
The Solent Sunbeams are steady visitors to Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and, at 90 years old, they have a lot to celebrate this year.

This pretty Alfred Westmacott design with its distinct ‘V’ sail insignia is similar in looks to the Seaview Mermaid but is two inches longer overall at 26ft 5in (8m). Its popularity as a fun, yet highly competitive dayboat has remained consistent over the years and although the class is mainly sailed at Itchenor SC in Chichester, there is still an active division in Falmouth, known as the Falmouth Sunbeams.

To mark the Solent Sunbeam’s anniversary year, at least 10 boats – all from Itchenor – are expected to turn out for Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week. This is one of the key events in the class calendar and special plans are in place to ensure the week is one to remember both on and off the water. The biggest social events of the week for members and invited guests include the class Champagne cocktail party on Tuesday evening, and the class dinner at The Prospect on Thursday.

Competition is expected to be exceptionally high with the fleet keen to challenge for the lead often dominated by Roger Wickens in Danny (V26). The class offers close, competitive racing for all ages and Cowes Week regular John Ford who is in his 80s will be there to give the youngsters a run for their money. Newcomers to the fleet Mark and Nicola Harvey, having launched their new glassfibre Sunbeam Alchemy (V65) in March, have entered as owners for the first time. Although they enjoyed crewing for Anthony Robinson on Symphony (V33) for the last couple of years they are looking forward to the challenge of competing at the event for the first time as owners.

Mark Harvey said: 'We are thrilled and to be honest somewhat daunted by the opportunity to swell the numbers of Sunbeams at an auspicious Cowes Week for our fleet. In our 90th anniversary year, the Sunbeam tradition is stWestmacott ronger than ever with six glassfibre versions of this classic racing dayboat sailing on level terms with the original design wooden boats. The spectacle of our beautiful boats with spinnakers flying as we approach the finish off the Royal Yacht Squadron will be well worth watching.'

Interestingly however, Robinson at 65 years old, has decided to see what it’s like at the other end of the boat and crew for the Harveys: 'I thought it was my turn to give it a go at the front of the boat, and I’m really looking forward to it. Cowes Week is always a key event because in a way we treat at bit like our national championship. It also provides a different sort of racing and is often more challenging. Basically it’s a holiday week away from home, with our mates.'

With 21 wood, and six glassfibre boats active, and another three in build in Sandown for delivery later this year, Gayle Palmer, Class Captain, says the future is bright for the 90-year-old class. 'The class is exceptionally active and going from strength to strength. It is characterised by close-knit camaraderie on and off the water and a very high standard of racing throughout. We also encourage a strong social side. As well as Cowes Week, we have a good representation at Classic Week and race at Bembridge as well as participating in the three races a week in Chichester Harbour. We also take part in the Nab Tower Race from the West Pole at the entrance to Chichester Harbour, around the Nab and back, to raise money for St Wilfrids' Hospice in Chichester each year and, in doing so, raise about £5,000 Click here for a list of current Sunbeam Cowes Week website
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