Construction’s regatta in Cowes is a great opportunity to get sunstroke, eat raw meat and be tucked up in bed by 9pm with your landlady’s carrot cake
Contractors and consultants are now as likely to mark Cowes in their social diaries as Cannes. The annual September sailing shindig, the Little Britain Challenge Cup, is becoming the UK equivalent of the property schmoozefest MIPIM. Alright, the setting is slightly less glamorous, with more beer than Bolly, cheaper hotels (well, B&Bs), a deal more physical activity to undertake with brain damaging hangovers and (blessedly) fewer agents. But then, it’s all done for charity.

Since its inception in the late 1980s, the construction regatta has grown into one of the major events in the Cowes calendar; more than 200 boats and about 2000 yachties attended this year. It’s a chance for executives and lackeys to enjoy the sea breeze, top up their tans in the late summer sun (or, in my case, acquire 3rd-degree burns over face and neck) put their backs into a bit of winching and enjoy inebriated night-time fun. Not so different from MIPIM, then …

The weather was almost too good this year. Arriving Friday lunchtime, I was informed that the wind had died, leading to the cancellation of the day’s second race – which gave me the opportunity for a spin around the Solent on a speedboat. The boy racer in me took delight as the grinning maniac at the wheel revved the boat up to a stomach-churning 40 knots and played chicken with passing ferries.

Later, I was introduced to my sailing colleagues, several of whom were still wheeler-dealing on their mobiles – and causing a bit of phone envy in some quarters. “The only call I got today was from Percy, who’s looking after my folks’ house, to tell me their fountain’s broken,” one exec complained bitterly. “I’m supposed to be a captain of industry.”

Close by, a herd of sheepish gentlemen were waiting for mini-cabs to an evening of forbidden desire

Despite popping into a few local hostelries on Friday night, I was feeling fresh for a full day at sea on Saturday. Sadly, my shipmates were less chipper, leading to a sluggish start for our boat in the day’s race. Thankfully, we upped our game and came a creditable fifth in our class, largely due to my keeping out of everyone’s way. Please, no applause … oh, go on then.

Of course, the main social event at Little Britain is the Saturday night gala dinner in a giant marquee. This year it left most revellers distinctly underwhelmed. In fairness, catering for 2000 hungry sailors is always a challenge, but perhaps offering cold “terrine of red pepper and mozzarella” as a starter is making a rod for your own back. After that we were keenly anticipating the rack of lamb chef-d’oeuvre … until it came. It was rather, er, rare – well, uncooked – and there was a fashionable delay of 20 minutes between the arrival of meat and vegetables. Dinner was rounded off with lemon torte with a mint oil dressing that tasted remarkably like the terrine’s green pesto dressing. Perhaps because it was …

Our MC for the evening, Tim Clarke of Jongleurs Comedy Club, was clearly suffering from the uninspiring cuisine when he got to his feet. He lost the audience early on, aiming his bile inexplicably at one bemused guest on a nearby table, accusing him of being both grotesquely fat and ginger. The poor bloke turned out to be neither. A slow handclap rippled through the audience. “Oh f*** off,” Clarke quipped wittily and stormed out of the marquee, presumably straight to the ferry and the familiar territory of dirty old London. Splendid stuff.