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2nd July, 2016


Hardly any cruise vessels come to Portsmouth. I’m not sure why. Yes, it’s easier to get here by road but the arrival by sea is much nicer. This morning the sight of the impressive Spinnaker Tower greeted us. As we got through the breakwaters, Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory came into view together with other National Museum of the Royal Navy exhibits.

I didn’t have much time to enjoy the sights. The turning basin off our allocated spot was rather tight with only 30 meters to spare at each end of the vessel. However, with assistance of the local tugboat we swung the vessel round and were alongside.

The maiden call of Saga Sapphire attracted many visitors. I was privileged to meet the harbour master himself. We had a nice chat and exchanged plaques. Our collection is growing.

This day was a prelude to the main attraction of this cruise –the Isle of Wight race. In preparation this evening we had a very helpful briefing by Dennis Steele. He explained to all landlubbers on board what the race is all about and what to expect. Dennis was for many years a Vice Commodore of the Island Sailing Club and took part in the Round the Island Race many times. He also had a nice surprise for us. As the first cruise liner taking such an interest in the race, we were presented with a yacht club banner and the special tankard of the race. The same one that’s presented to all participating crews. What an honour.

The next morning we left harbour very early. It was already busy with yachts rushing to the start line. We quickly passed Cowes Haven and dropped anchor near Salt Mead Buoy. Our timing and position were perfect. The first wave (some of the fastest yachts around) crossed the start line and in no time were onto us. The tactical battle was taking place right in front of us and Dennis could hardly hide his excitement as he gave his live commentary. Shortly after the fastest trimarans (including the later winner Phaedo 3) rushed past us. Just when we thought we couldn’t be more impressed, the rest of the yachts moved through the starting line. Soon hundreds of yachts surrounded us. Not as fast as the professionals, but still very competitive, trying to get best position and clear wind. ‘Starboard!’shouts were everywhere.

Before the race, we had news that a yacht called “Saga”was taking part in the regatta. She has no connection whatsoever with our company. We thought it would be fun to ask our guests to keep an eye out for it and let us know if they spotted it. I decided to take part in the hunt as well. So far nobody else has claimed they saw it, but I did and have the photo to prove it!

Even if we’d wanted to we could not move from our position. The size of the armada was incredible and only once the bulk of them had passed our position could we heave the anchor and rush towards the finish line. We thought we might be there in time to see the fastest boats crossing the line. However, we could have not anticipated that this year the multihull race record would be broken. Phaedo 3 smashed it in an unbelievable two hours 23 minutes and 23 seconds –knocking 22 minutes off Sir Ben Ainsley’s record. She was across the finish line before we even completed heaving up our anchor!! What a race!

In this new position, our guest could sit and enjoy as the remaining yachts made their way to the finish line. This race isn’t for the faint hearted. Conditions today were rather extreme and the race was mostly against nature rather than man versus man. The organizers cancelled the less vulnerable classes. One yacht sank, several others were damaged, over a hundred gave up or required assistance. In my eyes, everyone that finished was a winner. Well done!

After all that excitement, this evening I had hosted my Cocktail party. I did not count, but I think we had nearly everyone in the Britannia Lounge. The partly was followed by a gala dinner and I had the absolute pleasure of hosting my table, with some special guests. Mrs Jane and Mr Donal Cox, our Diamond Club members, were kind enough to accept my invitation to my table this evening. Together with their friends, we spent a lovely evening chatting and laughing while enjoying delicious food by our Executive Chef George. I only wish there were more hours in the day!

Krzysztof Majdzinski

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.