Salcombe…ah Salcombe. Where to begin? Fabulous place, friendly people, and sailing like you wouldn’t believe.
Race one, day one. Bright sunshine, low water, 15 boats, reasonable wind from the South, becoming unreasonable as it skittered across the water to the clubhouse on the Northern side of the estuary. A simple four buoy course, upwind-ish to the mouth of the harbour, then all the way to the other end of the extremely scenic estuary, stopping every now and again to admire the picturesque surroundings. Fortunately the weather permitted this a lot. A few other fleets lurked around the start line, watching with interest as 14 RS400’s lined up with nine visitors from exotic places such as west London, Lymington and Eastbourne. Racing got underway and a mass scuffle ensued as Paul and Mark Oakey (1441) shot into an early lead, followed by Sean Cleary and Annalise Nixon (1017) clearly exploiting their deep tidal knowledge gained at Oxford SC. Mike and June Baker of Lymington in 1236 also featured strongly, only to be distracted by the scenery a couple of times which allowed them to be overtaken by the likes of Jon Gorringe, sailing with Nikki Bass, and Howard Farbrother sailing with Louise Hosken in 1418. The race officer took pity on the fleet as it clawed its way back up the estuary, and shortened course to leave the Oakeys with a well-deserved win, Gorringe second, and the Oxfordians ghosting past a pouting Farbrother/Hosken at the death to claim third. The fleet retired to sample the rich hospitality of a bank holiday Salcombe.
Day two dawned. Two races today, and on balance, on the water was the best place to be. Not everyone held this view, probably due to the annoying amounts of water tipping out of the sky. Drysuits were suddenly, smugly, de rigueur. As before the RO sent the fleets to the downtide end of the river mouth, before turning and clawing their way back to visit the previously scenic parts of the river. The fleet were keen to get away. Too keen as it turned out, and a general recall resulted in a forty minute delay before the other fleets had cantered through. This gave an excellent opportunity to comment on the accuracy of the forecast, and perfect ways to remove rainwater from a near stationary boat. On the restart, Gorringe & Bass showed the fleet their shiny behind and the brand new 1469 was never seen again. Mike and June Baker stretched out in second, with the Oakey’s ghosting past a pouting Farbrother/Hosken at the death to claim third. The fleet then retired to a nearby beach to contemplate a pasty shaped gift from the race team, before ambling out for the start of the third race. The course was set to its traditional shape, the now traditional dice-rolling occurred on the first leg, and the shiny backside of Gorringe was again in evidence, much to the fleets’ distaste. 1418 followed at a respectful distance, with the Oxford duo, the Bakers, the Oakeys and the Salcombe pairing of Peter Colclough and Tristram Squire, waiting for their moment to pounce. This came soon enough, and the lead of several hundred metres was eroded by the glassy vacuum in the area of the finish line which had trapped 1469 like a fly in aspic. Unfortunately the racebox was unsympathetic, and the course stubbornly refused to shorten itself. 1469 limped on out to the rivermouth before returning to pass through the finish a second time, where the aspic effect repeated itself. 1418’s solid hold on second parted at the same time as their main halyard, which led to several boats ghosting past a pouting Farbrother/Hosken, and a charging Oakey combo leapfrogging the fleet to claim second from 1236 and 1017. The fleet retired to join in the local festivities ranging from repeated visits to the Salcombe Gin distillery, refuelling at Captain Flints, to the unique delights of the local “Crabfest” fair.
Overnight this made life interesting. Gorringe/Bass and the Oakeys were both capable of the top slot with the next three boats tussling for the support slots and all as unpredictable as the weather. Next day dawned soggily but with reasonable breeze, enabling a more determined exploration of the creeks of Salcombe to finish. Three boats worked their way clear of the pack initially, and battle commenced. Soon it was clear that both 1469 and 1441 were going to be duking it out all day and not tolerating bystanders. The lead changed hands several times. Nearing the finish it looked like the local knowledge would have it, but having worked hard on their tactics all weekend, the Oakeys came wiggling through and ghosted past a pouting Gorringe/Bass at the death to take the regatta. Howard Farbrother and Louise Hosken managed third overall, with Sean Cleary and Annalise Nixon fourth. Salcombe is a special place. Nick Craig has never been here apparently. No idea why.
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