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Swamazons Old Gaffers event at Walton and Frinton Yacht Club

by Bernard Patrick 2 Jul 2009 10:57 BST 6-7 June 2009

The East Coast Old Gaffers premier event for open boats took place at its traditional venue, the Walton Backwaters, a beautiful sheltered area of water and the setting of 2 Arthur Ransome novels.

This was the 10th Anniversary Swallows and Amazons weekend and it went spectacularly well. There was an excellent turn-out as usual, with over 36 boats on the start line for Saturday morning’s round the island race. Most participants arrived on Friday evening and got themselves installed at the camp site. There were six cruisers and their tenders moored up in the Walton and Frinton YC pond by lunchtime Friday – Ariel, Ellen, Transcur, Charity, Ragged Robin and Sea Otter. Arthur Ransome’s old cutter Nancy Blackett spent the weekend alongside the quay outside the club house and welcomed all visitors, especially fans who remembered she starred as Goblin in the books.

It needed to be an early start on Saturday morning to catch the tide so that the race could finish near high water at the Yacht Club. Unfortunately the wind was rather strong and so a shorter course was set which took us from the start line to the causeway on the Wade, back down the Twizzle, round a convenient turning mark then back to the Club.

The start was quite interesting, as the line was narrow and there were a lot of boats! All sorts of craft were racing, from Mirrors and traditional Smacks Boats, to an Optimist and of course a few one-off specials, including a 12 square metre Sharpie! Fortunately no-one was over the line when the gun went and the fleet took off on a fast reach towards the Wade. Many boats took the precaution to reef before the race, but there were a few out there under full sail.

Joy of London, the Winkle Brig, quickly established herself at the front, powering along under full sail. The beat back to the junction of Foundry Creek and the Twizzle split the fleet up and there were a few stragglers, but the fleet bunched up as they rounded the mark on the Wade, the smaller boats giving chase. First boat home was Joy, who had pulled out a considerable lead, followed by the rest of the fleet coming home in a steady stream. Melisande was second home, closely followed by Mantra. Sugar Scoop was the first Smacks Boat out of the 11 that were racing.

In the afternoon, children of all ages built their paper boats which were raced across the Pond. There were 21 entries, including ‘Titanic’ which, with commendable historical accuracy, sank on its maiden voyage! Prizes were awarded for design as well as speed, first across the line being Rob Crossley’s ‘Blackett’, followed by ‘Red Robin’ and ‘Seidon’. Sophie Blackburn is to be congratulated on organising a very enjoyable event.

The traditional evening meal at the yacht club was a sell-out, and enjoyed by all. Then the Old Gaffers music session started.

After Saturday’s brilliant weather, Sunday morning opened with solid rain and very strong winds, so regrettably the sail to Stone Point, crab racing and picnic had to be abandoned – but the crabs were grateful!

The Walton and Frinton Yacht Club hosted the event so well yet again, and pulled out all the stops for us, nothing seemed too much trouble. Thanks also to the campsite providers, and all the organising team of Old Gaffers.

Prizewinners - ‘Traditional Gaffer’ class:
1st (and 1st Overall) – Joy of London
2nd – Melisande
3rd – Julitta

Prizewinners - ‘New Classic’ class:
1st – Orca
2nd – Voom
3rd – Tide Race

Prizewinners - ‘Spirit of Tradition’ class:
1st – Oppi
2nd – Mantra
3rd – Cramp

Prizewinners - ‘Smacks Boat’ class:
1st – Sugar Scoop
2nd – Willow
3rd – Ruby Ann

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