LONDON — Sailing enthusiasts in Falmouth and Dartmouth, off England’s southwestern coast, will have had a visual — and nostalgic — treat this week, in the form of a new classic yacht regatta that is running across the English Channel to France.
The inaugural Richard Mille Cup, which began Sunday and runs through June 25, features 11 yachts dating from the late 19th century to the late 1930s.
Inspired by sailing regattas that were held before World War II, the race “is a human adventure but also an aesthetic and emotional one,” Mr. Mille, the watch company’s founder, said at a news conference in Paris last month.
The race started in the port of Falmouth, England, and ends at Le Havre in France, with stops at four landmarks: the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, the Royal Dart Yacht Club, the Royal Yacht Squadron and, finally, at the Société des Régates du Havre.
The boats compete in two categories: schooner and cutter. To be eligible, the yachts must have been built before 1939 or be faithful replicas.
The race combines offshore passage races and inshore day races. “We hope this makes it a diverse challenge and appeals to more boats,” the organizer of the Richard Mille Cup, William Collier, said at the news conference.
Participants in the invitation-only event will compete not for prize money but for a meter-tall trophy created by the storied British jeweler Garrard, which made the first America’s Cup sailing trophy in the mid-19th century as well as the sapphire engagement ring once worn by Diana, Princess of Wales and now worn by Catherine, Princess of Wales.
The choice of the English Channel, and its notably challenging environment, was a deliberate choice for the event’s location. The idea, Mr. Mille said, was to move away from the “glamorous cocktail evenings” that are typically associated with sailing regattas in the Mediterranean.
“We are looking for rough conditions, authentic conditions,” he said. “For us, it was very important to get back to the original context of classic sailing.”
The Swiss watchmaker is a longtime partner of various classic car events, but this is one of the brand’s first ventures into classic sailing. (Last year, the company became an official sponsor of the Monaco Yacht Show, and for more than a decade it has hosted a modern sailing regatta in St. Barthélemy.)
The Richard Mille Cup won’t be entirely stuck in the past, however.
The watchmaker has a presence in the race via Team Fife, which features a fleet of three vintage yachts including Moonbeam IV, which is owned by Mr. Mille. Built in 1914, the Moonbeam IV won the prestigious British King’s Cup in 1920 and 1923, and it is now being skippered by a woman, Marianne Lebleu, with a mainly female crew.
Meanwhile, a smaller Moonbeam vessel (not owned by Mr. Mille) features a crew of sailors under 30.
“Usually the skippers are quite old, but we decided we wanted to change that — and didn’t want to see gray hair all over,” Benoit Couturier, Team Fife’s manager, told reporters. “It changes the whole dynamic of the project.”