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Bosham Sailing Club Classic Boat Revival 2018

by Dougal Henshall 4 Sep 2018 14:33 BST 1-2 September 2018
Race Officer Nick Fox sent the fleets on a tour of Chichester Harbour, a move that just added to the wonderful atmosphere over the weekend at the Bosham Classic Boat Revival 2018 © Dougal Henshall

Classic Boat Revival and Ian Proctor Centenary Celebration

In a year notable for the superlatives, the late summer of 2018 will go down on record as the year when the classic small boat scene really showed itself off in the best possible way. For many years now, Bosham Sailing Club, from its well-appointed clubhouse in the picturesque village that gives it its name, has run the Classic Boat Revival – a dinghy sailing equivalent of the famous classic car event that takes place just a little further east at Goodwood. This season was given an extra special theme, as the Revival event was used as the on-water celebration of the Ian Proctor Centenary. Already the leading club anywhere in the sailing world for those interested in our sailing heritage, Bosham pulled out all the stops, attracting boats and sailors from across the country, who would be joined by the family of Ian Proctor along with some of the surviving workers from Chippendale Boats, where so many iconic boats were built to Proctor (and other designers) plans.

Originally it had been planned to host this event in June, only for technical issues to see it put back to the first weekend in September. The revised date was a total blessing, as the weather was as perfect as it could be for a weekend on the water, with dawn to dusk hot sunshine and building breezes that showed the old boats off in the best possible way; this is heritage not in museum pieces, but with the boats out where they were designed to be, on the race course.

However, before they went afloat, there was something of a carnival atmosphere ashore, as the Club had been given permission by the National Trust to use all of the Green that is such a draw for this waterside spot. Luckily, Bosham had then marked it out with number tags else there would have been chaos, as more and more boats arrived. 80 entries had been expected but there was at least a good handful more that arrived on the day. With such large numbers the fleet was split into four; Slow handicap and Proctor Slow on one course, Fast and Medium Handicap on a larger course further down the harbour. With the number of boats and then make up of the fleets, the Race Committee decided against the windward (yawn) leeward course and instead sent the boats on something of a tour around the Harbour, yet still managed to set testing beats and some exciting reaches.

Most boats were in place by Friday afternoon, with many enjoying the stunning weather to get some extra sailing in, before everyone assembled in the clubhouse for a Proctor themed Gala Dinner. Ian Proctor's son Roger, who had just arrived back from the Topper Worlds in China, spoke of the pride his family had for the legacy left to the sport by their father and their delight in the efforts made by Bosham Sailing Club to lead the celebrations in such an amazing way.

For once, the promised forecast for a weekend of wonderful weather was an understatement, as the light easterly breeze was soon strengthened by the early arrival of the sea breeze which had a lot more south in it. After a short delay to get the large number of boats away from the quay, the racing on the Saturday afternoon would prove a big attraction to a great many spectator boats and amongst these was Ossie Stewart in his 1890s Linton Hope designed Thames Rater. Even this glorious spectacle though was upstaged by the arrival of a full restored wartime Air-Sea Rescue launch, complete with the family on board. Ian Proctor has spent his wartime service in command of an ASR launch which made it yet another fitting tribute that this boat not only came to pay respects to the man but wound their way all the way up the channel to moor against the quayside to the delight of the crowds of spectators ashore who were enjoying the boats and all the activities.

Despite the age of some of the boats racing (not to mention their helms) there was no quarter given in the fast handicap fleet, where at times the racing got a little too competitive. Bosham's home fleet includes a healthy number of National 18s, who were joined for the event by a number of visitors, for this was yet another class where Proctor had left his mark. The 12m Sharpies also made a return to Chichester Harbour, where they had once been such a dominant fleet, but it would be the Osprey class that would take on the task of leading the fast and medium fleets around the course. The Merlin Rockets, a class almost synonymous with the name of Proctor were as usual in the thick of the action, along with a Fireball and one of the local classes, a Chichester Harbour 18.

As always at Bosham's Classic Boat Revival, the Medium Fleet was dominated by the Yachting World Day Boats, but it would be a superbly sailed Firefly, rebuilt and redocked on an earlier hull, that would be the boat to beat, though few would. On the second course, the Proctor start was the place to be for those who like to play the guessing game of "what is it", for the better-known boats were joined by Gull number 1, which was sailed four up as two of the designer's great-grandchildren were in the crew. Roger Proctor was sailing a boat that was even rarer, an OD11, the boat that would ultimately become the Topper. It was one of the fascinating factors of the weekend that Peter Milne, of Fireball fame, had been working with Ian and his influence was there for all to see as the OD 11 sported a very Fireball-esque bow transom. In rarity terms, the star of the start had to be the pale blue Adventuress dinghy, complete with its multi-coloured sails. Hailing from the early days of GRP dinghy building, this boat showed how Ian Proctor had quickly mastered the demands of the new material, an aspect of his life that was also evident in the small Blue Peter pram dinghy, which itself utilised a revolutionary construction technique.

From purely a racing point of view, the place to be was the slow handicap fleet; Bosham have a very strong fleet of Tideway and Scow dinghies, these were joined by two Axe One-Designs that had been towed around afloat from Beaulieu. Twice Contender World Champion Steve Daniel showed that he had lost none of his class as a stylish sailor of single-handed dinghies as he raced his Axe OD in a style that made a mockery of its age, yet even Steve had to cede the top spot to a very cannily raced Tideway of Richard Wilde.

After a full programme of racing Saturday, whilst most were enjoying the delights of dinner in the club, some of the handier members were helping Nigel Daniel, would had been sailing the other Axe OD until his mast split. It is a growing part of the classic dinghy ethos that people help where and when they can, but the mast was glued up overnight allowing the boat to compete again on the Sunday which was just as well as this charming small dinghy from a bygone age would be the first ever winner of the highly prized Concours competition from the Slow Handicap fleet. The stand out winner of the Concours amongst the Proctor boats was the beautifully presented Osprey of Mike Murray, who had travelled across from the Tata SC in South Wales.

Sunday was almost an exact repeat of Saturday, with strong sunshine, a building breeze (though the arrival of the sea breeze, which brought with it a 40 degree shift late on in a start sequence would cause PRO Nick Fox a few headaches) and more close racing, before everyone enjoyed the sail back up towards the club and the welcoming tea and cake. The Prize Giving was packed, aided in no small way by the generosity of the many high-profile sponsors, which included Hartley Boats, Verisonalaw, Topper, ArbDB Chambers, Haines Boatyard, MPI Brokers, plus the delights of Pusser's Rum, who together have ensured that the Bosham Classic Boat Revival continues to dominate the high ground of the classic dinghy scene. It has to be hoped that Bosham will continue to not only drive this event forward, but will consider other 'themes' for future events, for there can be no better way for that wonderfully rich heritage of dinghy development to be seen that in a racing environment at a location such as Bosham. If you like the older boats and the warm glow of varnish, you just have to be there!

Full results can be seen at: classicboatrevival.co.uk/results

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