Light winds and willow trees on the River Ouse
The Round Holes Trophy was up for grabs again. With last year’s winner Duncan Greenhalgh prevented by injury from defending his title, the field was wide open for the second running of the York R I Sailing Club GP14 Classic & Vintage Open Meeting on Saturday 18 April. In GP14 terms, ‘Classic and Vintage’ means Series 1 boats, specifically boats lacking underfloor buoyancy, and more loosely defined as boats with round holes in their transoms – all at least 20 years old, and some considerably older.
Racing on the River Ouse in spring, with the weeping willows along the riverbank just coming into leaf, the swans and ducks preparing for a busy breeding season, newly arrived swallows swooping low over the water, bright sunshine and (with luck) steady breezes – what could be better?
Three back-to-back races were expertly run by race officers Peter Craggs and Phil Nelson, for five local boats and two visitors – which sounds like a small turnout, but seven boats on the start line at this restricted venue is quite a crowd. Conditions were normal for the river – in other words, the wind was up and down, not to mention round and round, and it was a real test of light-wind sailing skills. After five laps of the course, the first race ended with four boats more or less neck and neck, with the lead changing several times within the last few boat lengths until visiting helmsman Peter Dewhurst popped out of the pack to cross the line first, just ahead of the other visiting boat, helmed by Iain Hardy and crewed by Arthur Logan.
Two further races, more fickle winds, but good sailing when the wind blew strongly. It’s a funny place to sail, thanks not just to the variable wind but also to a wide range of obstacles to be negotiated, from passing motor cruisers to floating logs (which can display about the same level of control over their speed and direction), to overhanging trees, and a rather large bridge. Not many people manage to hit the bridge, but at least one of today’s races was punctuated by a loud ‘clang’, followed by a few other noises that are not fit to print here – and Terry will be relieved to hear that we won’t print the name of the sailor involved, either. When the wind drops, drifting into a tree and getting stuck on the bank is common enough, but we have no previous record of anyone sailing full-tilt, spinnaker flying, into the centre of a willow tree. And I do not wish to embarrass the sailor in question by mentioning the name of Steve Parry.
After the racing, cake. And the presentation of the prizes. This year’s winner was Peter Dewhurst of Burwain SC, ably crewed by Jens Kuhn from the host club. We are very grateful to our visitors – four sailors and two boats – for supporting this relatively new fixture on the GP14 racing calendar, and we look forward to welcoming more visitors in 2016.