Battle of the Classes

»«Sunday 17th January 2010

The Battle of the Classes was held at the London Boat Show on the 17th January in the dock outside the Excel. The event is a pursuit race involving as many dinghy classes as possible. This year the variety of boats ranged from a Mirror dinghy to a Thames A Rater whose rig is so tall that it only just made it under the bridge that spans the dock. There were 51 entries in all from 41 different classes.

The RCYC provided the race management team for the event. Keeping track of 51 boats racing around a short course in a dock is a logistical challenge. Led by Edwin Buckley and Kim Allen, the happy band numbered nearly twenty people, scattered around the dock busy scribbling down numbers as the boats sailed their laps, in the hope that 103 minutes after the first boat (the Mirror) set off, there was a fighting chance of knowing who had sailed how many laps, with a correct finishing position.

On the day we were blessed with sunshine and warmer weather, but the trick was still to manage to keep your hands warm enough so that you could hold the pen. What it would have been like, if the weather of a few days before had continued, does not bear thinking about.

The start was a tense affair, as for reasons not readily apparent, the weather mark took it into its head to start drifting down the course, which was strange in a non tidal dock with a force 2/3 breeze! Fortunately, the mark got a grip just before the Mirror arrived, and pretty soon the 51 boats were rotating around the dock.

The wind, conveniently, was generally westerly, which was up and down the dock, giving a good windward/leeward course. The narrow course suited the traditional classes, with plenty of tacking. At times it was painful watching the multi-hulls struggling through so many tacks in the confined space. Soon it was apparent that the Graduate 3001, sailed by Stephen Cockerill and Harry Kennedy was going well as was Streaker 1691, sailed by Tom Gillard. Both of these boats were in a top four position throughout the race.

Two later starters, Albacore 7143 (Neville Herbert and Mark Fowler) and the Finn 61 (Allen Burrell) progressively improved their positions, lap by lap, so that at the end of the penultimate lap, it was Graduate, Streaker, Finn and Solo 5012. However, on the last lap, the Albacore muscled in to take 2nd place behind the Graduate, with the Streaker falling back to 4th behind the Finn. However, this does not do justice to how close the race was, because there were numerous boats within touching distance.

The prize giving was a good humoured affair, as everybody had warmed up by then, and many had found the Guinness bar. As well as the individual prize winners mentioned above, the class trophy went to the Albacores whose second boat had finished 9th.

The consensus was that our team had done a good job and has already been invited back to run the event next year. There was also a presentation about the Endeavour 2010 which was well attended and received. In short, good positive publicity for our club, so well done to Edwin, Kim and the team.

PS Message from John Hayes, Organiser & Competitor
Many thanks, Edwin, to you and all your team for a thoroughly professional job yesterday. It all went very well and is a credit to your great team.

Robert Coyle