GUL Osprey Round the Isle of Wight Race 15th September 2018
The Osprey was designed by Ian Proctor to take part in the 1952 Olympic trials. A year later the prototype Osprey No 1 was sailed by Ian, John Oakley and Cliff Norbury in a Round the Isle of Wight race for dinghies, organised to commemorate the Queen’s Coronation. Osprey won that race by a matter of seconds beating 300 of the best dinghy sailors in the process. Their winning time was around 11 hours.
Since then the Osprey Class have raced around the Island in 1978 when the race was shortened due to light winds, and again in 1988 when 13 Ospreys successfully completed the whole course.
Cliff Norbury supported by the Proctor family came to the 60th Osprey National Championships at Poole in 2017 and gave the class a very popular presentation about Osprey sailing in the early days and the Round the Island race in particular. This was very well received and sparked the idea of holding a further Round the Isle of Wight race in Ian Proctor’s Centenary year.
Thus nine intrepid Osprey teams gathered at Lymington Town Sailing Club on the evening of Friday 14th September ready for an early morning start on the following day. After the briefing most of the competitors retired for an early night leaving one boat being rigged in the dark by the light of mobile phones and head torches. Meanwhile current Osprey National Champions Terry Curtis and Peter Greig followed the pre-race training routine that has served them well in winning the last two National Championships and retired to the pub until closing time.
With the forecast for Saturday being an ideal Force 3 to 4 Westerly covers were coming off the boats in the twilight of Saturday morning and the fleet launched into the River Lym at around 06:15 just as the sun was rising. The sail down the river and out to the start in a gentle breeze and with the sun just rising was something that will be remembered for years.
After a short postponement Race Officer Nigel Walbank sent the fleet away westwards just after 07:00. Mick Greenland and Lee Marriott in “Mellow Yellow” no 1372 found the best tide and wind to establish a significant lead by the Needles. After rounding the Needles there was then a long run down to St Catherine’s Point. The fleet split into two, those that chose to follow the shore hoping for a better tide and those that stayed further out to sea to sail a shorter distance and hope for more wind. There did not appear to be any significant difference between the two strategies but Ken Brown and Jonathan Osgood in “Light and Bitter” no 1292 went further out to sea than anyone and had established a good hundred yard lead by St Catherine’s. Rounding St Catherine’s presented some challenging conditions with the tide now taking the Ospreys downwind reducing the apparent wind speed and kicking up some rough water in the overfalls; keeping spinnakers flying was a challenge.
Emerging from St Catherine’s four Ospreys had formed a breakaway group reminiscent of a Tour de France cycle race. The four boats Mick and Lee, Ken and Jonathan, Alex and Nick Willis in “Waimanu” no 1292 and Oscar Chess and David Downs in “Jammy Dodger” no 1348 were at one point all in line abreast crossing Sandown Bay. However with the wind dying on the approach to the turn at Bembridge Ledge they had to watch as the remainder of the fleet closed up. There was much calling for water as seven boats rounded the Bembridge Ledge turning mark together and with the other two boats just minutes behind the race effectively re-started here. For the record Alex and Nick were the first round the mark by about half a boat length.
The Ospreys were now punching the tide through Spithead and into the Eastern Solent. The fast way was to hug the shore but with the freshening breeze now coming off the shore the crews were kept busy keeping the boats going through the gusts and lulls. Passing Seaview those with lifting rudders were able to take a short cut across Ryde Sands. Oscar and David went furthest in across the sands and were soon planing fast and trapezing with centreboard and rudder up in just inches of water. The sight of seagulls standing up ahead of them forced them further out and they bumped over the sand bank giving the bottom of “Jammy Dodger” a bit of a polish as they did so. The short cut paid off and Oscar and David established a substantial lead across Osborne Bay but this had been pegged back by the time they rounded Old Castle Point near Cowes.
There was then a punishing beat into a stiff breeze up the Western Solent back to Lymington. Some chose to cross over to the mainland shore hoping for the tide to turn earlier there while others continued to hug the Island shore. There were lots of other racing boats around including a fleet of Fast 40+ which has led to some interesting photo opportunities of the Ospreys threading their way through the fleet of much bigger boats.
Everyone was by now tiring with sheets generally remaining cleated and tacks becoming distinctly ponderous, however Terry and Pete in “White Knuckles” sporting no 1234 sails showed the benefit of their pre-race training and powered through to cross the Lymington Town Sailing Club finish line first at 15:42 in an elapsed time of 8 hours and 27 minutes. The rest of the fleet all finished within 14 minutes of them, quite remarkably close after eight and a half hours and around 60 miles of racing.
At the prizegiving in the evening, Terry and Pete were awarded the Nick Jones Salver kindly donated by Hilary Jones in memory of her late husband who had been very keen to see this race go ahead. At the culmination of the prizegiving a toast was drunk to Ian Proctor with whisky and a fruit cake donated by the Proctor family. The latter was to commemorate the legendary fruit cake baked by Ian’s wife Betty which Osprey no 1 carried throughout the 1953 race before being jettisoned overboard (after they had all eaten a slice) on the approach to Cowes. It is believed that this act was the pivotal move in Osprey just winning that race by seconds.
The Osprey Class would like to thank the event sponsors GUL, Sailing Southwest who provided the electronic trackers, Hartley Boats who sponsored the first much needed pint after coming ashore, Lymington Town Sailing Club for hosting the event and the past Osprey sailors at Lymington who did such a fantastic job in making the fleet welcome.
Special thanks to all those who made the event possible including:-
Nigel Walbank for acting as Race Officer
Tim Power as Safety Coordinator
Mary, Jayne, Ed, Isobel, Mark and Paul as RIB crews
Tony Hodges and Adam for providing the Mother Ship “Ayres and Graces”
Hilary Jones for providing the trophy
Oscar, David and Ros for making the whole thing happen, and finally
Ian Proctor for designing these fabulous boats and the Proctor family for their support and kind words.
Click here to read SSW's Race Review
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