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Ovington Boats 2014

West Kirby Sailing Club Season Opener on the Dee Estuary

by Liz Potter 7 Jul 07:56 BST 4 July 2020
West Kirby Sailing Club Season Opener on the Dee Estuary © Trevor Jenkins

Upon the Government's relaxation of the Coronavirus restrictions on Super Saturday, West Kirby Sailing Club created a specially formulated programme to welcome back its members both on and off the water, complying with the existing Covid guidelines.

Back in the Spring, the 13th May was a date which marked England's return to sailing, but not so for WKSC sailors, as the Marine Lake was closed by the Council, as it is to this day. This meant that the joy of returning to the water had to wait until the following Tuesday 19th, as the waters of the Dee Estuary are only accessible on Spring tides over 8m high.

In the 36 tidally sailable days that followed in May and June, sailors took to the water 414 times (in the sailable 3-hour window, before the water disappeared). Given that some of these sailing windows would be at antisocial hours, or during gales/lack of wind, the average boats on the water each day was well above the 11 calculated directly. More like 18-20 boats per outing, peaking at 50 boats on one fine day, with a good turnout of competitive Oppie juniors, keen to keep sharp, happy and fit alongside their home-schooling.

For all the woes of a national steady decline in sailing numbers over the past few years, these regular numbers are unprecedented on our waters. It has proved that the sport is still strong and viable. Perhaps by taking away the pressures and speed of everyday life, it has given people and particularly families a chance to rediscover the simple pleasures of a few hours on the water.

With this in mind, and a wish to introduce some of our returning members to simple structured sailing, the club organised a 2 buoy upwind/downwind course, with a start/finish line set up between them, manned by a small vessel with a time recording official. The boats could start from 09:30, doing as many laps as they wished, with a minimum of one lap to count. The line closed for recording at 11:30 and results were calculated on average laps.

With the relaxed starting schedule, the number of boats on the slipway at the same time was never a problem. The strong onshore winds perhaps also kept the numbers down, but 11 juniors made it to the start line, including 6 ex-Oppie sailors who have just upgraded to 420s. The youngest competitor was ten-year-old Isobel Sandow, still new to Optimist sailing, completed her laps in winds gusting over 20 knots. Also upgrading from Optimists were Topper sailors Leon Kadioglu and Oscar Sandow. George Colquitt also upgraded his boat from Topper to Laser 4.7.

The fastest lap time of the day before correction on handicap was made by Int Canoe sailor Steve Flemming, clocking ten minutes on his sixth lap. The later laps showed faster times as the tide had turned, and the wind shifted to give a one-tack beat close to the finish time.

Unwilling to upset either of my boats, I did a lap in my Contender and then went ashore to rig the DZero "Zippy" for another lap, confident in the knowledge that I'd have beaten at least one other boat.

Once back ashore, the club was opened for access to toilets and bar only. The professional caterers were at work in the galley, taking food orders through the bar tills (all cashless) and leaving the food in the adjacent snooker room for collection after sending a phone text to the recipient!

In the bar area, tables had been set up according to Covid-safe pub criteria and taped markings on the floor showed members where to stand, queue and order drinks. The outdoor patio area was open for further seating.

The operation ran very smoothly although the numbers were modest. I suspect that more would have stayed had the weather been kinder.

All in all, an excellent step towards the new normal.

A total of 100 laps completed, involving 43 sailors. A handful of capsizes, without incident. Three rescue boats patrolling a conveyor belt of socially spaced dinghies. Well done WKSC!

Overall Results:

1. 420 - George Creasy (age 14) and David Bromilow (age 15)
2. Laser Radial - Jon Hayley
3. Finn - Jean Louis Simons
4. Laser Radial - Glyn Purnell
5. IC - Dan Skinner
6. IC - Steve Flemming
7. IC - Al Alston
8. 420 - Holly Wright (jnr) and Olivia Nixon (jnr)
9. Laser radial - Steve Jardine
10. 420 - Patrick Bromilow (jnr) and Olivia Creasy (Jnr)

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