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A Wayfarer named Resilient

by Tim Townsend 24 Dec 2020 10:25 GMT
The Wayfarer class look forward to 2021 © Mike Spurgin

2020 will go down in the annals as the year when Wayfarer racing stopped. Or will it? Certainly, not one of the open meetings of the Craftinsure National Travellers and Circuit Series took place. The much anticipated National Championship at Dabchicks SC in September was cancelled.

As the R number increased in various parts of the country the prospects of getting to the start line at even one open meeting rapidly diminished until eventually Boris drew a veil over the season by putting the country back into lockdown at the beginning of November. Lockdown II has been followed by the Tiers and we still have another week to go before we can all stay at home and see in the New Year with Jools and his Hootenanny because New Year's parties are a no-no.

But the truth is that open meetings are not even half of the racing story of the Wayfarer Class. Wayfarer sailors found ways to go racing at their clubs during the second part of the Summer and early Autumn without offending the guidelines designed to protect us. A number of sailing clubs up and down the country support one design class racing but they represent only a tiny proportion of the Wayfarers which are raced in handicap fleets up and down the country. In addition to the Clubs with large fleets of Wayfarers such as Aldeburgh, Datchet, Parkestone, Medway and Waldringfield, Wayfarers were competing successfully at Bough Beech, Swarkestone, Hickling Broad, Shoreham, Blackwater and at Rollesby Broad Sailing Clubs to name just a few. If you want to race a Wayfarer there are opportunities at clubs all over the country; on the sea, in estuaries and rivers, on reservoirs and on ponds.

What follows is a small summary of club racing activity for Wayfarers in the last few months...

We start at Parkstone Yacht Club, a south coast Wayfarer stronghold in Poole Harbour which celebrated its 50th Anniversary as a class at PYC in 2020. Sadly, the anniversary dinner due to be held in March with nearly 90 guests including Tom Lock (PYC Wayfarer Class Captain in 1976) was first postponed because of the Coronavirus pandemic and then cancelled. The Wayfarer Western Area Championships due to be held at PYC were also cancelled.

Undaunted, the fleet looked for alternative forms of racing and settled on a weekly Virtual Regatta using the highly popular platform to race different classes at different venues around the world. Class captain, David Wall, reported that it was easy to see who were "working from home" because they seemed to master the skills and technical challenges best.

Parkstone YC returned to "real" sailing in July with a trial race adopting all necessary Covid best practice measures followed by a few weeks of casual sailing and cruising.

Series racing began in August with racing as usual on Saturdays and on Wednesday evenings, the former series being won by Ian Fyfe and Emma Whalley while the latter was won by David and Sally Wall.

Poole Week was cancelled this year but replaced by Club Week, a closed event organised by former Wayfarer sailor, Geof Gibbons. This permitted racing each day in a variety of conditions (mainly windy, with numerous capsizes) followed by socially distanced cake eating. Ian and Emma won overall after a hard fought battle.

Nine boats were competing in the Winter series when Lockdown II intervened and prematurely brought the curtain down on proceedings.

Waldringfield Sailing Club usually holds a programme of class racing for Wayfarers as well as mixed fleet handicap trophy races. In 2020 this schedule was curtailed in the early part of the year. However, there was casual racing in the Spring and Summer although the results were not formally recorded. Some regular Wayfarer racers decided that this season they would be content with family sailing and cruising the delightful river Deben.

The Wayfarer Autumn Series did take place as normal and was won by Neil Fletcher and Chas Edwards from Roger Challis and Mark Johnson with Neil Collingridge and Anne Spalding completing the podium.

During the second half of the season the trophy races also took place, Neil Collingridge and Anne Spalding won the Navigation race while Neil Fletcher and Chas Edwards won the Trafalgar Trophy. The Navigation race is a handicap time trial with a 2 hour start window from Waldringfield to Wilford Bridge and back. Wilford Bridge is the extent of navigation on the river Deben. The Trafalgar Trophy is a handicap pursuit race.

Peter Redshaw, Wayfarer Class Captain at Aldeburgh Yacht Club reported a good sailing season on the river Alde in Suffolk, with well supported racing on Wednesday evenings and on Saturdays. The highlight of the season was Aldeburgh Regatta Week in August, when eleven Wayfarers took part including some competitors from other local sailing clubs, observing a Covid-compliant format. There was close racing throughout the fleet. The series was eventually won by Simon Sydenham. Simon also won the Trower Trophy while the annual team racing match against Orford Sailing Club over three short races for the Dixon Trophy was won by Aldeburgh YC by a single point.

We turn to Datchet Water Sailing Club, a large reservoir in the shadows of Windsor Castle, which, like every other club in the country brought racing to a grinding halt at the end of March as the country went into lockdown. The Wayfarer Inland Championships, scheduled to be held at DWSC in April were cancelled, of course. Activity restarted in June with some informal racing for Wayfarers crewed either singlehanded or single-household, subject to guidelines issued by the club. Wednesday evening racing started in July, still limited initially to single handers or family crew and with the big breezes experienced this summer, sometimes racing was not possible at all. The DWSC WhatsApp group reported regular activity however until early November when the country went into Lockdown II. Anthony Cooper helmed the best placed Wayfarer in the Fast Handicap fleet in the Sunday Morning Series and Fleet Championships while Nick Harris helmed the best placed Wayfarer in the Club Championships.

The members of the friendly Swarkestone Sailing Club enjoy their racing on a compact, tree lined lake a few miles south of Derby. Handicap racing is the order of the day and Wayfarers usually do well. Since the original lockdown in April the club has run a series of informal races on Wednesdays and Sundays. The sheltered water lent itself well to a form of self management with competitors starting their own racing and recording their finish times if nobody was available to run the race box. Nigel ODonnell reported solid turnouts with up to a dozen boats competing. Mike Weighill, with various crew, had a good season being at or near the top of the standings in several of the races with Nigel and his wife, Belinda, not far behind.

Finally, we visit Medway Yacht Club in North Kent where the Spring lockdown came before the sailing season had even begun. The Medway Marathon (a long distance dinghy race) and the Wayfarer open meeting were cancelled. The Club Officers and staff then worked hard, like every other club in the country, to be able to reopen club facilities where possible and resume sailing in a Covid-compliant way. Informal sailing (and informal races to buoy 23 and back) began for single household crewed Wayfarers in June while racing resumed in the middle of July. Racing was restricted to Saturday afternoons only along with the other one design fleets at the club. Limiting safety boat duties to single household crews also, inevitably, reduced the safety boat cover so a windspeed limit of 16 knots was introduced. That limit in itself caused the cancellation of racing on some days where in "normal times" there would have been racing. These obstacles notwithstanding, Wayfarer racing was well supported and competitive with up to a dozen boats taking part each week. All the normal trophy series were cancelled and replaced by a single series for the aptly named Corona Trophy which was won by Roger Gibbs after a closely fought battle with Chris Parish. The Club Commodore, Mark Penny, completed the podium.

Looking forward to 2021, a full programme of regional championships and open meetings has already been organised. The UK Wayfarer National Championships and the Wayfarer European Championships will be hosted by Medway YC in August. Right now, it would be nice to think that there will be a turn for the better with the Coronavirus pandemic and that most if not all of these open meetings and championships will take place. Whether that happens or not, what is clear is that Wayfarer sailors around the UK will continue to support their clubs and go racing in some form or another.

And with that thought, the UKWA wishes all its members and club racers everywhere, whatever class of boat they choose to sail, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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