A MILLENNIUM for the new millennium brought a big smile to the face of Stuart Quarrie yesterday. Entries for Skandia Life Cowes Week topped 1,000 for the first time yesterday and today the vast majority of them, split into 32 divisions, will be jostling each other as they begin a summer celebration of Britain at play which will also place the Solent at the centre of the yachting firmament. August will be blockbuster month which will go down in history.
If the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was looking for a peculiar barometer of economic confidence, he would find it in the number of boats being bought and raced. There has also been a dramatic growth in the number of yachts available for corporate charter; there are 40 Sunsail 36s racing every day and they are due to be replaced by 40 brand new 37s.
Quarrie, as the head of Cowes Combined Clubs, is the man with the enviable view from an office window overlooking the Solent, but with the unenviable task of co-ordinating 256 races in some of the trickiest tidal waters in northern Europe, knowing he is constantly at the mercy of the wind gods.
All the signs were that the opening couple of days, at least, should provide conditions not so testing that they have the rescue services wringing their hands and the repair yards rubbing theirs, but fresh enough to make the competitors feel that they have earned their early-evening libation to accompany stories of what might have been which make anglers look like puritan pessimists. And the oilskins may be given a work-out tomorrow.
In times gone by, the High Street would have been even more crowded as odd years saw the Admiral's Cup staged at the same time. This year it was planned for earlier in July and then unplanned as the world refused to turn up. Argument has raged over the whys and wherefores, but the Royal Ocean Racing Club has abandoned any thought of merging it with next year's World Championship of Offshore Sailing in Sardinia in September. Instead, the commodore, Peter Rutter, wants to hang on to the family silver and polish it back to a new life.
The pros used to complain that they were forced to share the water and facilities with the amateurs and the amateurs complained that they were overshadowed by the stars. …