This report was first published in the October edition of Yachts & Yachting.
The Ospreys are a class with fine traditions and it was tradition that saw them invited back to Burnham Week a few years ago– a reminder to yachties as to how it should be done before toes are curled.
It is class that holds lots of fond memories for many, the sentiments “I remember sailing those with my father back in the ...’s (fill in the blanks), wow! they look good now” are oft heard and it was such nostalgia that brought Roger Blake back to the class with his twelve year old son. A boat was borrowed, kit purloined and indulgence sated.
Nostalgia has brought many back to sailing the Bentley GT of dinghies but we are a friendly bunch and nostalgia is not necessary, we offer anyone a go if they ask nicely...
The Ospreys gather at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club (site of the Endeavour Trophy and most historic prestigious sailing events in Essex) on the Friday night to meet with friends and enjoy ambience of the bars and restaurants of Burnham. Travellers came from as far away as Cornwall and Northumberland and the meet was on.
The racing commenced at 13:40 on the Saturday, allowing non-party animals to arrive and party animals to recover, apart from Princess Ariel who is still on regime...
Time limit 3½ Hours – yes this was a yacht race of tradition... The course looked long - with a leg down to the Roach and two loops in the Crouch / Roach before a beat back to the line.
As the start approached the Weather was 3 to 4 with sunshine and scattered cloud. As if drawn by the five minute, gun a squall approached coming through with 42 mph gusts. The unexpected wind caused minor damage to Nick Jones in 1341 and Rob Shaw / Ian Little in 1317 forcing them to retire for repairs.
The rest of the fleet started with the Viola and Mike Scott in 1314 getting away at the traditional downwind start and screaming away with the kite up. The rest of the fleet chased them down the run and across the fetch / beat up the Roach. Racing was tight with the places changing constantly and the wind varying from force 2 to 5. By the end of the first loop Mike Pickering and Mike Priddle in 1348 took the lead and never looked back with impressive upwind speed. During the next loop the youngsters Tom Holland and Anthony Shaw in 1337 managed to pass John Shenton and Steve Offer in 1344.
The minor places continued to be change during the last beat in the increasing wind to the finish. The Race Officer shortened course to the Pilehouse line to ensure the time limit was not exceeded, satisfying the desire for a long race.
Taking the gun was the two Mikes in 1348, 2nd was Viola and Mike in 1314 and 3rd Tom and Anthony (Mike) in 1337.
Saturday was rounded off with the traditional (have I mentioned the tradition around this event?) charity barbecue and **** up. As usual other fleets turned up and the party rocked – many thanks to Rob and Helen Shaw for their excellent (traditional) organisation – much money was raised for their (and worryingly I have forgotten which – it must have been the bonhomie) chosen charities.
Footnote: - Have you ever noticed that fleets seem to have many people with the same Christian name? - For example to sail a Phantom you have to be called either Simon or James - in the Osprey you have to be called Mike unless you are Mick Greenland and then you are just being bloody awkward.
Sunday dawned (as it does, week in week out – Ed) and some were suffering – another tradition.
The inshore forecast was 5 to 6 gusting 7 (Osprey weather...) - 2 shorter races planned.
The whole fleet made the start line, as the repairs from the first race had been completed the previous evening and with brilliant sunshine and a healthy force 5 - Mick Greenland – traditionally better in the light stuff, with Chris Saunders ranting on the wire in 1322, reached the windward mark first. Paul Heather and Jonathan Osgood in 1292 tried the north side of the river for the run against the tide whilst the rest of the fleet followed the leader down the south side.
The fleet on the south side had to overtake the Squibs and had slightly more tide and so 1292 had caught up with 1322 and 1348. The three went round the next mark together but unfortunately 1292’s moment of greatness resulted in a nosebleed by failing to give 1348 sufficient room at the mark.
The course went up the Roach and round the corner allowing the kites to be hoisted on the run with a gybe at the corner followed by good tight three sail reach that was right on the money - the best reach of what was an excellent long weekend. Rob and Ian (1317) passed Viola and Mike (1314) on the reach and both of them passed 1292 on the last beat. 1st the two Mikes in 1348, 2nd Mick and Chris in 1322 and 3rd Rob and Ian (Mike) in 1317.
The close racing continued down the fleet with places changing regularly.
Race 3 was back to back with Race 2 and started in the continuing force 5. After a short first beat, once again Paul and Jonathan in 1292 split sides with the fleet although as the tide was not as strong, this did not gain as it did in Race 2.
By the half way mark Rob and Ian in 1317 were leading from the two Mikes in 1348 and Viola and Mike in 1314. 1317 went to the wrong mark however and 1348 took full advantage.
The middle of the fleet was tight with Ken and Chris in 1338 leading a group that were continuingly changing places. The last beat was long one, in a dropping wind although still force 3 and against an impressive tide. Once again Paul and Jonathan were contrarians and chose the other side of the river to everyone else. It was close but gained them two places on the last beat as they squeezed past Ken and Chris in 1338 and Tom and Anthony in 1337.
Up the last beat Viola and Mike in 1314 overtook both boats ahead and Rob and Ian in 1317 overtook the two Mikes who unfortunately dropped from 1st to 3rd which ultimately proved their undoing.
1st Viola and Mike 1314, 2nd Rob and Ian (Mike) in 1317, 3rd the two Mikes in 1348.
To provide the fleet with an unexpected treat whilst coming ashore Paul Heather in 1292 instead of stepping off on to the pontoon had his prophetic moment and tried to walk on water. Fortunately, after complete submersion, his swimming was up to staying with the tide and once the fleet had finished laughing they pulled him out.
Monday morning – more self inflicted pain after the traditional dinner in the RCYC trophy room – a room stacked with sailing history – something we thank the RCYC for as an honour and privilege.
Two short races were planned to allow the travellers to get home.
The inshore forecast once again challenged the long range forecast and again promised a mix of winds. The race started in champagne conditions with John and Steve in 1344 off to a flyer reaching the windward mark with their nose in front.
The fleet then split at the windward mark with some choosing the North and the others the South side of the River. Tom and Anthony in 1337 proved the South side to be the best and shot into the lead.
Tom, being a crew by nature and breeding, cocked up the drop (ale???) and so in 1337 after all their good work and tactics on the run, their moment in the sun was over. Rob and Ian in 1317, never a crew to let an opportunity pass, led the two Mikes 1348 and Mick and Chris 1322 up the Roach on a wiring two sail reach.
Down the fleet there were more tactical battles as Viola and Mike in 1314 went high and popped the kite while Paul and Jonathan tried unsuccessfully to pass John and Carolyn Mills in 1340 both by going over and then under them.
For the front runners the positions did not change up the final beat although Viola and Mike 1314 got past Paul and Jonathan 1292 and John and Caroline.
1st Rob and Ian(Mike) 1317, 2nd the two Mikes 1348, 3rd Mick (Mike) and Chris in 1322.
The final race started in a gentle force 5 which stayed constant and provided the best wind of the regatta. The course was windward leeward in the Crouch downstream of RCYC. At the windward mark Paul Heather in 1292 once again tried to walk on water stepping out of the back of the boat on bare away. Leaving a confused crew wondering why the kite was not going up and why the Gybe? This left half the fleet with two obstacles to avoid, a floating helm and an out of control boat with a crew trying to stop the capsize.
By the time the crew had control of the boat and picked Paul up the rest of the fleet were small coloured dots representing kites on the horizon. Apologies, but as the author was the disgruntled crew details on the race are a bit sketchy. 1st Rob and Ian(Mike) 1317, 2nd Viola and Mike 1314, 3rd the two Mikes 1348.
Many thanks to RCYC for hosting the Ospreys, providing the fleet dinner and some excellent racing. Big thanks to the Shaws for the barbeque and co-ordinating with the club. Without a lot of unseen hard work, an event is just not as successful as this.
Roger Blake and his son finished every race and judging by the smiles enjoyed them selves despite the impromptu entry. The courses were fantastic allowing plenty of opportunity for places to change and close racing throughout the fleet.
First place was decided by the last race as both first and second had two firsts, a second and a third to count.