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  Annual Dinner and Prize-giving, 2012

Despite the forecast for a lot of snow later, 76 members and guests attended the annual dinner and prize-giving at our usual venue of the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Club in Lowestoft.† After an excellent meal, the Commodore, Margaret Kilner, spoke as follows:

"Believe it or not, even a year ago, it never occurred to me that I would be standing here tonight. After all, thereís nothing in my family background to suggest I was ever going to end up as commodore of a yacht club on the Norfolk Broads. We donít have an ancestral yacht that I grew up having family holidays on. I wasnít thrown into a dinghy before I could walk and left to get on with it. There are not even any wherrymen in my family tree Ė only bargemen on the Grand Union canal, in the Midlands.

I was born in Birmingham. I learnt to sail in a plastic dinghy, on a concrete pond, in the middle of the city. It once gloried in the name of Rotten Park Reservoir.

I can, however, claim a small drop of Norfolk blood. I had a great great great grandmother who was born in Swaffham. But I am the first to admit that the blood will have been considerably diluted over the last 200 years.

So my nearest claim to some sort of family history linking me with this part of the world is perhaps my grandparents who, back in the 50s, took a couple of boating holidays on the Broads. Motor boats, for sure, but you canít have everything. My grandfather kept a diary of these holidays, which I found interesting reading. It is a bit of a cross between Arthur Ransome and the Art of coarse sailing.

They travelled over from Birmingham by train, of course. Their boat was wooden. They slept under blankets. They arrived to find their groceries already on board Ė home delivery is nothing new, but I imagine this wasnít Tescos. Slightly trickier was buying milk, as this meant searching out the nearest farm each day and carrying the milk back to the boat in jugs.

Like many people who hire on the southern rivers, the first thing they did was go north. Here they struggled with many tacking yachts, especially on the narrow waters of the Thurne and the Ant, which caused my grandfather to write, with a certain amount of frustration, ďWe met several yachts tacking, which required some sense of judgement of distance and a capacity for mind-reading, since few yacht skippers gave any warning of their intentions.Ē

Canít think what he meant.

But perhaps they had cause to be wary of yachts, judging by the number of incidents they witnessed. At Horning they observed a yacht crewed by four girls smash into a dinghy, crushing it to matchwood against the quay. On Ranworth they saw a yacht run aground so hard that the mast broke. I know someone in this room who has done that, although not on Ranworth. My uncle had a vivid memory of standing on the bank at Ludham Bridge, watching a yacht under full sail coming upriver quite quickly, and rounding that last bend before the bridge in blissful ignorance...

Iíve had my own share of incidents over the years, of course. The oddest was wrapping an entire wooden dinghy round the keel, which affected the handling of the boat somewhat adversely. But my particular bete noir is St Olaves Bridge. If Bob had known this, I donít think he would ever have invited me to do the Round the Island race on his boat. Iíve been under that bridge sideways, backwards and occasionally forwards. Iíve bounced along moored boats, pierced the steel piling with the bowsprit, had the skipper bitten by a dog and got wedged underneath, breaking the tabernacle.

Iíve had a few incidents on White Rose too.

What all these anecdotes show is that some things never change over the years, although others do. The yachts themselves are basically the same, but bigger, taller, faster; and I think the standard of helmsmanship has improved accordingly. I suspect, however, that more than one crack helmsman, racing round Wroxham Broad, would quail at the idea of taking an engineless yacht through Yarmouth.

And I think this is one of the strengths of the Yare Sailing Club and the sort of racing we do. Not only do you need to be in the right place to start, to round the buoys efficiently, get the best out of your boat and crew; but you need a good dose of Broadsmanship Ė to be aware of the tide, to know how to make best use of the river, to know where the shallow bits are or, if you donít know where they are, how to use a quant. And of course, you also need to know how to get through Langley Woods without losing too much time.

We have other strengths as a club, not least our friendliness and this is something that we, as the committee, pride ourselves on. I can think of at least three non-members who came to one of our events last year and took the trouble to write afterwards, saying what a lovely time they had and how welcome we made them feel. What they donít know is that weíll be nice to anyone as long as they buy raffle tickets!

We welcome sailors of all abilities. We donít mind if you have never raced before, as long as you donít go round hitting other boats, or whether you are a crack helmsman Ė as long as you donít win ALL the prizes.

Anyway, talking of which, I think it is time I shut up and we got on with the prize-giving. So I would just like to finish by saying that, despite never really expecting to find myself here, I am honoured to be your Commodore and am looking forward to another successful year. I offer you the usual toast : to the Yare Sailing Club."

After a mention for two of our members who are currently unwell, John Tunwell and Ros Walker, the prize-giving kicked off with the Gordon Winterton Memorial Prize for the photographic competition.† Announced by our President, Joe Kilner and presented by Jonathan and Rosie Winterton, this went to David Stone for his photograph of the Dowsetts washing up on board Dragonfly.

Vice Commodore, Joe Farrow, then announced the winners of the club trophies.† As many winners were not present, this did not take too long!† He then handed back to the Commodore, who revealed that young Joe has won the Cocktail Shaker for his sterling efforts in navigating TOG to the Ribs of Beef during the Norwich Cruise.

The Luna Barometer went to Kelvin Halifax of Anne and Chris Sales of Kingfisher picked up both the Club Championship trophies.† Tina Sales then thanked the club for taking her husband away sailing so much, leaving her in peace to do the gardening.

Martin and Edward Smith did an impressive job selling over £200 worth of raffle tickets.† As usual these days, there were just three prizes.† The gin was won by Emily Johnston, the port by Mark Cassidy and the hamper by Zippy Wells-Dion.† The tombola also proved very popular, with a bit of a gambling frenzy towards the end as the number of tickets diminished, with some tempting prizes still up for grabs.

Unfortunately, the karaoke did not get much of a look in as many people left soon after the formal proceedings were over, due to the snowstorm happening outside producing worries about getting home.† A hardy few, including the three commodores present, stayed up rather later than the bar staff would have liked...

For some, a bracing walk along the snow covered seafront to the Oddfellows at Pakefield provided a pleasant way of rounding off the weekend on Sunday morning.

last edited on:  05/02/2012 at 17:46   by: The Editor