The annual interclub challenge took place in Burnham on Sunday 31st August, with the four clubs competing for the HMS St Mathew Cup. The prestigious trophy was presented by the Royal Navy, WRENS and Royal Marines when they left the town after the Second World War in 1946. It is raced for every year, with the format evolving and changing over the years as the demographics of the river change.
This year was fleet racing between 707s using windward leeward courses. The course was set off the Burnham Sailing Club with a good crowd ashore watching as well as support boats from all clubs afloat.
The course went upriver on the beat, round an inflatable windward mark off the Yacht Harbour then out to an inflatable spreader mark, and down river on the run, using Number 9 as the leeward mark. The Royal Corinthian was represented in Beaver Hunter by Paul Gray and crew, the Royal Burnham in Racehorse, helmed by Richard Bavin. The Crouch Yacht Club was represented by Tony Hall, Martyn Randall and crew helming their own 707, and the Burnham Sailing Club had John Lewis and Malcolm Hutchins in Baby Beluga.
The first race was started whilst the tide was ebbing still, but Beaver Hunter and Baby Beluga were both OCS. Beaver Hunter were able to turn and clear the line quickly, but Baby Beluga had to wait for clear water to turn, and chased the fleet on the beat. Tony Hall got an excellent start for the Crouch Yacht Club, but Richard Bavin sailing for the Royal Burnham soon took the lead, and retained it for the entire race. Beaver Hunter kept second throughout, and Baby Beluga the Burnham Sailing Club boat did close the gap but took third; the Crouch Yacht Club boat retired.
The second race saw the fleet more line shy and all got a clear start. Beaver Hunter helmed by Paul Gray for the Royal Corinthian led after the first lap, but Racehorse got through her, going from third on the first lap to first by the end of the second and kept the lead for the remainder of the race, making in two bullets on the trot for the Royal Burnham. Baby Beluga was second throughout and Beaver Hunter came in third.
The third race again saw the fleet hanging back from the line on the new flood tide. Beaver Hunter got a great start for the Royal Corinthian and led for the first two laps. However, Baby Beluga sailing for the Burnham Sailing Club and Racehorse were chasing hard. After the first lap Baby Beluga held second, but after the second lap had allowed the Royal Burnham in Racehorse into second. However, John Lewis got ahead and took first for the Burnham Sailing Club, with Racehorse second and Beaver Hunter finishing third.
The last race saw the Crouch Yacht Club win the start with great helming by Tony Hall. Beaver Hunter very quickly took the lead on the first beat, and although Baby Beluga and Racehorse did at times close the gap, managed to remain in the lead and take the bullet. On the last lap, John Lewis in Baby Beluga luffed Richard Bavin in Racehorse across the river well away from the leeward mark, allowing Paul Gray to finish well clear. After the luffing match, John Lewis sailing for the Burnham Sailing Club took second and Racehorse third.
Prize giving followed in the Crouch Yacht Club, with Commodore Duncan Haley introducing Ron Pratt the Town Mayor who then presented the prizes. The Crouch Yacht Club finished fourth, with last year’s winners, the Royal Corinthian, in third; the Burnham Sailing Club were second and the Royal Burnham won, receiving the trophy and glassware from the Mayor.