Peter Howard supplies “The View From the Tugs…….”

Saturday, 30 July 2022

With a favourable weather forecast it was “all good to go”, and, with a simple course (RBYC start, Ray Sand Buoy to Port and W. Mersea Nass Beacon finish), which allowed the participants and escorts to go round the course together, without fear of grounding due to deep drafts. So the RBODs got escorted by 10 escort craft of all shapes and sizes plus the Race Officer, Andy Wise, with Sally on JANE.

Sunshine and a fair South Westerly breeze ensured that a towed start to Holliwell was not necessary and, subsequently, not required throughout the race. Motoring down river, Rubber Ball was not passed without due sentiments. The Ray Sand buoy was located and rounded by the contestants despite the Whatsapp messaging circulating around the fleet, before the race, concerning its whereabouts and glad they didn’t,  “‘ang a left at the Buxey no 2”!

On GREY LADY, bringing up the rear, once across the Ray Sands, and the sun being past the yardarm, the bonded stores were raided and refreshments were served. It can be hell trailing these RBODs and sustenance is vital for crew morale, never mind the skipper’s spirits!  The race continued over the Dengie and St. Peters Flats, the fleet taking advantage of the flatter water and direct course for the finish, whilst most of the escorts kept to the deeper Ray Sand channel.

The race was finished by the Committee boat, with AQUAMARINE taking line honours. The plan was, to ensure the RB’s cleared the marina sill, they would be towed from the finish to the marina. However, this was not necessary as those intrepid RB’s sailed on and on, through Tollesbury Fleet, over the sill and right up to their allocated pontoon. Ah, Club members, it made your breast fair fill with pride at the sight of them and made you proud of our RB Class seamanship.

As the fleet finished, the crew on GREY LADY finished lunch, and, as our duties for the day were at an end, after berthing we were invited on board GIDDY UP to celebrate the completion of our mission, leaving the RBODs to celebrate their own achievements.

It must never be forgotten that this is the RBOD class and that “having fun” is fundamental to Class rules. So, at 1700hrs it was off to Chris Corrigan’s lovely farm for further drinks and substantial nibbles with the entire fleet. All this before meandering off to the restaurant for a boisterous dinner and then on to patronise the Tollesbury  Yacht Club, who had kindly volunteered to come out to the finish and tow the RB’s in, if required.

What an enjoyable day, well-organised with admirable hospitality from Chris and the Tollesbury Y.C. and good fun for all.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Sunday dawned and a different day with the wind increasing to 16knts with gusts slightly over 20kts, but still coming out of the South West. A run start, broad reach across the Flats and beat up the Crouch, a reciprocal course to Saturday.  Because of the marina sill, it wasn’t until 1230hrs that we could leave the marina; again, all RB’s sailed out from their pontoon to the Nass beacon start line and duly started. The brisk south-westerly caused heavy going across the Flats and Sands to the Raysand buoy, and bailing became necessary in the race fleet.

Further out in the Ray Channel, GREY LADY struggled to keep up, with the helmswoman complaining and wanting to know, “are we there yet?!”

Due to the conditions and the fact that there were only two people on board, one of which was poorly, BERYL retired and, sensibly,  took a tow from EIDER.  However, the waves calmed down as we entered the Crouch. (There is definitely less water over the sands than in the recent past).  At this stage the race fleet now faced a head wind and foul tide and as RED JACKET had come from the back to contend the lead, the race became serious, although unnoticed by us bringing up the rear. By now the wind had abated a tad and the skies cleared to a fine late afternoon.

Off the Roach WHITE ROSE hit mud, and it was GREY LADY to the rescue. At long last we could tow someone! After some shenanigans, and admirable manoeuvring by GREY LADY’S helm, WHITE ROSE was refloated and towed back to the Club. An exciting end to the day and although we missed the prize giving, the little drinks party on the Club’s veranda at sunset capped a really great weekend enjoyed by all the escorts.

Long may the Long Distance race continue!

The Escort Fleet comprised:

GIDDY UP Jo and Steve Adams; NEMESIS John and Julie Boyce; REALITY Lizzy Brown, crewed by Malcolm and France Manning; BLACK PEARL Rupert and Cara Carr; NIGHTFALL David and Jema Smith and children; EIDER Guy Trench and Sara; SHIRAZ Jack Warry and mates; EVALUATION Chris Webb; JACKAL Digger Harden; and GREY LADY Paula and Peter Howard with Sylv Hastwell.


And Mel Lewis has provided this blow-by-blow race report……

The offshore race for the RBODs showed these 90 year old  boats in the best of lights.  A spinnaker start from the club line saw 8 of these intrepid old ladies heading out of the river for a trip to Tollesbury on a rising tide.

A simple course of Ray Sand buoy to port to finish at the Nass Beacon with RO Andy Wise in JANE making the finish line.  Steve Herring in RED JACKET led the way by some margin, but a grounding on the north shore allowed Angela Shepherd in AQUAMARINE to overtake and the main group to close the gap.    RED JACKET and AQUAMARINE continued to challenge each other through the Ray Sand channel.  Chris Corrigan in PHALAROPE stormed up and spinnakers were dropped as the fleet headed across the Blackwater, managing to make the finish line on one close tack.  AQUAMARINE had to fight hard to retain her first place with PHALAROPE second and RED JACKET third.

A memorable sight followed as all the RBODs sailed up the narrow Tollesbury creek to their berth in the marina – quite a feat of sailing endeavour with the tight time and tide.   Chris Corrigan and Mary then generously hosted drinks on their lawn to which all, including the 10 escort vessels which had kindly herded the RBODs round.

After an evening of feasting at Tollesbury Marina, followed by drinking at the Tollesbury Sailing Club, the fleet prepared to sail back on Sunday.   RED JACKET and WHIMBREL started on a different line than the one set by RO Andy, and RED JACKET returned to cross the line some 10 minutes or so after the others.  In a determined effort to catch up, RED JACKET was the only boat to fly her kite into the channel.  Then it was a long, long beat all the way back to the club line against the tide with crashing waves and lots of leading in the very different conditions.  Positions changed regularly in the short tacking marathon, and RED JACKET managed to make her way to the front to win the Oliver Cup.  Second was PHALAROPE and third AQUAMARINE.

Special mention should be made of BERYL helmed by Simon Hollington and crewed by Louise McKechnie who went there and mostly back two up.   It was a very successful weekend, reviving the tradition of the RBs venturing into the Blackwater on one weekend of the year.  Chris Corrigan must be heartily thanked for orchestrating the whole event, Race Officer Andy Wise, Peter Howard for organising the escort vessels and Mel Lewis RBOD Class Secretary for herding cats!