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29 July 2005, 02:53 pm
VIPs Drop Anchor To Mark The Start
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Skandia Cowes Week 2005
Cowes, Isle of Wight, Great Britain

A unique celebration takes place in Cowes today - Friday 29 July - to mark the start of the 179th edition of Skandia Cowes Week tomorrow, Saturday 30 July. Sailing in to Cowes at the helm of the legendary and newly restored Gipsy Moth IV to officially open the 2005 Regatta at 1100 hours local time is Dame Ellen MACARTHUR (GBR), accompanied by Sir Francis's son, Giles CHICHESTER MEP, who is also celebrating his birthday today.
On accepting the invitation to officially launch this year's Event, MACARTHUR commented, 'I am very honoured to be able to sail Gipsy Moth IV into Cowes for the start of Skandia Cowes Week. It is fantastic to see her back out on the water in her full glory - Sir Francis CHICHESTER would be very proud. Hopefully, it will allow many other generations to learn about her past and share in her future.'

Courtesy of her new owners, the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA), visitors to Skandia Cowes Week can for the first time since the Gipsy Moth re-launch have full access to this famous craft. Gipsy Moth is based in Cowes Yacht Haven throughout Skandia Cowes Week and is available for viewing on the dock between 0800 and 1100 each morning and from 1500 onwards daily.

Accompanying the vessel is a mobile exhibition unit where visitors can view Gipsy Moth IV memorabilia, purchase project merchandise as well as speak to members of the project team about the restoration and future plans for the yacht's second circumnavigation, starting in September.

Cowes Week's title sponsor Skandia is also a Classic Premium Partner of Gipsy Moth IV whose Premier Partner is the Isle of Wight. 'Gipsy Moth is an icon for offshore sailing and has to be Britain's most famous small yacht,' says Tim SEWELL, Skandia's sponsorship manager. 'Becoming one of her principal supporters is something we are proud to do and we are looking forward to seeing her sail again in all her glory.'

The regatta organizers, Cowes Combined Clubs (CCC), are anticipating a record entry list by close of play today and there is a significantly larger international contingent than seen in previous years. There are 1,029 entries in total signed up thus far and eleven countries are represented at this year's regatta with 48 international entries from as far afield as Australia, Hong Kong and the USA; there is also a very strong European contingent.

Skandia - Grant WHARINGTON's 30m Super Maxi is the largest boat entered in this year's regatta. This Australian entry is currently one of the most famous and fastest yachts in the world. It won most major races in the Far East and Australia during 2003 and 2004, including line honours in the 2003 Sydney to Hobart race.

It has had a multi-million pound refit which has made it faster than ever and it will begin the next phase of its racing history in Europe, with Skandia Cowes Week and the Fastnet being the highlights in its sailing calendar.

Quarterback, entered by David MITCHELL is the smallest boat entered this year. The 6.3 metre Backman 21 was the last boat built by Dave OVINGTON before his untimely death earlier this year. MITCHELL commented, 'We may be small but we do pack some punch!'

The youngest skipper entered is 15 year old Carl MURPHY on Cariad NI. One entry in the Sunbeam class, Dainty, has been racing at Cowes Week since 1923 and the oldest boat entered in this year's regatta is Mikado, a 12.55m Clyde Linear 30 built in 1904.

Peta Stuart-Hunt. Image, Gipsy Moth IV:© Barry Pickthall/PPL
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