Plucky boats sail close to the wind

PUBLISHED: 16:08 07 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:15 10 June 2010

Lympstone Sailing Club were the hosts for the eighth running of the River Exe Regatta, held over the weekend of June 28 and 29. Both days delivered fresh and gusty winds from between West and South West, with plenty of warm sunshine. The regatta coinc

Lympstone Sailing Club were the hosts for the eighth running of the River Exe Regatta, held over the weekend of June 28 and 29. Both days delivered fresh and gusty winds from between West and South West, with plenty of warm sunshine. The regatta coincided with the British Kite Racing Association event held on Exmouth seafront, organised by kite racing world champion Steph Bridges, of Edge Watersports.This year's regatta theme was "excellent sailing starts here", reflecting the wide range of competitive sailing on the Exe, from a very successful junior racing series to providing three members of Team GB for the forthcoming China Olympics, and all points in between.Exmouth's Mersey class all-weather lifeboat made the trip up the estuary to the race area, between Starcross and Lympstone, to fire the starting maroon at 12:30. First fleet off the line were the catamarans, followed at five minute intervals by the 27-strong dinghy class 1 fleet and the 48 boats of the slower class 2 fleet. Further up river on a separate course, the class 3 dinghies and Lasers started their regatta, while downstream the small fleet of cruisers set out on the first race down the channel, past the kite surfers off the seafront and out into Lyme Bay. As the 2pm high tide approached, the windsurfers launched into the waters of Exmouth's "duckpond". The Westerly breeze allowed them to sail a long, fast reaching course almost to Lympstone, with one competitor clocking over 25 knots.The weather for the evening party at Lympstone SC was in marked contrast to the last time they hosted the event, when it poured with rain. This time they were blessed with a balmy evening and beautiful sunset across the Exe. A packed sailing club enjoyed a fantastic meal of barbecued bangers and mash prepared by an army of Lympstone volunteers. If bangers and mash sounds a bit ordinary then you have not considered the transformational effect of onion gravy, prepared by families throughout the village, all determined to produce the very best... The B&M, followed by S&C (strawberries and cream, wake up!) plus a quantity of beer fuelled some frenzied dancing to the Irish-influenced three piece band The Joyce Gang. A spectacular display of fireworks, launched from the end of the pier by former commodore Graham Wheeler, rounded off a great evening.Sunday's racing did not get underway until 2pm, the late start being dictated by the tide rather than the need to respect the fragile condition of some competitors. The catamarans got away on time but just a couple of minutes before the class 1 dinghies were due to start the wind shifted several degrees to the South, forcing race officer Hugh Sutherland to postpone the start and adjust the course. This was done very swiftly and the fast dinghies were soon underway. The start of the next fleet was memorable for some close encounters of an unwelcome kind. Just seconds before the start, a small yacht attempted to motor straight through the line. Several boats collided with each other while attempting to avoid the intruder and some damage was done. Visitors onboard the local pleasure cruiser had an extremely close view of all this action and were probably near enough to hear the shouting, some of which was undoubtedly directed at the skipper of their boat.While the grown-ups and bigger kids were out racing, the little ones had an afternoon of fun, including raft building and crabbing, organised by Mike and Abbie Gall and supported by Lympstone Sea Scouts. The Starcross YC youngsters arrived in a large fleet of Optimist dinghies. The trip back to Starcross into the fresh breeze was a bit more challenging than the sail out, but all survived.There was only one race on the Sunday to allow time for everyone to get back to their respective clubs and then head once again to Lympstone SC, this time for the legendary regatta tea and prize giving. The Lympstone ladies excelled themselves again, producing industrial quantities of cakes, scones and clotted cream, all enjoyed in the warm sunshine, while results officer Malcolm Elliott and his wife Dorothy slaved over a red-hot laptop computer to work out the final placings.The full results are available on the regatta website at www.river-exe-regatta.org.uk but some highlights must be mentioned. Starcross YC dominated the class 1 dinghy fleet. Only six points separated the first five boats, with the B14 of Mark Pollard and Richard Hingston taking first overall by one point from Dave Lee and Lewis Turner in a Merlin Rocket. Exe SC boats predominated in the class 2 fleet, although the overall winners were Jayne Johnson and Nicola McKilroy from Starcross, in their RS200. Second place went to the Comet Trio of Andrew and Caroline McAusland, the first of sixteen Exe SC Trios in the regatta. The next most numerous class of boat was the RS200, with a turnout of ten, of which six finished in the top ten. First junior to finish in class 2 was fourth-placed Iain Horlock of Exe SC sailing his RS200 with Edward Pearce. Just to underline the family nature of the regatta, Iain's mum and dad came eleventh in class 2 in a Comet Trio, while his brother, Alex - sailing a Cadet with Edward's brother Tim won every race in class 3.Laser winner was Mike Kinnear of Starcross YC, three points clear of junior Max Williams, also of Starcross. John Donovan and Nigel Hingston of Starcross won both of the multihull races in their Hurricane 5.9.The cruisers, who only raced on the Saturday, competed in two divisions according to handicap. Division 1 was won by former Exe SC commodore Ivan Wilkinson in Laser 28 Silk Purse, while Richard Glanville's Contessa 28 Green Trombone won Division 2.After the prize giving and the now-traditional prize draw conducted by Pete Manfield and Tony Blackmore, it was time for regatta chair Rosemary Maltby to declare a hugely successful regatta over and pass the baton to Symon Garratt of Exe SC, the hosts for the 2009 regatta.

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