With a much better weather forecast this year than last, attendance at the Autumn Regatta was also correspondingly higher, with 19 yachts in total competing over the weekend. Happily, too, the forecast 2mph wind for Saturday morning turned out to be something a little breezier and, in fact, perfect for the Junior Race. The entry for this was up 300% on last year, with 6 yacht owners managing to find someone under 30 years old to helm for this race.
As promised, a simple 15 minute gate start was offered and a simple up and down course around two buoys, with three laps to be completed. All started within the time and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Joe Farrow spent the race lounging around on the foredeck, while his crew sailed the boat and Monty Farrar looked particularly at home on the helm of Farthing as they romped around the course. He was even happier to find he had won.
The perfect sailing conditions continued in the afternoon for the pursuit race, with the southerly direction meaning the usual tack against the tide was avoided and this made for a closer race than sometimes seen in the past. Stella Genesta set off first, soon followed by Corsair, flaunting a topsail and soon skipping into the lead. The remainder set off behind, ending, eventually with Maidie, who were on the water much earlier before their start than usual, but with much less idea of when they were actually due to start...
Meanwhile, Sabrina 2 was gobbling up the fleet and emerged at the front well before the finish time, proceeding to stretch her lead to the point where the OOD left them to get on with it and concentrated on determining second place. This was much more exciting!
With just a few minutes to go, Corsair was nervously holding her place in front of the chasing pack, but Pandora 3 was inching ever closer and, behind her, were Farthing, Alice Rose and Melinda, three abreast across the river and battling to get ahead. With a mere 30 seconds to go, Pandora finally caught Corsair to take second place; Melinda pulled ahead to take fourth place from Alice Rose in fifth and Farthing, who at one point looked as if they might manage second place, had to be content with sixth. Only just behind them, Wandering Rose and Tinkerbell were so close that it was hard to see which bowsprit was ahead, but the latter took seventh place by mere inches.
A record-breaking 46 members and guests then adjourned to the Reedcutter for a hearty meal, some good ale and the usual erudite conversation. They woke to another sunny day, with a fresh north westerly breeze: perfect sailing conditions again.
In the interest of giving the faster boats a longer sail and being able to control the length of the race in a more manageable way, the OOD took the not entirely popular decision to set the slower yachts off first on a long course up to Beauchamp, before returning to a bottom mark just below the factory and then back to the finish line. Many enjoyed this longer course and it cannot have disadvantaged the last start of the four faster yachts too much, as they took the first three places, with Farthing coming out as the winner from Maidie and Wandering Rose.
The shorter afternoon course took competitors downriver to Hardley Mill, after having rounded a top mark towards Langley, and then back to finish on a shortened course. Unhappily, after the first few yachts had finished, the wind dropped out, greatly disadvantaging the rest of the fleet, as the ebb tide set in, and leaving Maidie, Melinda and Farthing to take the top three places, in that order.
Courtesy of Mike Barnes, there was a new trophy for this weekend, in memory of John Mann, skipper of the Bonito, donated by his family. This was to be awarded for boats built before 1940 with all three races to count. As a slight incident in the pursuit race had forced Maidie to retire, this meant she was outscored by Pandora III and the winner, Sabrina 2. Discarding a result to decide the overall winner and holder of the Nelson Trophy did go in Maidie’s favour though, with her first and second places on Sunday outweighing Farthing’s first and third for the weekend.
The Diamond Jubilee Trophy for the best six results from Reedham and both Cantley Regattas is also awarded at this event. Five boats qualified this year: Stella Genesta and Pandora III brought up the rear, Melinda scored 19 points and Alice Rose and Sabrina 2 tied with 14 points apiece. With the advantage of more first places, the tie was broken in favour of Alice Rose and her year-long guest helm, Steve Burton.