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Jack Holt Centennial at Wraysbury Lake Sailing Club

by Roger Devereux 13 Jul 2012 11:57 BST 7-8 July 2012

Despite floods, storms and torrential rain and a forecast to deter Noah from venturing out 15 boats and their owners arrived at Wraysbury Lake to celebrate Jack Holt's centenary year. Boats travelled from as far afield as Yorkshire and Cornwall with stories of seven hours on the motorway.

It was a very informal event with lots of chat and a focus on enjoying the boats of the great man and comments were heard about how nice it was just to enjoy sailing for fun instead of focus focus focus on the serious side of some events.

Wraysbury Lake S C, co-founded by Jack Holt in 1956, welcomed us with bacon butties and hot tea as we started to rig boats.

Morgan Secker, vice commodore for Wraysbury greeted the fleet of boats ranging in age from 1945 to 2002 and Mark Smallwood PRO for the weekend brief us on how to knit round the cans of this small lake with islands.

Saturday was set for three point races with adjusted handicaps to take into account the original rigs of the older boats. The first race before lunch was a lesson in learning the course, we had a lead boat but that disappeared into the distance with Hornet 2176 so we had to find our own way. Toby Barsley-Dale and Gareth Russell in Hornet had to polish up their boat handling skills on these short legs with Gareth doing his best to slow the boat down by falling off the trapeze.

The fleet returned to the clubhouse for a very nice selection of pasta bakes for lunch and serious pressure was put on the PRO to keep the course as it was, as we had learnt it now.

Two more points' races in the afternoon allowed spectators to admire some of the shiny varnish on display and we returned to shore to relax and enjoy the free beer and Pimms offered by Rondar Raceboats to "raise a toast to Jack Holt". It was sampled with the usual enthusiasm of sailors after a hard days racing.

David Henshall, who had rushed up a soggy M3 from PRO duties for the Dart 15s at Netley, then gave the third version of his very interesting talk about the life and boats of Jack Holt to an appreciative if a little tipsy audience.

The weather had been kind during the day with only a couple of heavy showers but made up for it overnight. It seemed to rain all night and campers were roused from their sleep at around 5.30 by the sound of Rolls Royce jet engines in full reverse thrust as they landed at Heathrow a short distance away.

It was a grey and drizzly morning with occasionally heavier drizzle that greeted us as we emerged from damp tents onto boggy grass for breakfast.

A quick briefing about the day's events from Morgan, then Roger Devereux explained the mornings Concours d'elegance, a posh way of choosing your favourite boats. Three different coloured ribbons were handed out to anyone who wanted to vote and coats were donned and boats tidied. Just at that moment the sun came out and stayed for the rest of the day.

Each ribbon represented a category and was tied to the boat of choice. Only one rule, you can't vote for your own boat even though young Jacob Cottle tried hard to persuade the judges that blades of grass tied around the shrouds of his father's recently restored Vagabond should count as green ribbons.

After so much boat admiration on land it was time for a bit more. Merlin 16 "Gently" was Jack Holts own boat and still holds the record for most Merlin Rocket championships won. She had been stored for many years in the dry and earlier in the year had undergone a thorough restoration at the very skilled hands of classic dinghy enthusiasts Chris Barlow and Mervyn Allen. Gently hadn't seen the water for many years and there was some conversation as to whether she would float when she was launched with much ceremony and loud applause. Richard Disney who had sailed her with Jack Holt was there to watch her sail away across the lake. She did float.

She was soon joined by the rest of the fleet for the sail past of all the boats with a commentary on the history of each class and each boat given by Martin Honor and it was wonderful to see so many of Jacks designs out together. The fleet was led by Gently followed by two Mirrors including Peter Barnes number 32, two Enterprises (a boat designed specifically for Wraysbury), a Vagabond (now only six left), two Herons, a GP14, a very rare Holt International Canoe, three Holt designed Merlins (including number 1), a National 12 (known as Holt 500s) and two Hornets (one with sliding seat and a modern example with trapeze).

Lunch and more free beer.

The finale for the weekend was a grand pursuit race. The start times were calculated from the previous day's elapsed times. The five minute was sounded and the Hornet team who had been twice as fast as the Mirrors the day before retired to the bar for their forty five minute wait to start. As the race unfolded it soon became apparent it was to be a very close finish. The Mirrors were being chased down hard by the Enterprises and Chris and Lois Barlow's very quick Merlin Spriteful.

Simon and Gavin Brewerton in their Mirror breathed a huge sigh of relief that could be heard across the lake as the finish sounded with only a few yards separating them and the lead Enterprise sailed by Jenny Smallwood.

At the end of the day it was generally felt that we had done Jack Holt proud and shown that his boats would probably sail on into the future using modern materials for many many years to come.

A prizegiving tea was supplied by the hard working galley team and prizes donated by generous sponsors Holt, Harken, Trident UK, Rondar Raceboats, The Boatyard At Beer and Pelican Racing meant that everyone went home with something.

Saturday Points Races

1st Heron 9891, Andy Dale and Amanda Harris
2nd Hornet 2176, Toby Barsley-Dale and Gareth Russel
3rd Heron 7, Jonathon and Verna Hunt

Concours d'Elegance

Best looking boat on the water: Conquest International Canoe K41, Ed Bremner
Best looking Boat on land: Gently Merlin 16, Mervyn Allen and Chris Barlow
Boat you would like to take home: Full Potential Juice Hornet 2176, Toby Barsley-Dale and Gareth Russell

Sunday Pursuit

1st Mirror 17154, Simon and Gavin Brewerton
2nd Enterprise, Jenny Smallwood and Morgan Secker
3rd Merlin Rocket 507, Chris and Lois Barlow

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