Class Captain, RHYC 2016 - Joe Caston
Over the past 4 years we’ve seen a steady and surprising resurgence of the Wayfarer fleet at RHYC. We now have club competitors sailing in the annual Nationals, and this year will see 2 boats off to Holland for the Worlds. You can be sure to find other Wayfarers racing on most Sundays between April and Boxing Day, as well as most Wednesday evenings, when wind, tide and light allow. The enthusiasm and banter amongst the fleet is infectious, the sailing can get quite competitive but we are a very nurturing group, especially if you are new or a complete beginner to racing.
The Wayfarer Eastern Championships 2016 were held this year at the RHYC as part of the 'Smuggler's Trophy' weekend which the RHYC held for the first time in 2015, a multi-class event aiming to bring together competitive sailors from across the UK for 2 days of top level racing. This year the RHYC improved on the original format and introduced 2 separate race courses on different areas of the River Orwell to help reduce waiting times between starts for the four fleets.
11 Wayfarers were mulling over the early week gusting 40k forecast under overcast skies, which seemed misleading standing on the sheltered shore, as did the immediate morning forecast of a mere 25 knots, but they were quickly disabused of such impertinence as soon as they launched from the slipway after the 10 o’clock briefing. It soon became apparent that they had a day of fickle, shifty and very gusty breezes ahead of them, the southerly wind fanning and deviating through the tree-cloaked south shore.
The first race was a classic triangle sausage course, with a short start line – and as is often then case with sailors coming to terms with new conditions on unfamiliar waters, the first start was chaotic with Christophe Spiers in Betty Blue (sailing under sail number 2773) making a clean break and getting to the windward mark first. There was an early capsize, with Ben Davies (sailing with Olivia in 11119) sailing his new Wayfarer competitively for the first time, falling out of his boat after missing the toe straps! The race quickly settled, with Neil Collingridge and Anne Spalding (10995) asserting themselves and taking the lead on the first reach. The race was panning out well, but on the last reaching lap, the wind started gusting strongly, with Ian Richards and crew taking an early bath, followed quickly by Christophe and Belinda – both with spinnakers in full flight, followed by Joe Caston and Joel Snape on the windward leg whilst lying in a strong position. The race finished with Neil Collingridge and Anne Spalding of Waldringfield in first, with Len Jones and Jamie (11067) in second and Roger Challis and Mark Johnson (10992) in 3rd,, Brian Lamb and Ian Pygall coming in 4th (10934)
It was pretty exhausting stuff, and Race 2 started in the same manner, with lots of places gained and lost on the first beat, with some serious shifts and then big holes on the approach to the windward mark (another triangle sausage course) – the familiar leaders established themselves with the Roger Challis and Neil Collingridge fighting for honours, both Waldringfield sailors shaking themselves down with the Worlds on the horizon. The top four, including Brian Lamb and Len Jones, established some serious daylight and finished some way ahead of the chasing pack, with Roger pipping Neil for honours after Neil had ambitiously tried to hold down his kite on a windy reach for too long when Roger had the good sense to dump his quickly.
Race 3 was another good competitive start with the fleet much closer together for the whole race, everyone having got used to the conditions and the yo-yoing in and out of the boats as the wind veered, gusted and then dropped for long periods. Neil and Anne got trapped on the start line, snagging the anchor chain on the committee boat and having to round and re-cross the line last, only to pick up a huge lift at the windward mark that saw them overtake the whole fleet to then power away on the spinnaker reach not to be challenged again. The wind being what it was, it was debatable whether the spinnakers had much effect, with many boats choosing not to deploy them - with Christophe and Belinda overtaking 3 spinnaker flying boats under white sails only. The race finished with Neil Collingridge in first place, followed by Roger Challis and Len Jones.
Sunday morning started warm and calm and became even calmer, so the end of the previous day’s standings were to remain as the final results (Neil Collingridge, Roger Challis and Len Jones 1st, 2nd and 3rd) and Liz Feibusch as the winning lady - with sadly no racing on the Sunday other than the early morning Pursuit Race. This was a staggered start followed by a great and general mass drift involving all the classes involved in the Smuggler’s weekend (Phantoms, N12’s, Wayfarers and Handicap fleet) over a set channel course, with a large percentage of boats going over the line backwards, including Giles Wright in woodie 452, who was first Wayfarer over the line. Lots of different approaches were attempted to beat the tide, with varying degrees of success (I’m sure a few paddles were secretly deployed). Len Jones proudly held up the Wayfarer flag and finished joint first with a N12, some feat considering the relative boat weights and vagaries of both wind and tide and the 47 entrants!
Many thanks to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club for what was a fantastic sailing event despite the lack of Sunday wind – the 2 RO’s (Gordon Stutton and Tim Archer) did a terrific job of setting courses and reducing drifting time between races, whilst the club dealt with the sailor numbers with aplomb, serving up a Smuggler’s menu (pies and the like), hosting a Happy Hour and a Quiz (won by the Phantom fleet…) and managing to get 47 boats off the slipways with relative serenity, it really is a lovely place to sail. To be repeated next year!
The Waifs and Strays group is an open group created by RHYC members and is available to the Wayfaring public who have a facebook login.
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