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Swallows and Amazons: 3 – 4, June 2023

On a fine Friday afternoon, reminiscent of the idyllic days of Swallows and Amazons, the fleet gathered at Walton and Frinton Yacht Club. The arrival of most boats was impeded by the unfortunate closure of the main road to Walton, causing a tumultuous diversion attracting almost the entire population of the Tendring peninsula. There were a few reports of success for stepping off the beaten track and ignoring signs. The fleet congregated in a borrowed camping field, graciously provided by the Wilberforce family. Amongst the tall grass, campervans and tents found designated spots. Sailors, huddled behind a windbreak, eagerly exchanged tales and news from across the region. It was a merry gathering around a flickering campfire accompanied by clinking glasses and jovial laughter, until sleep beckoned with thoughts of gusty winds and early morning briefings.

Saturday morning dawned, as if adhering to its own mischievous agenda, bringing forth the anticipated strong winds and an unusually early briefing. Sailors gathered to be informed of the day’s course and adjusted start time of 1100, allowing ample opportunity for copious amounts of coffee and bacon rolls. A special mention must be made of a valiant boat that sailed from Titchmarsh to arrive just after the briefing. It was agreed to forsake the course round Horsey Island, replacing it with two laps heading out to a turning mark off Stone Point, back past Walton and Titchmarsh into the centre of the Wade to finish on the Club line.

Whilst some boats were towed to the start line, there was a captivating spectacle of synchronized sails whipping along a fetch towards Stone Point. Despite the blustery gusts that tested their mettle, the fleet managed to maintain a tightly knit formation. Curiously, even the leading boat, entrusted with charting the course and briefing fellow sailors, experienced a fleeting moment of panic until they realized the channel marker adorned with number 13 was indeed the no.13 race mark on the chartlet kindly provided by Dez. Once the mark was rounded, competitors surged forward along a reach and a run, propelled by the winds, back to the Wade. This leg favoured the full-sailed smacks boats and their crews, who deftly exploited their additional canvas. As the race neared its conclusion, the course was shortened, much to the delight of those windswept sailors labouring tirelessly. The final leg beckoned, culminating in a triumphant finish beneath the tower of the W&FYC line. The beat to the corner afforded an opportunity for those wise enough to have taken a reef to outmanoeuver the intrepid early leaders who valiantly, but perhaps too boldly, clung to their full sails.

Swallows and Amazons, June 2023 Photo: Ian Clarke

Fortunately for the damp sailors, the sun was out whilst the boats were derigged and everyone headed to the bar to dry off and whet their whistles. Prizegiving took place on the first floor of W&FYC’s clubhouse, with recognition given to both little gaffers (the Scow raced by Ginny) and young gaffers (Elliot crewing on the Yachting World Day Boat), before awarding the chocolates.

Dinner was kindly put on by W&FYC, coordinated by Yvonne, allowing the sailors to continue regaling  their tales from the race. After supper, everyone enjoyed live music in the Clubhouse bar. Most took early leave to bed on Saturday night, with the windy race and plenty of sun having caught up with them. On Sunday, several boats made the trip out to Stone Point, again battling windy weather and were rewarded with a prime viewing spot to enjoy watching those crossing the bar in both directions. After consuming rations, the boats headed back to the club to derig, load up, and head home. A fantastic, sunny, windy weekend was had by all.

‘Suffling’ [Gaffling] 1st overall
‘Dabchick’ [Coot] 1st Traditional
‘Papa Stour’ [Smacks Boat] 1st smacks boat
‘Minnow’ [Smacks Boat] 2nd smacks boat
‘HappyDays’ [Smacks Boat]  
‘Muddy Duck’ [Scow] Little Gaffer
‘Edith G’ [YW Day Boat] Youngest Crew
‘Eureka’ [Smacks Boat]
‘Ettie’ [Smacks Boat]
‘Sine Nomine’ [Smacks Boat]

Words: Ed Roberts
Fleet photos: Ian Clarke