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Tollesbury Rally: 20 – 21 May, 2023

We bring two reports from this excellent event as well as a great gallery of photos by Sandy Miller.

Yet again we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine, but in comparison to last year a very strong breeze as well. Tollesbury Sailing Club claim to be one of the friendliest clubs on the East Coast and I’m sure this is correct, we had a lovely time! Joe Farrow managed to get his Landrover and dinghy down early enough from Norfolk to get out for an exploratory sail on Friday and during the day several other members arrived to set up camp and bask in the sunshine.

Due to the conditions, a revised course was set further into the Leavings, with two laps. With the wind blowing 17 – 24 mph Yvonne Mitchell decided, very wisely, not to launch her scow ‘Ermintrude’ and following a reefed sail round part of the course I too scratched in ‘Pudding Faces’. Melvyn Fox sailed ‘Molly’ around the course but did not race. Last years winner, Steve Johnson could not start due to a failed main halyard, which could not be repaired and Pete ‘the Knife’ (PTK) almost had to withdraw as ‘Papa Stour’ was leaking through the centreboard bolt. Bing, the Tollesbury Sailing Club commodore was delayed at the start trying to reef his boat ‘Fidget’ but otherwise all got away. Phil Plumtree, in his 14’ West Mersea lugger ‘Woodcock’ dominated the race from the start, with Joe Farrow in his wooden lugger ‘Sine Nomine’, PTK, Pete Thomas in ‘Eureka’, Tarquin and Henry Wildridge in ‘Ettie’ and Bing in ‘Fidget’ following in his wake. Phil won by some distance but it was noticeable throughout the race how Bing managed to catch up and overtake all but Phil. The event was concluded with a superb fish and chips supper. Yet another superb weekend of sailing at Tollesbury, with a lovely set of photographs by Sandy Miller to remind us of the event.

Ian Clarke, East Coast OGA, event organiser

The East Coast small boats season usually commences with Tollesbury, hosted by the Sailing Club. This year was no exception with several boats sailing across from West Mersea to join the fleet, as usual. By Friday evening, the early arrivals including Melvyn, Yvonne, PT and PTK were enjoying IPA in the clubhouse. We all hoped the forecast, force 6-7 at 07:00 Saturday, was wrong! Saturday dawned and it wasn’t far wrong. A ‘brisk’ NE came early, with some members wisely deciding to stay ashore to watch. At the briefing a course was set, later revised to reflect the ‘chop’ in the Blackwater. This was wise. 

Full credit to TSC for managing the OGA, contending the race themselves and also getting 27 young sailing cadets afloat on Saturday. Nearly 40 boats were ‘out’ at one point. The wind direction made it a dead knock out of the Creek. It was a sensible move by Ian and PTK to bring an engine. The rest of us got sore arms and a lesson in how strong the wind/tide can be. The revised course saw us keeping ‘inside’ of Great Cob Island when we’d been joined by Tarquin in his smack’s boat ‘Ettie’ and son, Henry as crew. Once we’d worked out the revised course PTK and PT made excellent starts, by the simple expedient of following a local who had a stopwatch (cunning).

The rest of us weren’t far off the line and the first leg was upwind, quickly separating the fleet. Special mention goes to TSC Commodore Bing, who started late and then gave valiant chase to us all. Once at the ‘top’ mark, there was a nice long reach out to the mouth of Tollesbury Creek and back enabling some boats to stretch their legs. Phil in his West Mersea lugger simply took off, leaving ‘Papa Stour’ and ‘Sine Nomine’ in a fierce battle. Phil was so far ahead, the lead boat (TSC rib) had to keep going to the next mark leaving the rest of us to make educated guesses as to where the next mark was! By the 2nd lap, Bing had caught everyone up, making short work of the blustery conditions and just flying along. He finished 2nd over the water. Although he’d gained on Phil, his boat proved ultimately elusive. At the finish, it was a shock to learn we’d only been out an hour! Most of the time had been spent at hull-speed. PTK and ‘Sine Nomine’ headed out to the Blackwater to see what the conditions were like. West Mersea hadn’t lied, it was lumpy and with waves coming over both sides of the boats, we turned around in time for the prizegiving. TSC had ordered some sunshine which was much appreciated!

Joe Farrow, East Coast OGA, ‘Sine Nomine’

1st Phil Plumtree & his West Mersea lugger ‘Woodcock’ (TSC tankard)
2nd Bing & his Tollesbury Winkle Brig ‘Fidget’ (Concurs d’Elegance)
3rd Joe Farrow & ‘Sine Nomine’ (OGA glassware)
1st Smacks Boat Pete the Knife & ‘Papa Stour’ (OGA glassware)

Special thanks go to Ian Clarke for organising the event, Pete Thomas for the beautiful glassware, Yvonne and Des for collecting fish & chips for everyone and of course all at TSC who were involved in making the event happen.