Right, let's see if I've got this, as I feel a need to vent my spleen...
1973; Caedmon joins the fleet at Portsmouth.
1983; The fleet at Portsmouth can no longer cope, so St Catherine/St Helen arrive. Caedmon is sent west to Lymington, being directly replaced by Helen. At that time she has a capacity of 76 cars, whereas Helen can take double this number.
2009; Caedmon is finally scrapped and replaced by Wight Light. By modern standards she could only take 48 cars, whereas the W-class can take 65.
2015; Helen is retired...and replaced with, say, Wight Light. Her 65 cars is less than Caedmon's 76 were in 1983, when the latter was deemed too small for the route. Despite this, and despite the massive increase in traffic, the W-class is considered a suitable replacement for a ship rwice her size, which in turn replaced a ship which STILL could carry more cars by the standards of the day!
I despair at Wightlink lately. I'm a frequent user of all three of their services and am probably an ideal customer - I travel frequently but live on the mainland, so am not eligible for Multilink discounts. I book online, always take the car, turn up promptly, always buy an overpriced Costa Coffee, and only expect them to accomodate my small Astra, which can be fitted anywhere. I'm also quite unlikely to defect, as living in London I find that Southampton has neither the convenience of Portsmouth and the A3, nor the attractiveness of Lymington and that crossing. Yet even I am starting to get frustrated.
Lymington to Yarmouth used to be a fast, efficient half-hour service when operated by the C-class. It's now getting worse and worse and this latest downgrade will probably finish it off.
Portsmouth to Ryde is also becoming a nuisance. The Ryders' open decks are pleasant, but the simple fact of the matter is it's supposed to be a high-speed service, and it just doesn't seem to be now. The waterjets were quicker, and as I recall Pam/Pat were faster still. I much prefer Hovertravel and use their service more often now, which is still very much an express, but it's of limited use if I'm meeting someone at Gunwharf Quays. Although the cost is negligible (assuming they still charge), I also object to paying to drive up Ryde Pier when I am also parking at the top at some expense anyway!
Portsmouth to Fishbourne - even that is slower, although I suspect this has as much to do with the underpowered and unwieldy Clare being unable to maintain the older Saints' speed as it does running costs. As many have commented, the standard of maintenance is clearly minimal and loading/unloading too slow, particularly in the case of the Clare. The older Saints are ideal for the route but are old ships and, like cars, need MORE maintenance to continue as they did in their prime, not less. The troublesome Clare is much newer but seems pretty unreliable and, being the biggest unit by far, causes the most issues.
Personally, I think Wightlink upgraded the wrong route. They should have spent their money on the eastern link back in 2008, rather than throwing away the "premier service" they managed to build up in the 80s and 90s. Two new ships there instead of the W-class to run alongside the Clare, and keep the Faith (pardon the pun) as backup. I know this would have meant the evergreen C-class carrying on for another ten years, and I know that (with the possible exception of Cenwulf) they were very tired, but they could surely have survived a bit longer in the same way the Saints are surviving now. Fishboune is the most important link, and perhaps they wouldn't have lost so much ground to RF if they'd done it this way round.