Race Captain Report 2021 AGM

“O’er the glad waters of the dark−blue sea,

Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,

Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,

Survey our empire, and behold our home!

In the spirit of Lord Byron’s Corsair the Bar Yacht Club broke free from the bounds of the Covid pandemic and returned to the fray in 2021. From Seaview to Yarmouth over the length and breadth of the Solent we ploughed the waves with renewed joy and determination.

Covid restrictions forced the first Mermaid match against Seaview Yacht Club to be postponed from May to early July so the first race of the Season was the Mermaid 4 way match on 6 June. The teams were the Bar, the Law Society, the House of Commons and newcomers Sheffield University alumni. On the day the House of Commons failed to appear and discussion with the race captains resulted in a novel arrangement of 3 teams match racing altogether which worked surprisingly well. Newcomers to the Bar Team included Nick Francis who put his youthful team racing skills to good effect gaining a first place. Another newcomer to the Mermaids was Rory Caslin who sailed Fireflies for the Bermudan national team and likened the slower rudder response of the Mermaid to a supertanker. That did not stop him setting the trap at the windward spreader to allow Nick Francis and Alex Charlton to sail through on race 1 to first and third places. By the end of the day however the finely honed racing skills of Sheffield alumni narrowly won over the Bar with the Law Society in third place.

The Willet cup race was sailed on 26 June from Cowes to Yarmouth with 6 yachts, Michael Briggs’ Fife, Mikado, Crystal a 1927 Fred Shepherd, Theresa Whelan’s X yacht Xarifa, Richard Southwell’s Dufour, Aruna, James Holman’s Oyster, Aqualeo and Tim Devlin’s Contessa, Coh Karek. It was a perfect day. The sun shone, the breeze blew and the sea sparkled. The start at 0900 on a west flowing tide from the Royal London Yacht Club was entertaining as the Red Funnell and Redjets passed across the course. Mikado was the only yacht on the start line as the gun was fired and she neatly passed in front of the ferry leaving the rest of the fleet in her wake, a position which she held to maintain her firm grasp on the trophy. Crystal came in a close second on corrected time. There was a splendid dinner in the Royal Solent Yacht Club in the evening although strong winds and adverse tides caused us to abandon the plan for a picnic in Newtown creek on Sunday.

The postponed Mermaid match against Seaview was held on 4 July. Heavy Covid casualties resulted in a much reduced team with one member of the Bar sailing single handed in the afternoon struggling at times to keep his Mermaid the right way up. Nick Francis again took a helm to great effect ably crewed by Dominick George. We were joined by a new member, Anita Dowman, who crewed for Alex Charlton with remarkable spirit given her novice status. Charles Apthorpe was the Bar’s best helm with a first, a second and two thirds. A high point of the day was being joined by Michael Briggs for lunch with Mikado moored offshore on a cruise. With local knowledge of wind and tide Seaview won out over the day but the passage race home was a close run thing with the Bar missing out by only 4 points. Adam Griffiths generously shared his notes on team tactics after the event and has agreed to lead a seminar to hone our team racing skills in the new season when the secrets of the passback handbrake will be revealed.

The annual Bar v Bench match for the Gordon Ungley Trophy was raced in the Island Sailing Club Sonars in Osbourne Bay on the 18 September. There was a full turn out in good conditions although a strong west flowing tide meant a late start as the breeze was light at the beginning of the day. The racing was tight and once again the youthful members showed their promise with Rory Caslin and Adam Griffiths in a photo finish on the passage race home to the Squadron line. The day was won by the bench with assistance of some helms and crew from the Bar. Rachel Spearing and her City Race Series team joined the dinner at the Squadron in the evening which was the usual peerless affair, although the race captain was startled at being served Sauternes with foie gras he quickly recovered his composure on being assured by the Commodore elect that it was absolutely the done thing.

The season was a really splendid bounce back by the Club’s racing members. I now hand over our rising star, Rachel, to speak to the City Race Series.

Robin Powell

Joint Race Captain

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