September 29-30th 2007
The usual crowd of beautiful looking Merlins and assorted other boats turned up, and race 1 got under way almost sharply at 11:30. Shearwater’s usually shifty winds didn’t surprise and we were treated to a range of drifty conditions, sporadically interrupted by a light easterly…
The Merlins started a separate race as part of the vintage travellers series, and a few made it over the line before the 4 minute gun of the handicap, whilst the majority ambled around before waking up to the race.
The rest of the CVRDA fleet had a clean start with much good will among all competitors. Whilst most made it to the start before the gun, the 40 year old restored Hornet with Roger and Polly joined the race after about 10 minutes along with the Pegasus of Keith Rollinson assisted by Ellie (what do you mean “tack there’s a spider over there”) Devereux.. The Enterprise of Colin Singer got away well and raced to first across the line. David Rollinson in the OK sailed his usual stormer (if you could use that term in the light weather conditions) to finish second, and Phil and Alison Philpott in the National 12 crossed the line third. Ben Marshall in 2529 won the Merlin race, followed by John Gardiner in 36 and Geoff Pell in 507.
The second race started contentiously, with the Merlins fighting it out on the line and the GP14’s of Colin Newton and Hugh Devereux swapped places throughout the race. Hugh couldn’t hang on to a crew for more than 1 race, and Colin and Paul changed boats each race, must be something about GP’s. Jon Rawson in his classic Albacore, managed a good get away and crossed the line second to Colin Singer.
The wind had died to nothing for the start of the third race, and we all “paddled” our way to the line. Enough wind was there for a reasonable start, and all got a way cleanly, the beat saw positions change rapidly as puff followed lull followed lull. David Rollinson made it first to the windward mark, whilst the majority got held up as the wind changed and changed again. By this time the fleet had split into two groups, those at the top of the lake becalmed and those at the bottom of the lake… becalmed on the no.4 buoy. Roger and Colin barged their way to the mark with the only bit of wind in sight, leaving several others spinning bemused, only to then lead the mass retirement of those who had sat stationary for too long.
The Merlins of Mervyn Allen, Ben Marshall and Geoff Pell had managed to scoot away to the top of the lake and whilst still almost becalmed made it to the finish line to score some useful points.
Sunday started overcast without the promised easterly and Shearwater took on an ominous glassy appearance. This did nothing to blow away the cobwebs from the previous evening’s sociability. However by the time of the start seventeen boats, five sailing with cotton sails, had managed to paddle or drift to the line. This made the start less stressful than normal and adopting light wind tactics the fleet made its way around the course pausing from time to time to raft up around the marks as the breeze came and went. Having given us a gentle introduction the wind filled in and gave us a pleasant sail in a moderate breeze. A press photographer followed some of us giving us the opportunity to pose and smile sweetly while going in the wrong direction. David Rollinson and Phil Philpott managed to draw away from the fleet to take the line honours with time to spare from Mervyn Allen in Merlin no.1. The day provided a rare opportunity to see the three oldest sailing Merlins together on the water using original cotton sails.
After lunch we had two races back to back . Gusty conditions on the start line which had become biased provide plenty of interest with the lucky (or skilled) helms getting away cleanly while the rest of us found ourselves weaving our way through the fleet getting in each other’s way. The earlier race was a close contest between David Rollinson’s Ok and Alan Brown in a 1970’s Merlin with Tim Bury’s 1960 Merlin taking third. The final race saw David Rollinson leading from the first lap with Phil Philpott’s National 12 overtaking Jon Rawson’s Albacore for second and the similar aged Merlins of Alan Brown and Sandy Lavelle having a close race for fourth.
There were plenty of windshifts, and occasionally windholes for the unwary to fall into which allowed frequent changes of position. This requires a sense of humour and provided plenty of opportunities for friendly banter that characterises CVRDA events, while the gusts accelerating boats in close company gave rise to shouts of the other kind.
However due to the skills of the helms and crews there was no business for the safety boat or damage to the lovingly maintained boats. Older members of Shearwater watched from the bank, perhaps with a tear in the eye, as the sight of wooden boats with cotton sails reminded them of the early days of the Club. The boats, one of which had not been sailed for forty years, attracted the admiration of many passers-by, raising interest in sailing and the Club.
It was a good weekend with some excellent racing on the welcoming and beautiful waters of Shearwater. With travellers from Bowmoor (Gloucestershire), Budworth (Cheshire), Clywedog (Mid Wales), Brightlingsea (Essex), Minima and Thames (Surrey)., the CVRDA is representing a wide community of enthusiasts preparing and racing old boats.
Hugh Devereux and Geoff Pell