How many times in your life do you get invited to sail onboard a Contessa 26 - otherwise acclaimed as one of the top British classic sailboats?
For sure, the boat hopper that I am was not going to let this one pass by. I had told Jo I was a novice. That did not seem to phase her in the least and straight off the Lymington pontoon, she put me on the tiller with instructions to motor-sail close to starboard to let the ferry get past! And off she went fore to rig for a spinnaker…Amazing, the girl’s used to sail Sulali on her own, so off she goes left right and centre with a big grin on her face sorting all the bits and pieces. No fuss, just get on with it and happy days!
We reached Cowes in no time at all, and as we got to the top of the Medina, the rally was already going strong. Organiser David Houlton had forewarned the harbour master of six boats. And victim of his own success, we were one short of a dozen! I was hoping to get acquainted with these wonderful sailboats over the week-end, and so I did. I was amazed at how superbly welcoming everyone was, having me onboard for a good look around.
So off I hopped for a tour of Red Dragon sailed by two kind-hearted siblings, who had raced her to victory in the Round the Island race this year. Then I was given a warm welcome aboard Me-Mo and through the conversations glimpsed at the impressive voyages of the Lindsey couple. And so I returned onto Jo’s lovely Sulali with plenty to compare and contrast.
Over a warm meal the little Co 26 family shared countless tales and it was clear that none would swap there boats for any other in the world. Yes, you had to make do with a cosy and somewhat less comfortable interior. And all had over the years put more money in the boat than they had originally paid for it, changing everything that needed replacing over time. But all were unanimous: this one was a stylish boat they would only relinquish when the time to hang the sea boots would come.
Sailing Sulali back to Lymington was lively with 25 knots on the nose, two wet girls and a dog that knows how to tack. Bless Jo-Jo, she does not sheet in, but the infallible four legged crew does alter side, tail wagging!
The love of Co 26 was definitely contagious. And for me one Class Association member summed it up nicely: ‘I chose this boat for me, not because I was a good sailor, but because she was.’
Jo, thank you so much for this really special week-end and everyone in the fleet for making this an even more memorable rally.