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Gipsy Moth IV: A Legend Sails Again by Paul Gelder
Gipsy Moth IV: A Legend Sails Again by Paul Gelder

Oulton Week 2019 at Waveney & Oulton Broad Yacht Club

by Veronica Falat 5 Sep 16:31 BST 18-23 August 2019
Oulton Week Fast Handicap action during Oulton Week 2019 © Trish Barnes

Oulton Week always features a busy 6-day programme of racing for dinghies, keelboats and River Cruisers and this year it was particularly enjoyable with warm sunshine and westerly or southerly breezes.

Over 140 boats took part, from Optimists to River Cruisers, and it was great to see so many people sailing all day, jumping from one class to another and racing in different fleets. Each day saw some 20 race starts, plus some extra evening races, so it was hectic for the race teams as well as the competitors but fortunately the good weather meant all races could be sailed and there were few postponements or other hiccups to the schedule. A sudden squall with thundery clouds came through on the Monday giving some excitement and capsizes but it didn't last long.

The racing was always tricky. Oulton Broad is one of the largest of the Norfolk Broads but is still very much a restricted piece of water and the breeze is nearly always shifty. However, some sailors made it look easy. Chris Bunn, in his Yare & Bure Fox, dominated the morning Mixed One Design series (in which the local keelboat fleets and Squibs all race level) and the Y&B class series, with straight wins in all his races. He won the afternoon Mixed ODs series too but was pushed hard by a couple of Squibs, with Richard Smith's Flame winning the first race and David Gooch helming Crazy Diamond winning the last 2 to finish 2nd overall.

In the dinghies, John Ling won the Laser series with wins in 5 of the 6 races and the three Slow Handicap series were all dominated by Henry Means sailing his Optimist. Henry's brother Oliver, also in an Optimist, did well too, finishing 2nd in one series and 3rd in another, while John Hooten and daughters sailed their Mirror to 2nd place in the morning series.

Most of the competitors in the Slow Handicap were juniors and, with some 30 boats, these series were not just competitive but also quite noisy affairs! Children from different clubs get to know each other very well in Oulton Week and, when races finish, seem to find any excuse to carry on playing with new friends on or off (or often in) the water.

The morning Fast Handicap series saw a close battle between the Solos of Alan Cone and Pete Matthews, with Cone eventually finishing 1 point ahead. Both these sailors then moved to the Waveney keelboat class for the rest of each day and the other two Fast Handicap series were led in their early stages by the father-daughter team of Julian and Bethany Hood in their National 12. John Ling (Laser) was in contention too but the Oulton Rater Catastrophe (over 70 years old but sporting a trapeze and carbon rig), sailed by Jordan Levett and Kyle Beamish, finished both series very strongly with wins on the final two days and won the trophies.

The keelboat class series were closely contested too. Phil Large and Simon Marfleet in Iris won the Waveney series while Tim and Nick Barrett in Kite were 1st in the Broads One Designs. In the Squibs, all the races were won by either Richard Smith's Flame or Bryan and Jenny Riley's Brimstone but neither of these put together a full series and the trophy went to Oliver Hunt's Crazy Diamond.

The 4-a-side keelboat team race for the splendid Blackburn Trophy was only competed for by the Broads ODs and the Yare & Bures this year but the race was extremely close. The two teams were level on points as they approached the final mark but the Y&B skippers had some clever moves to play on that last leg and the trophy is theirs again for another year.

As usual there was a series of races for members of Waveney Sailability sailing Hansa dinghies. Vic Pennell was victorious for the second year running, this time by the narrowest of margins, tying on point with Tony Barkes but with 1 more race win in his results.

The River Cruisers provide the main spectacle each Oulton Week. This year 24 competed, split into Fast and Slow flights. At times it was too gusty for them all to race without reefing and this had a big effect on those with the tallest Bermudan rigs such as the mighty Raisena with her 25 metre carbon mast. Fortunately there were enough days of kinder winds to see the boats at their best and their racing attracted many spectators and photographers.

In the midday series, the two fastest boats in the fleet, Tim Frary's Stellar and Paul Carrington's Lyra tied on points for 1st on handicap in the Fast fleet, with Stellar winning on count-back, while Michael Collins' Vagabond won in the Slow fleet. In the combined results, Stellar was 1st, Vagabond 2nd and Lyra 3rd. In the evening series, two of the slower boats came out on top, with Steve Seeney's Mischief 1st and Brian Wilkins' Catspaw 2nd. Mike Barnes' Maidie, now 115 yrs old, was the first of the Fast flight and 3rd overall.

The final race of the week was the Bloodbath. This has been a feature of Oulton Week since at least the 1970s and, as an allcomers race that could be sailed in by the smallest of dinghies and the largest of River Cruisers, somewhere along the line it gained its name after various mishaps! Some years ago it was decided to exclude River Cruisers but more recently it changed to a pursuit race making the starts rather less dramatic and River Cruisers were allowed back in. Now we're back closer to its original format; this year it was run as an average-lap handicap race, although the smallest/slowest boats (the Optimists and Hansas) had a separate start, 3 minutes after the main fleet.

In all, 45 boats started, including 3 River Cruisers and Stellar was the fastest boat in the fleet, charging round the broad ahead of the pack of chasing dinghies. The RC handicapping system is different to Portsmouth Yardsticks but calculations were made and Stellar was given a PY number of 845. This proved to be too tough for her to do well on handicap but she certainly put on a good show.

The winner was Ben Falat in his Phantom with Duncan Madin 2nd in his RS Aero 9 and Nick Crickmore 3rd in an RS Vareo. Henry Means (Optimist) was 1st junior and 4th overall, just beating his brother Josh in an RS Aero 5. The first Hansa dinghy sailor was Jerry Ballam in 7th place and first keelboat was Squib Firebird (Simon Marfleet and Stef Oosthuysen) in 9th. Thank you to Rooster Sailing and Adnams of Southwold for extra prizes for this race.

Waveney & Oulton Broad Yacht Club would like to thank all its volunteers for making the week a success and all the sailors for taking part. Do come back next year!

Full results are available at wobyc.com

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