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St Mathew Cup Racing at Burnham Sailing Club

by Sally Harbott 15 May 06:13 BST 12 May 2018

The annual inter-club racing for the St Mathew Cup took place on Saturday, this year organised by the Burnham Sailing Club. Each of the four clubs had two Squibs with one member of each team having to be under 25. A maximum of five races were scheduled, with each helm only allowed to sail a maximum of 4.

Principal race officer, Digger Harden, faced a difficult job with the high tide at the scheduled start of racing alongside fickle winds, rain and, as the ebb took off, strong tides. He chose to sail the event in front of the Burnham Sailing Club with the committee boat, Russ Cashel's Havana Papa, anchored towards the North Shore. The windward mark was across the river towards the fairway, with the leeward gate by West Quay. The wind was mainly southerly at the start of the first race and the fleet got away, beating to the windward mark.

Ian Scott and Simon Kiddle in Outcast (Crouch Yacht Club) got the best start but sailed further up river than some, allowing much of the fleet to get through them. Lady Penelope, Malcom Hutchins' Squib, helmed in this race by Ben Harden for the Burnham Sailing Club sailed into a hole, but 709 Electra, sailed by Dan Wastnage and Paul Taylor for the Royal Burnham, Guy Fawkes, Phil Aspinall's distinctive yellow Squib, helmed in this race by Ben Hutton Penman (Royal Corinthian YC) as well as Humphrey (Royal Burnham YC) and Chequemate (BSC) all held the breeze in the middle of the course. Mickey Wright and Jon Brown in Spoof (RCYC) and Ian Gray and Ian Simons in Chequemate were first and second to the windward mark. After the first lap, Guy Fawkes had moved into second behind fellow RCYC team member Spoof. BSC boat Chequemate was third with the RB's Electra fourth. However as the boats came into finish, there was a new leader, with Chequemate taking the first win for the BSC, with the RBYC in Humphrey second. The RCYC took third and fourth, the RB fifth. Lady Penelope (BSC) finished 6th with Charlie Harbott and Dave Smith in Woody (CYC) 7th and Outlaw fifth. After one race, three of the four clubs were on 7 points, and it was all to play for.

The wind was dropping but the PRO managed a quick turn around, firing the warning signal off 25 seconds after the last boat finished. The rain had started, which was killing the wind, and conditions on the course were challenging. Outlaw (CYC) were OCS but returned quickly to clear the line. However, this gave the fleet the chance to pull away a little. At the windward turn, Chequemate (BSC) rounded first, followed by Spoof (RCYC) and Lady Penelope (BSC). As Guy Fawkes rounded in 6th, but had a big twist in their spinnaker which they had to get out. This allowed the two Crouch Yacht Club boats to get past. As the fleet headed to the leeward gate, the fleet bunched and fought for clear wind. The wind dropped right off, and the PRO shortened, with the BSC taking first and third, the RCYC 2nd and 8th, the RBYC 4th and 5th, with the CYC in 6th and 7th. This sorted the scoring out a little, breaking the three way tie. The Burnham Sailing Club took a clear lead on 11 points, and the Royal Burnham edged one point ahead of the Royal Corinthian scoring 16 and 17 respectively.

The wind came back as the rain eased and the race officer was able to start the third race. Humphrey (RBYC) were OCS but returned quickly to clear the line and join the race. Ian Gray and Ian Simons retained the lead throughout the race, with Spoof and Guy Fawkes in second and third for the Royal Corinthian after the windward mark. By the leeward mark, Lady Penelope had got into second, with Electra up in fourth. Guy Fawkes had dropped into 5th. These positions didn't change and the finishing order gave the Burnham Sailing Club the top two places, with the Royal Corinthian taking third and fifth. The Royal Burnham took 4th and 6th with the Crouch in 7th and 8th.

The race officer managed to get the last two races in, which ensured that everyone out had to have helmed at least one race, and the discard would come into play. Race four saw the Royal Corinthian secure the top two places, with the Burnham Sailing Club, the leading team, taking third and fourth, with Ian Gray having to make up a lot of lost ground, having been squeezed out at the start. The RB took 5th, with Outcast and Woody for the Crouch Yacht Club 6th and 7th. Electra came in 8th.

The Burnham Sailing Club still had the lead after the fourth race but the Royal Corinthian were only 7 points behind and well within reach of a victory. The last race saw a very strong tide and decreasing winds, but a two lap race was completed, and saw some of the closest racing, particularly coming in to the leeward gate. Lady Penelope had the lead, with Spoof second, and Humphrey third. The Royal Corinthian, the closest team to the Burnham Sailing Club, needed to be in the top two but Guy Fawkes had problems with her spinnaker again, and found themselves at the back of the fleet in 8th.

At the finish, the Royal Burnham's Electra took first, with the Royal Corinthian in Spoof second. The RB in Humphrey took third, and the Burnham Sailing Club in fourth and fifth, with Chequemate ahead of Lady Penelope. Ian Scott in Outlaw and Dave Smith helming Woody gave the Crouch Yacht Club sixth and seventh and Phil Aspinall helming Guy Fawkes came in 8th.

Overall, the Burnham Sailing Club took first, with the Royal Corinthian 7 points behind in second. The Royal Burnham scored 29 to take third, with the Crouch Yacht Club fourth. It was a great days racing, with the PRO and his buoy laying team working hard to keep the windward leg true. The conditions were challenging for all the teams, but the event sailed in good competitive spirit. The history of the HMS St Mathew Cup is a long and fascinating one and can be found at www.royalcorinthian.co.uk/fleets/st-mathew-challenge-cup

Prize giving could not happen straight after racing as the Squib fleet went on to race in their Saturday afternoon series, and so the Mayor of Burnham will now present the prestigious trophy to the victorious team at the Jimmy Starling dinner on the 8th July in the Burnham Sailing Club.

The Squib is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and have lots of events going on around the country throughout the year, including the chance to win a brand new Squib. Check out the Squib association website for more details.

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