The Squibs had a contrasting year as the travellers were highly successful but the stay at home fleet participated less frequently. The challenge remains to keep local numbers up whilst the pursuit of another National champion continues.
The whole fleet, without exception recognises the effort, organisation and patience given to support our activities throughout the year. Our thanks go to our race officers Bruce Burnett, Edwin Buckley, Kim Allen and their respective teams, Matt Walker and Jools Briggs for our results service, the staff at the club and Peter our ever present launch man. It is their contribution that underpins our enjoyment.
The fleet set itself an early start in the first weekend of March and, surprisingly, 2 boats were launched and ready. At the pre-season lunch on a glorious spring afternoon, the rest of the fleet were able to critique the early combatants from the river wall with a glass in their hands... a typical Squib start to the year. Malcolm Hutchings and Andy Ramsey in Lady Penelope won series and set the tone for the rest of the season. Sixteen boats were launched for Easter to race for the Mike Flint Trophy. The event saw a different winner for each race, most notably Duncan Grindley in his new purchase Surprise. The trophy was won by Malcolm and Andy.
The Gold Cup, held over the early May bank holiday weekend, is our major visitor’s event and a qualifying event for the national Travellers Trophy. 17 of the local fleet were joined by only 2 visiting fleet members from Suffolk & Romford. Eight races were scheduled but this programme was severely curtailed by the weather for the 3rd year running. With the wind blowing dogs off their chains on Saturday, the fleet was significantly reduced to nine boats with both visitors Brimstone (Bryan and the NSOA chairman Jenny Riley) and Billy Ruff’n (David West and John Poskitt) not launching. The weather delivered the inevitable blistering downwind sailing, blistered hands, swamped boats and broken gear. Only 5 boats managed to finish all 5 races and racing on Monday was abandoned. This meant no discards and left Malcolm and Andy victors over Peter Marchant and Marc Rawinsky in Tears in Heaven.
Five of the fleet enjoyed the hospitality of Medway Yacht Club for the East Coast championships, in another windy affair. Again, Hutchings & Ramsey were the lead Burnham boat finishing 3rd overall with the other RCYC boats taking the next 4 places. Six Burnham boats made the trip to the Squib National Championships at Plymouth and the warm welcome of the Royal Western YC. In a change from the early season events, the 61 Squibbers were blessed with fantastic sailing conditions and, with the exception of Monday which was abandoned due to lack of wind, all races were completed in brilliant sunshine coupled with medium to fresh breezes, a real showcase for Plymouth and Devon. Nigel Grogan and Daniel Cripps in Helmut Shöing won the practice race and thereby earned the Nationals “kiss of death” as their week progressively declined to include a black flag, a big hole and a jib lost off the pontoon. The event culminated in a final days racing where any of the top 6 boats were in with a shout of winning overall and that included our own Micky Wright and Chris Dunn in Spoof along with Malcolm & Andy in Lady P. Alas, it was not to be and the event was won for the umpteenth time by Chris and Mark Hogan from South Caernarvonshire. Micky and Malcolm finished 5th and 6th respectively; all 6 Burnham boats registered top ten placements in a race and finished in the top 20 overall with Phil Aspinall and Howie Enkel in Guy Fawkes securing the silver fleet trophy for the week. The fleet were all back to Burnham to support the RCYC charity regatta and the Jimmy Starling Trophy, hosted by the Burnham Sailing Club. Ian Gray and Ian Simons in Chequemate snatched the RCYC regatta series away from usual winner Simon Griffin on the final race by the narrowest of margins.
In a new venture for the Squib fleet, “perfect” Pete Marchant turned PRO for the Jimmy Starling Trophy and acquitted himself well with judicious use of the black flag and only minor aberrations with other starting equipment. The weather had reverted back to blustery resulting in lumpy conditions off Bridgemarsh Island and challenging starts. Once again, despite a close challenge from Robert Coyle and Julian Briggs in Humphrey Malcolm and Andy won with a race to spare against the other 11 entrants.
In early August, Malcolm and Andy ventured to Cowes Week and brought the Squib Trophy back to Burnham for the first time in a decade. As always, Burnham Week delivered a large turnout for the Squib fleet with 21 boats participating at some stage. The bank holiday weekend was a terrific battle between Malcolm Hutchings and Micky Wright. Hutchings was the eventual winner followed by Wright. The mid-week series was even closer and was won by Hutchings from Robert and Tracy Coyle and light winds maestro Chris Goodfellow in Trophoblast. Wright finally got his reward for a long and arduous week by securing the Burnham Week Bowl.
Three boats travelled to contest the South Coast championships hosted by the Royal Victoria YC on the Isle of Wight. In a 22 strong fleet Duncan Grindley finished 7th, Ian Gray 4th and once again, Malcolm and Andy succeeded in winning the event.
The final trip of the year is always the Inland National Championships at Rutland and in the unusually balmy conditions, Malcolm Hutchings and Andy Ramsey Lady Penelope 819 won the National Travellers' Trophy and the Inland Team Trophy for the RCYC with Nigel & Jack Grogan Helmut Shöing and Micky Wright & Chris Dunn Spoof. Carl Anderson and Jason Phelps Magic Roundabout added the Bronze Fleet winners' award to make it a triple success. The squadron of Burnham boats demonstrated strength in depth in the final race registering 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th in a fleet of over 40 of the best national squib sailors. The Travellers’ Trophy is awarded to the best overall from four events across the country and it is a testimony to the consistency and speed of the Burnham fleet that Hutchings and Ramsey, the winners, were followed closely by Wright and Dunn 2nd with Duncan Grindley 4th and Phil Aspinall 5th.
Club racing was a mixed bag impacted partly by the travelling and partly by time pressures on various helm & crew combinations. Even so, Saturday racing invariably had more than 10 participants and not many fewer on Sundays. Early season series were dominated by Malcolm Hutchings sailing with either Andy Ramsey or Jackie Tracy. The summer series saw wins for fleet stalwarts Bill Jones with Martin Hipsey in Tombo and Simon Griffin with Russell Phelps in Brutus along with Micky Wright and Chris Dunn in Spoof. The most welcome win of the club season was that by Paul Tavinor, crewed by Jools Briggs in Whait a Minute, for the non-National series. Paul has decided to hang up his Squib tiller now that he’s in his late 70’s.
The Squib fleet once again had a massively enjoyable day competing for the Rice & Coles Cheeseboard trophy in front of the club. Four short races on a trapezoidal course really sharpened mark rounding skills of both helms and crews bringing large smiles to the faces of everyone. This mid-week event invariably results in an eclectic mix of competitors and crews. Once again Ian Gray & Ian Simons Chequemate won the event. The cheeseboard, thanks to our long time sponsors Rice & Coles, is a very social event with the fleet retiring to the club for a lengthy and enjoyable lunch where, as ever, the calls of "starboard" and "water" were replaced with ones for "port".
The Last Chance regatta held in mid-October saw the largest ever entry of 15 boats for this final fling sponsored again by Colman Coyle LLP. As ever, the windward/leeward format produced exciting and competitive racing for all who endured the 5 races in a single day format. It seemed almost inevitable that Hutchings and Ramsey would win and so it was although the victory was only secured in the final race from Micky Wright and Robert Coyle. Socially, we’ve had another fantastic year especially Burnham Week, the Cheeseboard and the Last Chance Regatta. It is the social aspects which help bond the fleet and keep us together throughout the helm, crew and boat changes this big fleet sees year on year. The fleet has changed again as we’ve seen the arrival of boats new to the river (Mick Bradley with Frodo) and new owners John & Sue Hardy 848 Caesar, Chris Aldred Whirlin Dervish and Noel Sutcliffe with Entente Cordiale.
Disappointingly we’ve seen 5 boats leave for other fleets and I suspect there will be further changes over the winter. The challenge is to ensure that club racing is re-invigorated and develops to push the front runners who continue to seek that elusive national title. It is this challenge which our new class captain will rise to as I hand over the reins after 4 enjoyable years.
I’d like to personally thank all those who have given me tremendous support during my time leading (onshore) the biggest fleet on the river and the largest Squib fleet nationally.