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Southwold Rally, report #1: 28 – 30 June, 2024

This is a first report with selection of photos from the excellent event to which the OGA was invited, superbly organised by Southwold Sailing Club, to celebrate their 75th anniversary in collaboration with our OGA organiser, Joe Farrow. 40+ OGA members and friends joined the throng for a weekend of celebration, barbecues, live music, beer festival, small boat sailing and racing off shore at Southwold Sailing Club (SSC) 28 – 30 June, 2024. SSC is 75 years old this year and it is also the  RNLI’s 200th anniversary so, with plenty of excuses for a party SCC invited the OGA to join their celebrations.

OGA boats began arriving by sea before the weekend to take up the generous offer of free berthing at Southwold Harbour opposite the Harbour Inn. ‘Hussar’, a Laurent Giles designed Vertue, built by Elkins of Christchurch in 1949 was first to arrive (despite the name, the OGA welcomes classic Bermudan boats). On Thursday, four more boats made passage to Southwold. ‘Transcur’ an Essex smack towing her smacks boat ‘Happy Days’ arrived from Pin Mill during the afternoon. Towards midnight, ‘Rosebud’ arrived having sailed from Greenwich. She’s based on a Falmouth Quay Punt designed by John Hesp, built in steel in 2000. Leaving Greenwich at the same time on Thursday, but spending the night on Halfpenny Pier, Harwich, ‘Onward of Ito’ joined the fleet on the Harbour quay mid-afternoon on Friday. She is a centenarian gaff cutter, 25’ built by W Mollett of Southampton as an inshore fishing boat on Itchen Ferry lines. ‘Faith’ also arrived on Friday, sailing up from her home port on the River Deben. She is a carefully researched re-creation of the local East Coast river/estuary small working boats known as bumpkin or winkle brigs.

On Friday afternoon, OGA event organiser Joe Farrow and his team of volunteers from the OGA and SSC were found on the slip helping all the other arrivals to launch from trailers. There was a wide mixture of ‘small boats’ joining the gathering by road from around the East Coast: two Deben luggers ‘Ruddy Darter’ and Deben Lugger’, an Iain Oughtred Guillemot ‘Cachalette’, the American Catboat ‘Catsnip’, a lugsail dinghy ‘Sine Nomine’, the 14’ dinghy ‘Molly’, smacksboat ‘Papa Stour’, the gaffling ‘Essling’, Heir Island Sloop ‘Songbird’ and bargeboat ‘Bel Ami’. Apart from skippers and crews, more members arrived without a boat to stay in B&B or camper vans, including two OGA members from the Netherlands.

Friday evening found everyone invited by the SSC Commodore, Henry Walker to an excellent barbecue outside the SSC clubhouse where hay bales were available to sit on in the sunshine as the sun went down and the bar was drunk dry of beer. We were entertained until late in the evening with live music. On Saturday, SSC volunteers were cooking again. This time there was an excellent selection of ‘full English’ to choose from. Fully satisfied with a good breakfast, the OGA had arranged a gentle sail in company for the smaller boats upriver to Blythburgh and back with the tide. The weather was idyllic.
Tony Judd reports on the cruise upriver, joining in with his wife Shirley from the riverbank by bicycle.

After more beers at the replenished SSC bar several Gaffers gathered at the campervan parking area, cleared for us by SSC. We enjoyed a fish and chip supper collected, despite the road closures, by Joe in his trusty Landrover. For the rest of the evening there were live bands on stage with Harbour Festival stalls and the Harbour Inn open all evening.

Sunday dawned and it seemed our short summer had ended. SSC planned an offshore race in three classes: small gaffers, big gaffers and cruisers. The Club set a course in Walberswick Bay starting and finishing south of the Harbour entrance and turning at marks off Southwold Pier. SSC provided excellent safety boat cover as well as the Committee boat ‘Spirit’ skippered by Henry Walker, the Commodore. 17 boats arrived at the start line for 1140 to enjoy a somewhat wet race in light airs.

The results were announced with a prizegiving in the Clubhouse on Sunday afternoon after the trailer sailors had recovered their boats ready for the drive home. On Monday morning ‘Faith’, ‘Hussar’, ‘Transcur’, Onward of Ito’ and ‘Rosebud’ set sail to make passage south. Our thanks go to OGA Joe Farrow and SSC Commodore Henry Walker along with all their teams of volunteers and sponsors for making the weekend such an excellent event, universally enjoyed. The general consensus seems to be that it should be repeated.

Words: Eastcoaster Editor