Photos by Margaret Mackley
Most Solo sailors are enthusiastic dinghy racers and usually focus on the intricacies of sailing a simple but also challenging little boat rather than looking around and admiring the surroundings. A visit to Dittisham Sailing Club (DSC), which is located on the upper reaches of the Dart near Dartmouth, might however change awareness that sailing in beautiful surroundings can change the whole experience.
DSC is a most charming place, however you need to be brave even before the sailing gets going by negotiating the narrow lanes, hills and geography in order to find the place. Head for the local church and then pray for a local to tell you where to go. The sailing Club is tucked into the foreshore and looks directly out to an open stretch of river that must rate as one of the most beautiful sailing locations in the country.
The June 2017 one day Solo and Laser Open Meeting was blessed with glorious weather and I was informed by the locals that even at 10am the sea breeze had set in. This was curious, as DSC is not adjacent to the sea, however a sea breeze from Torbay regularly finds its way over the hills and Agatha Christies home to reach the DSC sailing zone.
The club had an impressive armament of Solos along the foreshore, however not all came out to play and the competitors consisted of eight locals and four visitors. This was my first away Open Meeting for about four years and so I had no idea who the experts were and where I might end up in the pecking order. I did however immediately sense the warm welcome and truly Corinthian spirit of the club.
On the water the Solos started five minutes after the lasers and it was a real eye opener to see maybe half of the Solo fleet catch up and overtake the back half of the laser fleet. With highly variable wind directions and strengths of a force 1-2 “Sea Breeze” and with a figure of eight course, the Solo excelled in their tacking ability and "modern rig" whilst the laser sails looked rather dated.
Two races were held before a pasty lunch and one race before a cream tea where here, eating and socialising seemed to be as important as the racing itself. The race management was impeccable and in terms of the Solo racing the local hot shot John Clarke set the gold standard by winning all three races. His mastery of boat handling kinetics is legendary and I was not sure whether to be flattered or annoyed at being “sat on” upwind in a way that I had not experienced for some fifty years since my University team racing days.
Overall just competing seemed as important as any final result. There was a full spectrum of abilities present which was pleasing. Corinthian sailing is alive and well at DSC and hopefully as I did this year, other Solo sailors will come and enjoy future Open meetings there.
Solo, Mr Blue Sky 5183