Gladiator prevails against the odds
Cowes, England - 31st July, 2015
It was a gathering not previously seen in the yachting world. Over 25 yacht clubs from around the globe, invited to celebrate the 200th birthday of the revered Royal Yacht Squadron with a regatta that brought together almost 200 yachts old and new, big and small in the waters off Cowes, England.
In the elite IRC1 class, eleven teams battled for supremacy over five days of racing that saw sailing conditions from "all four seasons", according to one veteran.
Tony Langley's Gladiator powers to victory in the elite IRC1 class at the Royal Yacht Squadron Bicentenary Regatta.
Day one was cancelled due to gales, by day two the wind had abated sufficiently to race - just. The J class fleet elected to stay in port.
Hot favourite in IRC1, Bella Mente, took first blood on day two with a convincing win over the 22 mile course from fellow American boat, Rambler, recently arrived from Newport RI after completing the Transatlantic Race. The Gladiator limped home with a torn mainsail to finish fifth, that only possible due to a strong downwind start and first leg.
Day three witnessed the entire fleet circumnavigate the Isle of Wight, Gladiator taking victory over the classic 52 mile course with fellow TP52 yacht, Sorcha, pushing Bella Mente back into third position.
Day four brought a beautiful English summer's day and racing in the western Solent, the boats starting in a perfect 10 knots of breeze. Gladiator took first place by expertly playing wind shifts and tide and cleverly placing the Dutch 52 footer, Tonnerre, in between to push Bella Mente back into fourth position, going into the final day on even points with the Americans.
With all to play for on the final day five, a delayed start saw the entire IRC fleet sent west once again, this time in light and fluky conditions, while the magnificent J Class boats, Valsheda, Ranger and Lionheart, graced the eastern Solent towards Portsmouth in slightly better breeze.
J Class yachts – Lionheart (JH1), Velsheda (JK7) and Ranger (J5) gracing the eastern Solent towards Portsmouth
Some boats, unable to stem the building tide, resorted to anchoring until a sea breeze developed early in the afternoon. The Gladiator team elected to play the treacherously shallow and relatively tide free island shore while Bella Mente headed north to the mainland shore. The Gladiator's local knowledge paid off and the team won the day by about two minutes on corrected time to take overall victory in class IRC1.
In class IRC1A it was an even closer finish to the week with Sir Keith Mills' Kerr 42, Invictus, losing out to the Irish Kerr 39, Antix, by just two seconds on corrected time in the final race to finish second overall.
Mr Tony Langley, Gladiator owner and helmsman, receives the 1920 Kings Cup from Sir Ben Ainslie. Bernard and Will Langley (left & right) were part of Gladiator's mainly amateur crew.
Sir Ben Ainslie, Britain's best known sailor and the most successful Olympian ever, who is presently challenging for oldest trophy in sport, the Americas Cup presented the trophies. Speaking on the lawns of the Royal Yacht Squadron after receiving the spectacular 1920 King's Cup trophy from Sir Ben, Gladiator owner and helmsman, Tony Langley, said:
"It has been a remarkable week of close racing, particularly considering the variety of courses we have sailed in everything between three and thirty knots [of wind]. I am particularly proud that we managed to secure this win with a mainly amateur team on our home waters in this, the [Royal Yacht] Squadron's 200th anniversary year."