It was both amazing and sad to discover the extent to which the general economic downturn has affected this year’s Monaco Classic Week event. With its origins in the early 1900s and revived in 1994 by Prince Albert ll of Monaco as a bi-annual venue, it immediately attracted a host of international participants. These folk arrived in the Principality on board a mouth-watering selection of classic sailing yachts, some well over 100 years old, while others trailered elegant steam launches and weekend river boats, not forgetting truly hairy, but small, racing hydroplanes beautifully formed in mahogany, with massive engines and equally massive exhaust notes. Then there were classic cars and motorbikes of similar eras and, at the last event in 2009, the original plus a replica of the airplane, in which Frenchman Louis Blériot made the first crossing of the English Channel by air, in both directions. Crew and owners of yachts and vehicles paraded in period dress and everyone present was there simply to create and soak up a glorious atmosphere of bygone times.
Although this year’s attendance was well down, the Monaco Yacht Club, as always, was an excellent host and made every effort to maintain the usual ambiance of yachting camaraderie. Dominating the event were the sailing yachts, who took advantage of the fine weather (not much wind on the first two days), to do a bit of racing and offer a splendid sight to spectators. Prominent among these were the delightful, historic, 14.94 metre gaff-cutter Partridge, celebrating 126 years since launching in 1885 and the pretty 19.35 metre gaff ketch Javelin from 1897. Slightly younger, 1899, is the fantastically agile gaff-cutter Bona Fide. A list of larger yachts included Cambria, the 1928, 41.15 metre Marconi cutter, the mighty 58 metre three mast topsail schooner Creole, 1927, and the gorgeous 61.5 metre Adix, a three mast gaff-schooner.
The ultimate in classic motor yachts present, was the magnificent 51 metre* R/S Eden_. First built in Bay City, Michigan by the Defoe Boat and Motor Works as *Janidore_ in 1930, she has a fascinating history culminating in a two-year restoration during 2006/7 by the present owner.
On Saturday, all competing sailboat crews got dressed-up in traditional rig, for a 'Concours d’Elegance' with a jury of experts presided over by Princess Beatriz de Orleans-Bourbon. The owner of Partridge particularly looked the part as a ‘real’ yachtsman in blue blazer, white flannels and a white-topped 'cheese-cutter'; very smart sir! Later, with ominous black clouds glowering from the back-drop of Mont Agel, but in brilliant warm sunshine, the little fleet went for a parade sail.
Sunday morning and that black cloud broke into torrential rain, providing uncomfortable conditions for the prize-giving and the start of the 'Trophée Grimaldi', which is the race to Cannes for the start of the ‘Panerai Series’ and marks the end of every Monaco Classic Week.