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Weekly Report: The Norman Atkins Trophy.

Going all the way back to the 15th Sept and Autumn points 3 and 4, it seems like it was the last hot,dry weather of the year. It was sticky with calm pockets then small pockets of light winds. Twenty-one boats might have been disappointed with the conditions but only 3 boats failed to get round. Five streakers were out including Roger but it was Jeremy Daniells who won the 1st race , but was subsequently nearly last in the 2nd giving the race to Simon Herrington. The so called fast races were shared between Simon Green and Mr and Mrs Restall. Contrast this with the Norman Atkins trophy race, with f4 gusting up to 6 in some of the best conditions of the year for the 16 boats that took part in the 2 out of 3 race to count affair. As a land lubber it was exciting to watch the speeds of craft especially down wind, but 5 boats retired after 2 races some exhausted from capsizes. Ed and Alex Head were in a 2000 that went turtle but Rosie and Ian Sheppard were in careful attendance: Ed was in the water steering the rescue, then back in the water, then helping Alex, then helping Rosie who in turn was helping Ian who was steering Alex back into the water as Alex hoisted everyone on board and so on and so forth. This went on for around 20 minutes before the whole process was repeated for Eric and Katherine, Eric barked instructions apparently from under water under the sail and even from under the rudder. Ed on landing said ‘he owed his life to Rosie ‘ but then disappeared without trace and l had to retrieve him for the 3rd time that day. But there was a smile on Ed’s face and the water is still warm.  

In the singlehanders there didn’t seem to be as much excitement. Jerry King retired after two capsizes. Adam Page seemed to be the fastest boat but then disappeared for long periods out to sea after getting ‘bewildered’ in his own words by all the spray.  Phil Halldron capsized, took the marks very carefully and spent most of the racing with Joe Lord who lost out on handicap of course. Henry Moss in a Topper only capsized once and carried on totally un- daunted by the conditions. Simon and Denise in the 200 were with the other spinnaker brigade the whole time but could not get closer to Steve Restall and Chris Stubbs in the 400 who seemed to be out in front the same distance every race.

This Sunday was a forlorn scene, with crazy showers , terror gusts and a tide from hell with a small huddle in the clubhouse dusting whittling sticks or pouring endless cups of coffee. We turned up in a panic as the hooters were blasting thinking a race was about to begin but it turned out some un- seen hands tinkering with the race computer. The safety boat course starts Friday night and goes on all weekend and chaps should be beginning to think about what pie to bake for the bakeoff.

A Brief recap of 70th Anniversary celebrations!

Where does one start with the anniversary events write up ? Other than to aim it in one way at the people who couldn’t attend  through ill health, no tickets, open meetings, badly timed holidays and people with fear of large crowds etc.

With 56 boats on the water including dinghies ,yachts, rescue ribs and even lifeboats along with the odd economic migrant no doubt, there were 150 people out there. Of course,  it didn’t go to Simon Cory’s script on the parade of sail but it was no worse for that as 30m.p.h northerly wind gusts hit boats as they approached the pier, along with squalls of rain. Just for once l can actually speak from experience from the bouncy deck of a Dart with Phil Peach, as his family had jumped ship with sheer terror at the wave heights. l must say this sailing lark seems great fun and in swimming trunks the water was like a warm bath as it exploded though the mesh deck and was far warmer than the air temp. On returning from the pier at high speed Phil and l casually observed Jo Thomson crash land on the beach and Rosie swimming for her life:  she was picked up by the lifeboat in the end but her boat came ashore with a banana shaped mast. There were lots of boats over and there was plenty to do for the rescues, and boats were then summoned reluctantly to shore… but it was an exciting experience. The yacht types could only look on with envy at the unfolding events.

The club was like the ‘Mary Celeste’ when l left, everyone exhausted going for a blow dry and change of clothes, save for one small corner where Tim was organising more treasure hunts and ‘Find the lost sailor competition’.

Never at a buffet have l seen so much variety and volume of food – it made a cruise ships efforts look puny . There was nosh for vegetarians , carnivores, omnivores, vegan, religious, transgender and even empty plates for those  who couldn’t eat. l had the famous lamb of Julia’s and despite most of it ending up on my white trousers it seemed to taste even better with every mouthful. This was due in part to being the last person to sit down and having to share a seat with my other half as they ran out of seats. No doubt the well deserving and starving travelling folk were given any leftovers.

Tim’s speech was succinct, yet cordial and whimsical. It set the right tone for all the bloated people to raise a glass to the ‘Downs sailing club ’as a toast.’ Hotsie Totsie’ started to crank up the music and it wasn’t long before the usual suspects were on the dance floor. At this point l became a little detached probably due to 7 pints of Gadds but also the realisation l had actually been sailing.

The wind persisted for the start of the racing Sunday. Ben Hills broke a mast but the day belonged to the youngsters Abbey, Evie and Alex who will no doubt be at the 100th year celebrations; l intend to be preserved in ice and thawed out on the day if it doesn’t put people off their food.

Autumn Begins

The last evening sails have finished yet strangely they did not seem as dark as last year when the floodlights always seemed to be on. There was a lack of wind for the last few and it seems only the Thursdays were raced. Thursday 14 saw Richard White overhaul Phil Halldron and Simon Green win the fast. Thursday 15 had a very small field given it was the last race, Rosie got her highest finish of the year a 3rd , then there were only 3 boats in the slow. John and Julia had a real battle with the Sheltons which proved to be the only excitement of the evening; the Sheltons got distracted at the critical point with the delightful smell of chips drifting down the beach.

 Friday evening sail the last one, was a hive of activity with swarms of youngsters, indulgent parents and in the middle of all of this the ladies race postponed from earlier in the year. There were no surprises, winners being Abbey and Evie in the 420. Pizza was served afterwards and Steve Boalch,  stage name I think is ‘squirrel nutkin’ belching out the popular tunes.

 Saturday saw the trip to the Goodwins which probably had the best weather ever for the event.

Autumn points 1 and 2,…………. Yes, Autumn points folks! Had a good forecast but the wind mysteriously dropped, a rapidly rising tide where the ‘beasts of burden’ had to move the sledges 4 times.

There were some interesting duos, Roger was out with Claire Milligan for the first time in the new 2000, Dawn and Osker Bisset were also out in a 2000, Osker has shaved off the Brunel sideburns, Ed and Alex Head, Brian Cory was out on the sawn down ‘A’ class. People got disillusioned and drifted in which was tricky on the high tide and steep beach. The very last boat was Joe Lord who walked the boat back to the sledge just ironically  as the usual spitfire was overhead doing  a victory roll against the classic puffy white clouds. Even Simon and Denise had to be walked safely home. Simon Green might have won both races but he wasn’t hanging around. As the wind rose for the first time he was off to celebrate his wedding anniversary with some courgettes fried in champagne from their allotment.

I must say the clubhouse is looking very spruce newly painted furniture, parasols, polished door handles and even polished urinals. Everything seems set for the ‘Parade of sail’ this Saturday and all the other events planned including the ticketed party in the evening – Hong Kong police are on standby if you haven’t got a ticket .

There are special  70th races for Sunday so there is no reason to even go home! All bed down at Jo’s gaff??!

Late August At Downs

Only two weeks left of the evening sails and people are anxiously looking over their shoulders for those last few critical points. I was explaining this to Heike, as l do every year on her annual visit for two races in a Topper but she said she ‘couldn’t give a +++++’ In German.

Of course it is a busy time of year, endless holidays, before Brexit puts a stop to that, and endless open meetings and voyages. Simon and Denise are trying to sail around the North pole, Alan Mollatt has been to southern France and back for Contender worlds, Eric and Katherine are just off for the Hornet open and numerous other secretive folk doing all sorts. Roger has arrived with a new 2000 and brand new cover. Apparently it has only been used once in an attempted ram raid on a supermarket and has been stored in someone’s attic for 5 years.

Simon Green seems to have won two evenings , Jerry King one evening  but now has a leaky boat. On Tuesday 8th special mention must be made of John and Tim in the old 2000 getting a 3rd place. There was polite applause at the bar and I’m sure the ‘Mercury ‘helicopter was overhead at one point. On another evening Heike got a high finish but for some strange reason her old Laser is on the outskirts of Paris.

Sunday points 11 and summer points 12 had the threat of enormous winds. After race 1 however there was a strange calm but many sailors took the opportunity to retire gracefully. Richard White’s Solo winning the slow but a first past the post performance from Ken Davis in the now rare craft Aero. Then it struck, Ian Sheppard was thought to be pearl diving but they were capsizes, Rob Freeland burst something on board, Tony Cook snapped   etc etc. Scott Walker in the Streaker was the man to catch again but went into a long ‘death roll’ that lasted beyond the race. Out of 12 there was only one survivor Joe Lord in a laser, his best performance to date and with only one capsize in the 2nd race but 3 in the first.

What of the fast fleets ? There were plenty of retirements:the only doublehander was John and Julia and they disappeared after race1. Honours were shared between Chris and Simon and, incredibly, nobody in the fast capsized. A strange ‘Woodstock’ scene followed, where everyone sat cross legged on the beach, absorbing the bruised skies of storm over Thanet whilst waiting for the return of Scott with the Rescue. By the time everyone had returned to the clubhouse it was still only 1 o’clock.

Weekly report 4th August.

Tuesday 11 was cancelled with fierce winds and Simon Green, who was biting his nails to the bone having to attend a dinner engagement in North Kent, was so delighted when he found out he drank 3 bowls of ’Soup of the day’ and ruined one of his shirts !

Thursday by contrast suffered with lack of wind, but luckily the ripple and tide gods were behaving and everyone got round. Simon Herrington snapped something or other and his sail collapsed, Ian Sheppard then performed a ‘Wreck of the Medusa ‘ act standing on his boat lashed to the mast waving his arms furiously to alert the powers at be. Apparently, he had performed the same role in a play at secondary school . Unfortunately, the only person to spot them was me, as no one could have expected so much drama on the high seas in such calm. The implacable Simon must have wondered what all the fuss was about but might raise an eyebrow at another Phil Halldron win.

Simon Green won the fast from John and Julia.

Sunday suffered with a lack of wind again, and, in between races a total calm made many came in. Dom and Izzy Johnson won in an RS400. Richard White , Ben Hills, and Phil Halldron fought it out at the front but the order stayed the same in both with Richard winning twice. He also now  wins ‘fastest up the beach award’ with an unassailable points tally a bit like the Green jersey in the ‘Tour de France’. Lower down in the riffraff Rosie , Joe and Martyn Wyman fought it out in a moment of rare excitement neck and neck, Martyn just pipped it.

Emerging from the sea like Ursula Undress was Mike Heeley with a high vis swim bladder in tow. He claimed to have swum to the pier and back and he certainly was covered in fish hooks. He then preceded to spend the rest of day trotting around in what can only be described as an off duty Roman centurion outfit in bright red.

One interest of the day was the 4 high speed naval vessels roaring down the channel although a mile out their wash arrived just as boats were coming in from the second race. Phil Halldron was knocked sideways by a large wave and was shaking his fist at them  but  I’m sure they were not intimidated.

Weekly Report 30th July

Regatta Week

The Ladies race on July 19th was cancelled with high winds but the Regatta week had every race completed.

First of these was the ‘Vancouver Cup’ which had 16 boats of which 5 did not get a finish. Brian Cory was out in his new Sprint 15, but if you look closely you might realise that it is his old ‘A class’ sawn in half and with the ends chopped off. ‘A’ class secretary Donald Blabbige is appalled by all accounts.

Phil Halldron was the eventual winner after 4 laps with Adam Page, Laser man of the moment, in  second. The Beauchamp vase on the Tuesday had 11 boats of which only 5 finished led home by Simon Green. The trophy incidentally is the giant one in the cabinet that looks like an inverted trombone, and l believe was named after an ex- commodore’s pet chimp called ‘Beau’ – the spelling has changed slightly with time.

The ‘Bank Buoy scramble’ always has a funky ‘let your hair down’ sort of atmosphere where on reaching the buoy at one nautical mile should one carry on the Holland ? There were also some interesting duos including Mr and Mrs Sharvill in a 2000 who actually got 4th, Roger and Claire Milligan in a 2000, Ed and Ian Shepherd also in 2000, Alex Lane and ‘Gaelle’ not to be confused with the French antique glass in a Hartley and Sally and Martyn Styles in a 400. Chris Shelton was back home and dry for his fish’n’chips in 25 minutes and Stuart was very keen to point out he was first Aero home- but he was the only one.

The ‘Deal Handicap’ on Sunday was the smallest participation of the week with 2 out of 3 races to count in the fast Simon Green got two firsts and the others retired. Adam Page won the slow in a Laser and Stuart and Dave Spicer were last in a 2000.

People have begun to drift back from the NSSA regatta at Weymouth harbour where Alex Head managed a 2nd overall in the 4.7 Lasers and Abbey Mumford and Evie Herrington won the mixed handicap fleet after 7 races in a 420 beating 30 other boats.

Its’s all back to normal this week.

Weekly Report 14th July

Tuesday points 9 had Ben Hills winning the slow, so presumably he has re-riveted his mast. Tony Cook won both mid -week races in his phantom and, consequently,  is avoiding Chris Shelton at the moment. Simon and Denise won the devilish wind shifts on Thursday.

Sunday had the dramatic backdrop of loud swoops of music from the marines especially given the strong NE wind. With a dodgy launch there were Bond movie themes to give people a little self confidence, landings were greeted with the theme music to ‘Star wars. Rosie had to swim to shore from the rescue with the Rolling Stones ‘Can’t get no satisfaction’ ringing in her ears. Her boat was sailed home by Nigel. Ian Sheppard would not have heard any music as he spent most of the races under his boat. Adam Page led both races from start to finish until the top mast snapped and put the usual hole through the sail to the sad tones of ‘The Onedin line’, Martyn Styles witnessed the damage with the theme tune to ‘psycho’ but Jerry King, who had lost all hopes of winning, took over with the theme to ‘The Dambusters’.

Neil Gibson and Keith Macey actually won race 1 in the RS800- the boat with the handicap of the devil 777, or is it 666 ?  They were last in the next race. Some brave Toppers were out there , Pheobe Davis in a 4.2 actually came 3rd overall. Alan Mollatt won race 1 in the fast singlehanders but after race 2 headed out to sea with a jammed sail standing up caught in ropes. But the patient beach crew were enjoying the waves and the warm water.

Weekly Report 6th July

Sunday points 6 and summer points 7 were bizarre races two Sundays ago. There was a nice wind forecast which never came , people drifted around to the point where Peter Hyett actually fell asleep, dreamt he was on a tropical island , on waking he was not surrounded by native girls but gruesome sailors in most cases. Most people came in, but ‘man of the moment’ Jerry King stayed for the second race, hotly followed by the ones who need the points, even Rosie. However, the first race it seems was won by an Andrew Palison in a Laser but no one actually knew who he was or where he came from. In fact, someone was talking to him and he simply disappeared ‘ it was like something out of the Twilight Zone’ a frightened Jerry King uttered from behind his towel. There were wins for Richard and Martyn, Simon and Denise. The fast singlehanders was won by Simon Green but by this stage there were only 2 boats left.

l have been doing the sailing reports since 1976 man and boy, and Tuesday points 8 had 24 boats which l believe to be a record. About 5 years ago there was a 21  and l remember thinking then why not a Thursday? When the kit is dry, thoughts of booze and its been a long week etc. Nathan Brazil and a Sinaead O’Conner were in a 2000, Adam and Zazia Page in a 2000 and Claire Herrington in a 4.7 who had to overtake everyone to remind people about canteen duties ( this was all part of ladies training night). Jerry King crossed the line a mile ahead but was beaten by Richard in the new Solo with the handicap of an opie. There was a rare win for Tony Cook’s Contender .

Thursday points 8 saw a lowly 11 boats with an uninspiring wind but 4 laps were completed in the fast. Phil Peach might have won except for being over the line and one of the weakest attempts to doubleback ever recorded but not missed by the hawks on the bridge. Simon and Denise won the Slow and the Restalls won the fast.

The biggest excitement in years ensued at the bar afterwards when the old till tray jammed, and smoke was seen coming from the new digital contraption. A frantic Chris Shelton had to be dragged away and given a calming hot drink. It seems l have to resolve this by looking out for a whole new system at Tilmanstone boot fayre.

On Sunday it was a steady f3 ENE by all accounts, Ian was back from haggis shooting in Scotland, 14 boats took part and there were wins for Simon and Denise and Phil Halldron despite all the lasers crossing the line first. Simon Green won both fast singlehanders.

Weekly Report 11th May

The singlehander open meeting had the most delicious NE winds and sun and on the training Saturday, there were even gusts of F5 for a short while and some tricky landings but the more careful had already retired after lunch. 

The Sunday had a slight decrease in wind but it was constant in over 5 hours of racing . The stats read  33 boats, including 13 in the Topper fleet, 12 in the mixed , and 8 Streakers with just two visitors. The Toppers had 12 youngsters all from different clubs with one sole representative from Downs ….. wait for it, Julia Blackman who achieved an honourable placing in the results!

The Toppers seemed to have the most fun and were even at the Bank Buoy for one training session and the Open was won by James Crossley from Datchet. The mixed fleet was won by Chris Shelton but there were first of the year outings for Ken Davis Aero 7, Richard White Solo and Max Taylor Nobbs Radial.

I believe the boat trade-in brigade might well start looking at Neil Gibson’s Solution which seems to do well in the conditions at the club.

The Streakers saw Simon Cory win all 4 races which was tricky to choose a discard and all of this in Roger’s boat. After the light hearted tuition of the previous day this was serious race face stuff, the only blip being his arrival on shore under the boat-don’t worry Roger l rescued the boat. Jo and Rosie fought it out at the less professional, more glamourous end but, after some confusion results were even. ‘Drone Man’ was on hand to capture all the action from two days .

The vast infrastructure on shore included: chefs, life coaches, bridge crew, shore parties and the curious who all took the opportunity to sunbathe out of the chill wind on the sunny side of the club. In between clearing mould off sausages and topping up one’s tan, there was a constant flow of different cakes.

I overheard one of the Streaker visitors say that ‘the sailing was fantastic’ and surely it was the best place to be.

As l was up to my neck all day l believe the water temp was warmer than the air but, after all these years, it was the first time l have walked into the winch wire and l have two neat grooves in my shins -but it is an honour, for the wires are such shiny new affairs these days.

Tuesday the 14th was probably cancelled and the 16th was definitely off with horrific NE gusts.