It all began last September, sitting outside Coldham Hall after the Cecil Howard Race, when Tony Knights, newly elected Commodore of the RN&SYC, mused aloud about the possibility of inviting us to Lowestoft over the Jubilee weekend. We all thought it was a great idea and so he was committed....
So, eight months later, there we all were on a Saturday lunchtime, assembling at Oulton Broad for the passage through Mutford Lock and down to salt water. Once everyone had arrived, the yachts set off into the unknown...
Eventually, there were 16 river cruisers rafted up outside the clubhouse at Lowestoft, the yachts were dressed overall, crew members smartened themselves up and the weekend got into gear with the Commodore’s Pimms reception. Attended by 180 people, and followed by a dinner for over 140, this kicked off the celebrations in style.
Not so good on Sunday morning, with the yachts lifting gently to the swell, the rain hammering on the awnings and the wind whistling through the rigging. But somehow, after the briefing, it all seemed better: the rain had stopped and the wind had eased slightly; so reefs were tucked in, waterproofs donned and off we set.
The flotilla motoring through the lifted bridge collected a crowd of onlookers and as yachts emerged onto Lake Lothing and hoisted their sails, there was a sudden sense of, “Wow, we’re here and it’s great!” A small crowd watched from ASDA as the yachts circled for the start, trying to get the hang of the 5, 4, 1 starting system and all those flags and then we were off, with a beat to the first mark, and a run and a reach to the top two buoys, before tacking back.
Yes, it was exciting at times and a challenge coping with the wind shadows cast by the tall buildings and the large ships, when in between you were hit by big gusts of wind in the open sections, but it was fun. We were there and making history.
The heavy rain during the first race dampened the ardour of some, but the majority stayed and did both races, Anna clearly relished the conditions most and won both races, followed in second place by Kingfisher, who achieved this despite finding the mud and consistently attempting to miss sailing through the gate by the start line.
Then it was back to the club, where they had put the heating on – wonderful! – and the yachts were dressed overall again, glad rags brought out and we were off for another good social evening. The Green Wyverns present celebrated their 65th anniversary with a curry feast in the restaurant, preceded by a short speech from Jonathan Winterton and followed by the usual drinking in the bar until far too late.
Monday morning was more promising than the previous day, with sunshine and (temporarily) less wind. It had shifted to the north though, meaning a fast reaching course in both directions and a fair bit of broaching from those who had set their sail configurations before the wind picked up. Although the number of allcomers was down, there were more cruisers on the water, with some of those who hadn’t competed on Sunday venturing out for the first time.
Anna continued to do well, picking up a pair of second places, but the races were won by Kingfisher and Puck respectively. Times were tight in many cases, but especially so in the last race where only 35 seconds separated 1st and 5th.
Then it was back to the club for the prizegiving, where all competitors got an engraved commemorative glass tankard and six race trophies were handed out, mostly to Anna, but Kingfisher collected the “slow boat” overall and Sarah Winterton picked up the cocktail shaker on behalf of Force Four as best dressed overall. This also saw the first presentation of our new Diamond Jubilee Trophy, generously donated by Pippa Ryan.
Simon Miles then gave a speech of thanks on behalf of the GWYC and presented one of their burgees to our hosts. Margaret Kilner did the same on behalf of the YSC, following this with the presentation of a piece of commemorative engraved glassware to Tony Knights. If he hadn’t had his little idea back in the autumn, we would all have missed out on a very special weekend.
It remained only to spend some more money over the bar, then gather ourselves in the morning for the trip back through Lowestoft harbour (at which we were all old hands by now) and back through the lock, where some rounded things off with a final drink at Oulton Broad.
Thanks must be expressed to all at the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk who worked so hard to make this such a successful weekend, but also to the Lowestoft Harbour control and those at Oulton Broad and Mutford Lock, who assisted us in every way.
Boats present: Anna, Brigand, Corsair, Crystal (non-member), Dryad, Fair Lady, Farthing, Force Four, Goshawk, Jessie May, Kingfisher, May, Modwena, Privateer, Puck, Seabird, Shruff, Sloopy, Sparklet, Wisp