Saturday was rather a strange race. Eight boats entered, despite the blustery conditions, but a particularly ferocious gust immediately after the briefing caused the secretary to comment that it seemed like an afternoon for a beer and, on Anne, the wild antics of the boom as they tried to reef swept the skipper into the arms of his crew and prompted a sudden desire for vodka.
Ultimately, only May and Puck appeared for the first gun and the ebb tide kept both of them from making a good start, both being well short of the line at the signal. However, they fared better than the second start boats, none of whom were in sight when their gun went, despite Lucky Breeze making an earlier foray upriver. Modwena and Kingfisher persevered though and eventually made the start, albeit almost an hour late! Sadly, Kingfisher’s jib halyard then failed, putting an end to their racing, but Modwena, minus her earlier reef, romped around the course.
There was no real contest between the other two boats for first place, with May’s integral topsail, even reefed, being no match for the triple reefed Puck in the conditions. May was nearly 15 minutes faster round the course and easily left Puck in second place.
Sunday was pretty well just as windy, but without the really strong gusts and with some sunshine to make things seem better. This was reflected in the greater number of starters, with all but one of the nine entrants coming to the line for the passage race up to Beauchamp. Given that we were within the last hour of the flood tide, the slower boats were set off first to ensure they were not too handicapped by the conditions.
Although all the first start yachts were in the vicinity of the line at the gun, only Modwena was pointing the right way and consequently she got by far the best start and ultimately she held her position at the front to take line honours an hour later. Insh’allah clearly had jib issues, appearing at the start with her foresail in the water, hoisting it, then losing it again, before finally managing to get it to stay up. It was good to see her racing, but sadly she came to grief outside the Reedcutter at Cantley, tacking into a very windy corner (which moments earlier had seen Anne alarm the spectators as she heeled right over by the moored boats) and being unable to extricate herself. No damage done, but her race was over.
Meanwhile, on the leeward bank, Anne got a heavy gust and an indecisive motor boat, which combined to bring her into irons; followed by the inevitable sog into the leeward bank, from whence she was unable to extricate herself without assistance. In the same squally reach, May lost her jib, but was able to continue without it, troubled only by a period in irons in mid-river. This, however, aided Jessie May, who discovered that they seemed to sail faster without a jib, so they furled it and shot off upriver and into second place, leaving May well behind and nearly catching the runaway Modwena.
So, with both May and Modwena having a first place, all was to play for in the last race back downriver to Reedham. With the strong ebb tide and the wind blowing downriver everyone wisely stayed above the line prior to starting, but it was extraordinary how everyone now seemed to have decided jib-less was the way to go. The fast boats, May, Jessie May and Anne were set off first, and most of the second start crossed the line in close company, save for the hapless Pandora who got in a bit of a mainsheet muddle and could not immediately bear away over the line.
A rain squall at Cantley did seem to suit the heavily reefed Pandora though and she charged down past the factory with a huge bone in her teeth, taking handfuls out of Puck and relegating the latter to last place. Perhaps it was the same squall that put Anne up the bank again further downriver, concluding a rather unhappy weekend for them. The combined efforts of outboard, quant, a man under the bow and the club boat at full stretch could not shift them an inch and no doubt the crew will be eternally grateful to the passing Sensation who smoothly pulled them out of their muddy trench.
Meanwhile, back at Reedham, no-one could decide whether Modwena had done enough to hold off May and when the results were calculated there were indeed only 25 seconds of corrected time to separate them. Commiserations to Modwena, but congratulations to May who, for the first time, were on the right side of a narrow win. In line with the weather all weekend, the trophy was presented during a rain shower, but then the sun came out.
As a footnote: this weekend has left nine yachts currently eligible for the Diamond Jubilee Trophy : Anne, Insh'allah, Jessie May, Kingfisher, May, Modwena, Pandora III, Puck and Shruff. All need to complete races at the two Cantley regattas to qualify. Everyone else will have to wait until next year to try again…
Full results in the usual place
Photographs can be seen