Griff’s Diary from Antibes June 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

Antibes regatta.

It feels years since I have been along this quay and through this gate in the big walls of Antibes into the old town. It all came back. We took the airport bus, through one of the ugliest bits of coastal Europe, stopped on an upper level and hauled ourselves across the funny bridge above the railway. Don’t take the taxi from the airport. The last time we did, the meter clicked into place at eighty euros. The South of France is not seedy. It’s just directly rapacious. It won’t have got cheaper over three years. That’s it. Three years it was. Then we stayed in some flowery place too far away. Now, we had a nice tower to live in, right by the traffic jam into the town. We owners headed up to the attic – was it to get as far way as possible from the crew? No, no. Surely not. It was six flights and a rickety ladder up to no curtains and an ersatz bathroom perched on a set of spiral stairs that went nowhere. We had a great view of the regatta and all the classics lined up, and we could hear every single note from the bands until after midnight.

Usual crowd. It was like when I used to regularly play poker at the Groucho. Years passed and I went back. Exactly the same blokes were at the bar. “Want a game of poker?” they said – but immediately they saw me. And only when they saw me. Yep. “Want a yacht race?” OK. So, it’s sailing races again then is it? Passing Inigo from Halloween. Jonno from Chinook, (latterly of Rowdy). Pelham, Chris. Same boats. Kelpie. White Wings. Comet. Manitou. And some new ones too, but seemingly sailed by the same people. We got aboard Serenade later in the week. Charming owner. Member of the Gstad Yacht Club. This was the boat that encouraged Humphrey Bogart to take up sailing and buy Santana. It was owned by a celebrity violinist. And then by Za Za Gabor. Meanwhile Enterprise has been refashioned after her metal main mast broke and has come back all polished up with her deck straightened and a new set of huge sails. She used only to be in Spain, but now with some Swedish chaps from the consortium that owned Manitou, apparently, all aboard and confusingly dressed in the same dark blue kit with different logos all over it, she has arrived to sail faster than ever. “She’s all very light inside” her skipper told me. Bah. We were tied up next to her. And sometimes next to Manitou, depending on who got the wrong anchor line. Seb was helming Manitou. We weren’t even in their class but he wouldn’t let us pass without forcing us up. Baffling. I think this was because we beat them convincingly three times – once across the line. Maybe twice. But five S and S yawls were present; Stormy, Skylark, Comet, Argyll, Enterprise and Manitou. Skylark, predictably like a rocket.

We actually didn’t have any kit except five white shirts, left behind from Antibes in 2014 when Will’s dad took her. So we bought some t-shirts. And have kept to black shorts. Black and white. No colour photography when this boat was commissioned. Alex has been working on the varnishing and the mastic and the rudder. All now tip top – excellent. The rudder is a huge improvement. She sits very neatly. And almost seems to be prepared to follow a course. We unfurled a new asymmetric too. I am not sure when this was made. I think it must be the one we ordered to replace the burst jobbies for the Fastnet, but weren’t allowed to use because we forgot to register it. But we are better in light airs. We lost the 160, which is so blown that it isn’t really doing any business for us, and went out training with the 150 instead. It’s a neat sail and still has its shape. Alex has taken some tucks in the main. We are getting measured for a new main and genoa.

There was hardly any wind promised all week. So a few knots the first day felt quite breezy. The époque Marconi (pre 1950) were divided into three according to rating, not size. Leonore went up to the big boats, despite being tiny. We were left to fight it out with some small, lighter, mast-head rigged barques like White Wings. We beat her on the first day but couldn’t catch Skylark or her thereafter. Nonetheless really good starts, helpful tactics from Pete Copsey, and in the first race we got the wind by staying close in to the shore. We came second. The second day was equally difficult and we followed the same pattern, just a little bit slow coming down with the wind behind us to the finish and though we finished ahead of a boat called Fjord III she beat us on corrected time and we were fourth, but by only twenty two seconds.

So obviously we had to pull something out of the bag in the third race and after some excellent tactics and a great start we were surprised to find ourselves lagging behind with Comet and Stormy Weather, two boats we had hardly seen in the first two races at all. On the first down-wind leg we did a snazzy, correct manoeuvre with the asymmetric – staying high and heating up in low pressure. We followed this with a gybe to the mark. It meant that we overtook both. However, (there is often one of these), we went right out instead of sticking to the shore and lost any lead. Intent on catching Skylark and White Wings on the last mark, we decided to go for another blisteringly clever approach – the opposite. We thought we could get into a good sea breeze near the shore. Naturally enough, when we tacked back to the buoy, we found ourselves behind again. But we made it up in the final down-wind leg and overtook Stormy. It wasn’t enough. We felt the wind dropping. We could see wind out to port. We gybed across to it and the wind where we had just been, picked up. We came in seventh. That was our discard. We hoped.

The final race was a joy. Alex helmed. A great start, along the line, towards the pin, in light wind, flat seas. He got us to the off-set mark first ahead of all rivals including Skylark. We smooched down on the down-wind leg, went wide again on the outside retaining speed and gybed in to reach the mark ahead of the down-winders and then tacked away immediately to stay close to the shore, but apparently, because there had been a shift, there was now more wind off-shore. So the rest of the fleet stood on a bit longer, our wonderful smooth execution was not as wonderful as it should have been. White Wings and Skylark were very close at the line. We crossed hard on their heels. But of course we give them time anyway. White Wings won.

But third. We were actually on the podium clutching a tin plate. Though we were nearly late for that.

We have decided to go for Imperia and Cannes too. Looks like we have left it too late to get into St Tropez this year.


This summer ARGYLL is racing in the Channel against modern yachts, in qualifiers, and then the Fastnet, with great results so far:

RORC Cowes-Dinard-St Malo Race July 10th:

ARGYLL won the IRC4 class (44 yachts) – first over the line and on corrected time (by 37 minutes).

Fourth overall out of 154 IRC yachts (almost all modern yachts).

First British boat (the top 3 were all French)

The RORC website posted “There were notable performances right through the fleet, none more so than Griff Rhys Jones’ British S&S 57′ classic yawl, ARGYLL, which was the winner of the IRC Four and 4th overall.”

RORC Morgan Cup June 19th:

ARGYLL fourth in class.  Fifteenth overall (out of 103).


Griff reports from Antigua Races May 2015

We had a very good time in Antigua. Argyll sailed beautifully. She loves the stay- sail-yankee rig and she loves being sailed in a good constant breeze. They may not sound much, but she was out-performing everybody else and, following on from Alex’s stunning performance crossing the Atlantic, she was to all intents and purposes first in three out of the four races, in her class in Antigua. Alas and alack, she was disqualified from the first of those. Hum. Forty five minutes before her race for crossing the start line. A silly mistake, but she fought back to a creditable third place overall. And we beat Blue Peter even with our own self-imposed handicap. In the last race we actually got away from Blue Peter, and rounded the first and second marks ahead of her and she gave us hours of time. It was all very gratifying. We had a fabulous time and proved that she is up there with a real fighting chance in ocean conditions.
We had regulars Andrea and Simon to help. With Sandy and Steve Chesney in the cockpit, but otherwise we had a wandering crew. I don’t mean that they were deficient I mean that many were aboard for one race. Kate Drum joined us and then flew back almost immediately. We had a couple of help-mates from the Picton Castle. Phil, Dick Long and J.J. came aboard for the duration, but Raoul was there for one, Gordon for two and Tim and Jenny for one, so there was a lot of picking up and learning on the job, but terrific performance and great handling.
Alex has taken her off to St Marten and then to St Thomas for shipping back. She should arrive in Southampton around May 26th.

Result for the Transat Race to the Caribbean! Argyll comes in second place only beaten by a schooner three times her size! Arrived 22 Jan in Martinique after terrific race. Read below for the sailors’ reports.

APRIL 2015 - Argyll is about to sail in the Antigua Classics.  We will update here for progress and news.  She will be returning to England in late May to begin qualifying races for the Fastnet through July and August.

ARGYLL will be making her appearance in the Mediterranean regattas in September.


News from our French Sailors crossing the Atlantic


After this introduction to muscular matters, we approach the 20th W and the sea begins to order! Last night was a bit chaotic but it was fast anyway. We have had many operations from the start, today storage, eating, sleeping! All is well, Argyll is in perfect condition. The sky is cloudy and 25knots, 2.5/ 3m sea. We think of all the good times spent with you and the welcome of Lanzarote! Hugs – Sabine, Paola, Laurence, Remi, Alex, Simon, Emmanuel


Hello everyone, here the sea has become really handy. We have all the canvas and we’re surfing at 12 knots. We look forward to the rankings. Also last night we were able to recover, all a little well shaken those early days! The temperature rises and we have high morale as the race becomes interesting! The entire team welcomes you.


Some news from the front! This morning it is downright good, I’m happy with our position and especially the crew who operated the boat to the max last night! Until then we had a little delay after some minor problems, such as a spinnaker that breaks, and the channels are a problem, now all tapping passages are perfect and we can run! We are regularly 9 knots with peaks of 11 knots, everyone will be keen to beat the 17.1 there 24 hours! We sailed with 20 knots of wind in a beautiful sea formed with a blue sky with lots of little splendid cumulus!!!


Hi everyone, the boat is abuzz, everybody is at work together from sewing to carpentry! The conditions were harsh tonight with squalls and changes in direction and strength all the time. Despite this, a good mood prevails on board and it is a pleasure to see them work like that! For my part I gnaw at my restraints, but within an hour we’ll deliver coal! Another day or two before putting some South in our West to find a little more heat!We await rankings with the hope to still be in the game! - Sabine & Team


“Hello. We’re enjoying splendid weather, no squalls, and a twenty-knot wind! We’re playing catch-up on a boat which is sailing fast and on course! We’re going to sleep as much as we can over the next couple of days so we’ll be on top form for the final third of the race. It was hot this morning, water at 23.5°C! We’ve just passed close to a container ship and some flying fish, one landing on the deck. In short, it’s quiet, and the boat is eating up the miles! We’ll be seeing you soon. We should arrive on the 23rd and everyone aboard is placing their bets! There it is, I wish you all a great time. Argyll”

Simon Picard, Argyll

“Hello boys and girls. After a ten days of lively weather, tacking and gybing, and DIY repairs of all kinds… Argyll is for the time being in third place, jogging along in light winds, but our trajectory is a good one and allowing us to log decent hourly runs. We’ve had the kite up for the last twenty-four hours, on a beam reach… averaging about 8 knots… Fifty or so dolphins came out to meet us this afternoon and swam alongside us for quite a while… (Happy birthday Jonathan, you lucky boy, seeing killer whales for your 25th). We spent the day in rest and recuperation mode. We did a bit of sewing too… But we’ve got a specialist on board called Paola… I thoroughly recommend you give her website a look at As for me, I repaired the spinnaker pole which broke at the mast end… when a brace (ED: windward spinnaker sheet) parted. We were lucky there wasn’t greater damage done when it popped… We’ve christened our pole ‘Achilles’ because we’d like to see it hold out until the end of the race… As you might have guessed, it could be the heel that causes our downfall… Since that fateful technical failing we’ve been doubling up on everything, belt and braces sailing, and haven’t had any more mishaps. As things stand today, Argyll has the weapons to give the others a run for their money… Our northerly position could be a help… I admire the work Manu’s been doing at the chart table, especially the tactics… We’re always at the right place where the boat can perform to the best of her ability… Without doubt it’s thanks to our great age and accumulated experience (nearly forty transatlantic crossings with Argyll…). We’re preparing for the final days of this edition of the Panerai Transat Classique, we’re on top form and have an overwhelming desire to do well. All the crew, Sabine, Laurence, Paola, Rémi, Alex, Manu and Simon, wish our competitors well and congratulate them for their exceptional exploits on the ocean.

Simon, sailor and sculptor of bespoke furniture, N° 1 aboard Argyll. For those who don’t know me yet, take a look at my professional page at




We are delighted to announce that 2015 has begun with Argyll racing from Lanzarote to Martinique in the Caribbean in the company of some of the most beautiful classic yachts in the world.  Our skipper Alex Bourdessoule is accompanied by an excellent French crew headed by Sabine Masquellier.  They are due to arrive early February.  Follow her success on and read the daily reports from these audacious sailors.  Bon Voyage!

May 11th 2014 Argyll WINS Coupe des Dames!

A great start to the season for Argyll.  The Ladies Race has just finished in St Tropez and Argyll fought and won a tough regatta, beating off stiff competition particularly from Manitou.  Expertly helmed by Madeline Paterson, with her brilliant crew, some of them new to classic yacht racing. The last race on Sunday gusting at 9.35 knots and the team squeezed every inch out of Argyll. First in Class and First Overall!  Congratulations to Kate Searles and her fearless team including our wonderful skipper Alexis (honorary male participant).  Visit our Facebook page for great photos.

Grim last day in Cannes 26 Sept

A wearying race.  We started an hour later and there was goodish breeze.  We had the 165 big genoa up, and calculated correctly that the best position was at the pin end, so after jilling about a bit, we sailed ourselves back to beyond the pin, passing it along the line, heading towards the committee boat, shortly after the ten minute call.  It was a simple enough calculation.  And we were doing excellently, but we turned too early.  WE NEEDED TO WAIT ANOTHER THIRTY SECONDS. That’s what we needed to do  But we didn’t, and given the excitement of the start and all that neediness, we just tacked too early, sped back down towards the pin, with a perfect starting line of boats spread along the whole line, but too early and we had someone else underneath us and we were pushed over.  Alex says we came back down .  I didn’t even know the thing had been an issue until the end of the affair.  But we took a huge penalty, not that it would have made a big difference.  it would have been tragic if we had done well, but that was not to be.  Our start was shitty, but Alex recovered well.  We got to the offset mark, alongside Mercury and Skylark, in fact a little ahead  We went low, setting the mizzen stay, but not getting it trimmed properly.  It was backing the mizzen and we pulled that up and down instead of easing off the sheet, which would have sorted us.  They both headed high and then after a while as the wind filled in, they both set asymetrics.  It was extremely tight for them, but we should have been able to control them (had we been trimmed properly, of course), by luffing them or coming above them, given that we were now ninety degrees to the wind and had the slight advantage in position, but Mercury completely overlapped us at the mark so we had to give them room, we had to take a wide arc into the hardening up, and we had to stay underneath her on the next tack, a position we didn’t seem to be able to get out of.  There was wind of about ten knots but not enough for us to escape from Mercury.  Skylark, lagging, tacked early and seemed to be able to get up, but we either wanted Mercury to tack first so that we could go over them, or now, having lost Skylark, we need to tack first and sneak under their arse, but we dithered and as we went to go they saw us and so did they, and the next leg was spent in her wake, though quite honestly with enough power to stay with her and Skylark to the next mark on this zig-zag course.  It was the log stretch that followed, a solid close reach  to the distant mark just off the cliffs to the west of Cannes, that got us.  There were two lines of boats stretching away from the mark, one seemed to be heading ever lower and the other ever higher, but as we went on we realised that we had settled into the lower level.  Chasing after Skylark, who now increased her lead by going very low and opening her sails, we headed on a close reach into a hole.  There was little wind.  The sea was hopelessly choppy and stopping the boat.  We should have tacked out and gone over to join the upper line of boats.  In fact we should have stood on the mark and got out further at the very beginning.  But we were dogged and stayed rocking in this ghastly hole, assuming that virtue would pay off, but there was no wind shift and no reward.  We took the leg on one long close reach, accurate but very, very slow  One by one other boats peeled off form the lower area and tacked across out to sea to seek the wind beyond the bay, but we kept going.  It was the shortest distance, but it took the longest time.  Mercury, who went first to cross even further out to sea, then tacked back and made the yellow-coned marker way ahead of us. (Deeply unsatisfying since we have been beating her so successfully in all the races this season).  Skylark had hoped to find wind by the cliffs, but there was nothing there  She tacked out too, and we watched her pass out to sea some two minutes ahead of us.  But we had the lay, so we kept going.  Our tack when we finally took it was a short leg, far shorter than any of the tacks that our rivals had taken, but it was slow, slow, slow.  They had all got there first.  They all got that breeze out there and they all soared away.  It was now a drag race.  The wind picked up and the boats hunkered down, as if you had turned a corner into a wind tunnel.  It was the edge of this tunnel that the oncoming boats had been exploiting.  So much so that Mercury, alongside whom we had sailed much of the first quarter of the race took a second  As for us, we now sailed back at respectable speed, the whole route back took about a tenth of the time of the drag out. Meaningless to us, since we had taken a whacking penalty on top our our lousy performance and ended thirteenth.  Not been there for a while.  That will have to be our discard, then.  I was rather hoping we would get hold of fifth.  The only consolation was that the peculiar wind tunnels seemed to turn the race on its head.  So none of the main boys did well.  Skylark took a sixth.  We are still in fourth place.

Cannes – Sept 25th – Griff’s breathless account

Wednesday was a good race.  Lots of wind.  Alex helmed.  Excellent, bounding start, just behind Skylark at the committee boat end, but Skylark was struggling not to go over the line, spilling wind and losing speed, and we were charged up.  Yes.  She tacked away early.  We stayed longer on course to the offset, or just until we went a little under a twelve meter and decided to get free, making a shorter tack than Skylark and passing that first buoy with Skylark and Manitou in pursuit, though, with twenty knots and her extra waterline length, Manitou charged on to overtake us just before the first proper mark.  It was a simple tack and a close haul down to the further shore in the west.  But there were a lot of boats all trying to do it at the same time.  Like yesterday’s race, there was no beating leg.  It was a simple drag race.  Leonore had been alongside us all the way on the second tack and engaged in a satisfying luffing match with Manitou, but she stayed under our lee for pretty much the whole of the second leg now, with Manitou ahead but not really gaining a huge amount.  However at the first mark, the two of them had engaged in a lot of shouting and protests.  In fact Leonore protested Manitou twice with red flags up and down all over the place.  Meanwhile, Alex hauled us up very successfully from a touchy postion, soaring Argyll up, on every lift, then taking her down to build power and coming up again, and effectively powered us upwards to get to the second mark, except that, within yards, a Dragon, in another race altogether, came up on starboard, blocking our route.  We luffed and hovered and hoped he would tack once he had come under our bow, but he stood on and we had no alternative but throw ourselves around out of the luff and lose time recovering, before tacking again.  Manitou had cleared in one.  She shot away as she always does, on big-breeze downwind legs.  We set the smaller asymmetric for safety.  Probably correctly.  Leonore was now very close behind us, but split her spinnaker.  It was a remarkable feat to set another, almost before she lost momentum, and she stayed on our quarter wave, covering us successfully for another five minutes until she turned more sharply down-wind out to the mark, because she was running a spinnaker.  We sailed for speed, off set, took a big gybe and headed down to the further mark.  All this time, the big 21 on Skylark’s foresail, had steadfastly held to the rear.  We could now see her blue asymmetric behind.  Not a sight we often see.  The final turn, at the final mark, up-wind for a broad reach back to the line, meant that we could re-hoist the mizzen stay-sail, providing that kick we need, and we followed the rapidly accelerating Manitou.  I reckoned that she crossed about four minutes ahead of us.  In fact, it was three minutes fifty, but this was a fast race.  We were back by two pm.  On corrected time they had a minute on us and we had a minute on Skylark.  And that was it.  Three S&S yawls, one after the other, finishing the race in twenty knots of breeze, and leaving all those old rivals like Mercury, Marjatta, Oiseau de Feu behind.  It’s true that we have improved.  Three years ago we would have had prime position but Manitou and Skylark have arrived to contest it.  Oh, but I am missing out Rowdy.  They retired for some reason.  I have no doubt that they would have disturbed our placing.  There was considerable argy-bargy afterwards, with protests and disputes.  Leonore called on Alexis to support them, but so did Manitou.  Alexis says “he reported what happened” to the jury.  Ok.  This was enough to disqualify Manitou.  We took their first place.  We now have six points, because of the dismal fifth on the first day.  My guess though is that because all the positions shifted a lot in a high wind, we are now lying second.  The difficulty is discards.  The others can throw away their bad results.  But hey, so can we.  Today (Thursday) no wind, and a postponement.  Hot.

Cannes – Tues 24 Sept 2013 – 3pm

Well we are back now.  Moored up alongside Infanta and Tim Blackman’s mob.  Lovely race lovely weather.  Good start at the pin end, but the others, though they had to put in a tack, hit a breeze first.  A close reach to the first mark which we passed alongside Manitou.  Then down on a reach just trailing Skylark with a great hoist and a track that kept us out of the mess downwind.  We did well but had to drop and the leather protection jammed in the sheet block which provided a few hairy moments.  Another close reach.  Another mark.  Neither Manitou nor Skylark really got away and we used the mizzen stay to good effect.  On the last leg we should have done the same and we did for a bit.  But the boat was unbalanced.  We dropped it just as Skylark raised theirs and took off.  In fact we had had the big jib too strapped in.  So we have no idea where we came except that we didn’t beat Skylark.  She finished a minute ahead and we give her time.