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Southwold Rally, report #2: on push bikes

Tony and Shirley Judd, long-standing OGA members, arrived at the Southwold Rally in their campervan with push bikes to enjoy an event they’d never attended before in all their years of membership. Read their illustrated report.

Shirley and I have been East Coast OGA members for 38 years, but were never able to attend a Southwold Rally. Now in our mid 70s, Covid lockdowns showed us we no longer needed to own a boat. This was reinforced in part by the distance to our mooring off the Colne; 189 road miles, the Molliette bearing 118 degrees, 108nM, from home. We acquired a VW Transporter campervan, plot size equal to a long car. We’d already learned a camping trip was enhanced with long walks and push bikes. We realised Southwold was now within our grasp free from tides, adverse winds, boat maintenance schedules and business commitments.

2024 promised to be special: Southwold holds an Arts Festival each year, coinciding with the 75th birthday celebrations for Southwold Sailing Club. SSC made all the Gaffers so welcome and put on such a good show. We spent Friday exploring Southwold, an absolutely delightful town, although Adnams Brewery and their colossal merchandise array is everywhere. This doesn’t spoil the place but considering that Rick Stein’s grip on Padstow has given rise to the term ‘Padstein’, we did wonder if Southwold might have collected the name ‘Adwold’ or ‘Southnams’. We pitched in the town campsite conveniently placed close to the Harbour entrance with all necessary facilities available. In the evening we attended the SSC Bar and enjoyed an excellent BBQ, catching up with some old friends and faces. A folk band entertained us and Pete ‘The Knife’ also entertained us with a pithy OGA song written way back.

On Saturday we were charged with documenting the day’s events and used our bikes to explore. First stop the delightful Walberswick then the tracks that lead up to The White Hart, Blythburgh. The open boats were to sail up to the pub for lunch. That entailed rowing or sculling under the rather low Bailey bridge, before setting up mast and rig. We photographed this and then cycled ahead, mostly via road as the tracks were so overgrown, to arrive in time to photograph their arrival. The river was somewhat short of water by the time they arrived as a fair south easterly and good tide had propelled them almost as fast as we could cycle! The day was warm and glorious.

For Saturday night a very professional stage had been erected between the Harbour and the Club. A good line-up of bands played from early evening. This culminated in a very good band called the Informers, playing some Madness hits and other similar fare. Although never introduced, there on the electric piano and singing was Rogue Trader TV presenter Matt Allwright. Not a member of the band, he’s always been a musician and I can say that his sense of rhythm was spot on. His piano playing, whilst unadventurous, was deftly executed. Matt hails from Berkshire, so whether there is a Southwold connection, we did not discover. We watched this with some new found friends: the much larger motorhome next to us at the campsite contained the very friendly David and Ann. David had been the longest serving governor of the Royal Hospital School at Holbrook on the River Stour. It turned out that they live just 25 miles east of us in Banbury, Oxon. We all did our best to finish the 20 odd barrels of beer available which was well served and very drinkable!

Sunday dawned grey and cool, with several drenching soft showers in the morning. There was a steady, full sail breeze off the land, north westerly, and those with topsails set them for the race in Walberswick Bay. The cloud base lifted as the Race started and occasional gleams of sunshine signalled the end of rain. The prizegiving with Race results was brought forward to 2.30pm and apart from cups there was a number of engraved half pint glasses distributed to winners from the Jon Wainwright collection of Southwold Rally events from previous years. These were very kindly and thoughtfully donated by Jon’s widow Margaret.

What is it like to attend an OGA rally without a boat? Well, I confess to a little envy when I saw the Fabian Bush built stout winklebrig ‘Faith’ arrive and later sail out to race. I also noted that for those coming from south, the wind was aft, off the land and would be ditto going home. However, push bikes set you free and the event was just as enjoyable and people just as friendly. We look forward to attending this and other OGA events in the future.

The moral of the tale? When you hang up your sailing boots, don’t forget all your other shoes: Tony Judd