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Stokes Bay Sailing Club restarts sailing

by Emma Pearson 8 Jul 2020 13:28 BST
Stokes Bay SC restarts sailing © Emma Pearson

A buzz at the bay with eased restictions after lockdown

One thing that we all agree can't properly be substituted during lockdown was a quality few hours on the water at the sailing club. While organised racing is still to get up and running, across the fleets there has been a high attendance of sailors throughout the week and weekend, making the most of the good winds and sunshine.

Fast Handicap

Our very healthy Musto Skiff fleet have been out in force at the weekends and Wednesday evenings (old habits die hard) with as many as eleven boats on the water chasing each other around a windward/leward course. Much of the rest of the fast handicap fleet have been a little few and far between due to safety measures, but there has been the odd doublehander out, sailed by members of the same household which has been great to see - most notably Penny and Russ's turquoise 505.


With an average of around 50 children attending a Saturday morning session, it would be impossible to mitigate all risks associated with running Cadets amid the current restrictions. In the past few weeks though, some families have taken to the water in some form, be it on dinghy, paddleboard or kayak. We will always encourage our young sailors to enjoy the water as much as possible - where appropriate. We have runs a few activitiees on our Facebook page - it's a small gesture but doesn't compensate for being on the sea with their buddies. We look forward to restoring the Saturday morning organised chaos asap!

International Moth Spring Report

The Moth fleet at Stokes Bay have been active at the club despite the current situation and the iconic picture that John Donnelly took of Jim McMillian on the first morning of easing of lockdown showed the eagerness to get going again; used nationally by the marine press.

In fact the current new norm has meant more time to go Moth sailing and what better way to self-isolate than sail a Moth? With the ability to rig and launch on your own and you wouldn't want to be closer than 2m on the water doing 20 knots. So a day rarely goes by without seeing regulars Greg, Tim and Henry out on the water, Greg sporting another new red Exocet, Henry a new black North sail.

Dan and Jim's boats have returned from the Australian Worlds and we have been going through a development stage with no regattas to go to.

We have been trialling new rigs, sails and foils with the guidance of Kevin Ellway (the Exocet Moth designer) and believe that we have probably put several knots on to our boat speed upwind and downwind since we last did a club race - so be warned!

See the latest foil profiles for the Exocet Moth:

We were all expecting this to be a big Moth sailing summer with the Worlds in the UK at Weymouth. Unfortunately this has now been cancelled, however the Nationals are still planned to go ahead at Weymouth in September which gives us a goal. Not to forget that at present the Moth Stokes Bay Open in August has not yet been cancelled, a decision will be made nearer the time.

Regardless of what lies ahead, you are guaranteed to see a quality fleet of Moths launching from Stokes Bay in a friendly atmosphere.

Dart 18

The highlight event of 2020 was going to be the World Championships in La Rochelle in July, so when that Championship became an early victim of Covid-19, the Dart 18 fleet lost a bit of immediate impetus to train.

However, when the lockdown eased, a number of Dart 18's enjoyed sailing at Stokes Bay - no racing to start with, but just enjoying the great conditions - Andy Kelley, Sue Nelson, Sarah Knott, Paul Chatfield, Nigel Palmer, Mark Holmes, Simon Sinclair, Dave Pollinger, Rebecca have all been sailing.

The Dart 18 fleet is now starting weekly informal training races at the club - every Sunday morning at 11.00 with confirmation on the class WhatsApp group; dependent on the weather.

The first of these informal training races is on 28th June.

The Dart can be sailed singlehanded and others sail with family or social bubble helm/crew, so social distancing rules can be complied with.

The Dart 18 Nationals are scheduled for mid September and may still go ahead.

Although the Nationals will be held in an estuary this year, some Stokes Bay boats are planning to enter - Andy Kelley, Paul Chatfield David Lloyd.

However, for others, 2020 is going to be all about enjoying informal races and sailing at Stokes Bay - and then being ready for the Worlds in La Rochelle rescheduled for July 2021.

Stokes Bay Catamaran Fleet

A strange year for everyone, for most there are no events to train for and it was a very late start for everyone. However, since the lockdown eased many Stokes Bay catamarans have enjoyed being out on the water in great weather.

In fact, the club has generally been very active both at weekends and during the week with Stokes Bay's singlehanded catamarans enjoying the great sailing at Stokes Bay.

With the Unicorn Nationals scheduled for Stokes Bay in September (hopefully), the Stokes Bay Unicorns, Gary Piper and Will Stefanou, have been regularly practicing - often during weekdays. Gary Piper is probably one of the most active of all club members at the moment, sailing 3 - 4 times a week. The Unicorn is a great boat for anyone looking for an exciting single hander, lightweight and very cheap second hand - there are rumours that another club member is thinking about buying one soon...

Also regularly on the water since lockdown has been Dave Roberts on his foiling A Class cat - during the week as well as weekends. The club's other A Class cat has also been sighted on the water enjoying a quiet light wind day in late May.

The double handed catamarans have been severely restricted by the social distancing rules; requiring a crew from the same household or social bubble. Adam Charelesworth had planned to regularly race his Hurricane this year and made a very early start back in February, but is still waiting to return to the water. Nigel Craig's Tornado is similarly restricted by social distancing and Andy McQueen has not been able to sail his F18 yet - maybe in the Autumn. A number of other catamarans have been out cruising recently - Nigel Wade on his Shadow and some Hobies.

There is a Cat Handicap WhatsApp group for anyone wishing to check that they will have company when sailing without rescue cover.

Dinghy Handicap Class

2019 proved to be the revival of the club's Dinghy Handicap Class aimed at members whose boats did not fall into the Laser, Fast Asymmetric or Catamaran groups. It is for any "Symmetrical" dinghy, single or double handed, or any "Asymmetric" boat with a PY of more than 1102, such as the RS200 or the 2000.

We keep the racing friendly and, with a wide range of boats, have multiple lap courses so that the slower boats don't feel intimidated and results can be scored by "Average Lap" times.

We have some good sailors in the Class but it is also ideal for those moving on from Cadets or Adult Training. There is readily a mix of boats out including OKs, Europes and RS Aero. If you're keen to get in the water when someone else is there, we like to co-ordinate ourselves via the WhatsApp group. Our fleet is very much inclusive but also competertive at a variety of levels.


The Laser fleet has undoubtibly been the most active since we have been allowed to get back on the water. With the local students now seemingly at a loose end, there has been a group of Lasers, both Radial and Standard rigs, out training in the bay most days. We keep in contact via our lively WhatsApp group and welcome new faces to join in when the can.

In conclusion, it has to be said that this must be the most active club on the southcoast, despite social distancing and current government safety guidelines. The committee are now busy at work getting the club galley open and making sure we can safely restart some form of club racing.

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