The scene was set for a Gala Occasion and that's what it turned out to be. The dining room was brim full with an extra party in the little library, the table decorations reflected the colours of Topper in red and black and there was the buzz that comes from old friends delightedly greeting each other and catching up on the latest news.
The meal over, the audience settled back to enjoy the speeches. It was my task to set the scene, telling the story that provided the link between the silver model of the 'J' Class Endeavour, the RCYC's involvement with Tommy Sopwith's challenge in the 1934 America's Cup and the Endeavour Trophy Championship. The common factor is Beecher Moore; he was the youngest member of that Corinthian amateur team and as a keen dinghy sailor along with Robin Judah, created the idea of a sailing event to discover 'the champion of champions'. A trophy was needed, Beecher produced the silver model, and the championship was born.
Robin followed. He was the Guest of Honour and had flown especially from Bermuda for the occasion. He mentioned the problems of providing boats for the competitors in the early days when the event was unknown and without the sponsorship it enjoys today and he spoke of the special problems of holding such an event on the waters of the Crouch. He acknowledged the organisers over the years who had kept the event going and commented that it was a small part to dream up the idea but needed real determination to keep it alive for fifty years.
Edwin Buckley then invited Robin to unveil the new Honours Board which is situated in the Sopwith Bar.
Bob Suggitt (Champion of 1970) spoke next, reminiscing warmly of the early days. He remarked that the Royal Corinthian had always recognised the importance of the crew, acknowledging that helm and crew made a team and that RCYC was the first club to attribute honours to both. Bob was looking forward to the Masters' Race on the following day, together with Michael MacNamara (1965), Bill Bacon (1967), Nick Martin (1973), Alan Gillard (1986), Ian Southworth (1988) and Chips Howarth (1994), from the early years. The champions of the last three years, Geof Carveth, Nick Craig, and Steve Tylecote were also competing in the Masters' Race.
Steve Tylecote spoke eloquently of the event and its unique appeal. He considered that it remained true to the original concept and is firmly based on the rivers Crouch and Roach. All the competitors know the risks of estuary sailing with tidal problems and fickle winds but believe them to be part of the special charm of the event and if anyone can coax a good course out of the conditions, it has to be Kim Allen and his team! The hospitality of the Corinthian members is reknowned and he regarded it as a pleasure to be back.
He finished on a poignant note; he was to be crewed the next day by Toby Lewis and both he and Toby had sailed with Richard Estaugh, Champion in 1981, who had died recently. "There will be three of us in the boat tomorrow," he ended.
Edwin brought the formalities to a close with congratulatory messages from Keith Musto who crewed Peter Bateman in the first race in 1961 and messages of future support from Topper who have done so much to give the event the prestige it carries. We closed with a toast - "The Endeavour - the next fifty years!"