River Exe Regatta a super success

RS 400 at the River Exe Regatta RS 400 at the River Exe Regatta

Thursday, June 26, 2014
11:50 AM

The 14th running of the River Exe Regatta, sponsored by Exe Sails and Covers and Young Devon, took place last weeken, writes Mike Rice.

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It was this year hosted by Topsham Sailing Club with the assistance of the other sailing clubs of the River Exe.

Ninety boats entered the regatta, mostly from the River Exe clubs, with a few entries from visitors.

The one thing guaranteed by the weather forecast was plenty of sunshine, but would there be any wind? As the appointed start time came and went, limp flags on shore, glassy water and drifting boats all suggested otherwise. But after a short postponement, someone found the sea breeze switch and a current of fresh air wafted up the river at a pleasant 5-8 knots.

First away on course A, off Powderham, were the catamarans. These faster craft were set a longer course than the rest of the fleet and they were soon a long way down the river. Next on the start line were the boats with asymmetric spinnakers, dominated by RS classes from 100 to 800, with a couple of B14s. The hornet class had a separate start, as the regatta incorporated an open event for the class. There were seven hornets from Starcross YC and four visitors, including three from Weston SC, on Southampton water. Last off were the other conventional spinnaker boats, which included nine merlin rockets, all from Starcross YC.

Further up river, Course B was the field of play for the junior fleet and the slower dinghies.

Twelve juniors took to the water in a variety of toppers and lasers and two RS Fevas. The ‘slow asymmetric’ fleet was made up mainly of Exe SC comet trios, with one visiting trio from Paignton.

The ‘slow conventionals’ included two wayfarers and three Devon yawls.

The breeze held up long enough for the three planned races to be run.

The fast asymmetric fleet winner was Russ Gibbs (RS 800), just one point ahead of Crispin Taylor’s B14.

Visitor Jon Williams, of Rutland SC was the first hornet ahead of the local boat sailed by Richard Garry and Matt McGrath.

Merlin rockets took the first two places in the fast conventional fleet.

Alistair and Moira Glen took the win, with David Lee and Juliet Pealing second. Iain Horlock steered his contender into third place.

Starcross YC’s Eleanor Poole dominated the junior fleet in her topper, winning all three races.

There was a close battle for second between the lasers of George Melbourne of Exe SC and Benjamin Flower of Teign Corinthian YC.

Both finished on five points, but Flower won on countback.

The battle of the trios was won narrowly by Alex Horlock and Harriet Melbourne, one point ahead of Andrew and Caroline McAusland.

Starcross YC wayfarers were first and second in the ‘slow conventionals’, with Liam and Sue McGrath finishing ahead of Robin and June Barker.

On the Saturday evening Topsham SC hosted the regatta party. It was a great way to round off an excellent day, in a beautiful location.

On the Sunday the sea breeze was already well established by start time. On the menu was a long(ish) distance race for the catamarans and a two-hour all-classes pursuit race for the rest.

This is where the slowest boats start first and the others follow at intervals determined by their handicap ratings. The finish comes two hours after the first start and, theoretically, by that time all the boats will be in the same place. Thankfully for the race officer, that never happens.

The catamaran race was won by Doug Smith and Jamie King ahead of Basil Strickland and Andy Carmichael. The difficulty of tacking across the tide off the Warren caused some changes of position.

First off in the pursuit race were the toppers and it was another forty two minutes before the last boat, Russ Gibbs’ RS800, started.

The two wayfarers from Starcross YC worked their way steadily to the front of the fleet, with the comet trios hot on their heels. In the closing minutes they were challenged by the trio of Alex Horlock and Harriet Melbourne and it looked for a time as if the merlin rocket of Hannah Stowell and Mark Elkington was going to close the gap.

But when the two hours ended, Liam and Sue McGrath’s wayfarer held the lead. Horlock and Melbourne came through into second place, followed by the second wayfarer, of Robin and June Barker.

This was not a day for the speed merchants, proving the point that handicaps do not work equally in all conditions. It is worthy of note that the first fast asymmetric boat, Richard Cain’s RS 400, finished just outside the top ten.

After Sunday’s racing Topsham SC laid on a magnificent tea party as a prelude to the prize giving and prize draw.

Regatta chairman Richard Stevens welcomed everyone and thanked the many people who had helped to make the regatta a success.

Assisted by Sam Woolner, of regatta sponsor Exe Sails and Covers, he then gave out the prizes.

This was followed by the famous regatta prize draw. Everyone’s name, competitors and helpers alike, went into the draw, but you had to be there to claim your prize.

Full results and photographs can be seen via the regatta website at www.river-exe-regatta.org.uk. Next year’s event is due to be hosted by Starcross YC.

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