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CoastWaterSports 2014

Team racing and open meeting at Minima Yacht Club

by John Forbes 26 Apr 2023 23:07 BST 22-23 April 2023
Start of the third race - Enterprise open meeting at Minima © Ed Pepper

It's been a grim spring, particularly on the Thames. Endless rain has powered up the river, and the dreaded Red Boards, the Environment Agency's strong stream warning, have been almost constant.

So it was a real treat to get two days sailing at Kingston last weekend, the annual Minima vs Twickenham Firkin Trophy team races for Enterprises and Solos, followed by the open meetings for the same classes, events the two clubs host in alternate years.

The best conditions were for the Firkin on Saturday, when a southerly came and went on an hourly basis peaking at a briskish force 3-4 and then fading, causing alarm in the Race Box, only to pick up again immediately the course had been shortened.

Minima was determined to regain the trophy after patchy performances in recent years. They were likely to dominate the Ents, the club's strongest class, so the fate of the trophy rested on the shoulders of their veteran Soloists.

And the Solo racing was extremely entertaining, all six boats (three a side) in close touch in all three races, the southerly straight down the reach combined with the still-strong stream to demand fine judgement. Follow a lift out into the middle of the river and risk losing a couple of places to the stream if the puff didn't last. Sometimes this move paid off. It made for a fascinating see-saw contest, in which the Minima team achieved a crucial 1-2-3 in the second race, giving the hosts a 4-2 victory.

The trophy, a beautiful miniature wooden Firkin with a shiny silver sail was presented by Fullers in 1938, and Asahi, who recently took over the London brewer, has very decently continued the tradition of providing a real firkin, free of charge, for the clubs to celebrate or drown their sorrows after the racing. That's 72 pints, by the way, despatched in short order.

Sunday's Open was very different. The stream was meant to be less but wasn't, and the wind had disappeared by the morning - we were in the lull between a southerly and a northerly. Cue the traditional river skills of dramatic roll-tacks, and a lot of near-static sneaking up the Surrey bank, reckoned to be the better side by most, but not all.

The occasional shower completed the cup of joy for a fair turnout of nine Ents and six Solos from six clubs.

The first race was the hardest. In the Ents Burfield's Ann Jackson skipped up and round the top mark a full 20 minutes ahead of her only rival, Minima's Ed Mayley. No other Ent could get round the mark. The buoy was placed on the far side of the stream from the wind, recipe for frustration. The Solos did much better, four of them managing the single lap, with Mike Dray from Littleton leading by a minute from Fishers Green's Godfrey Clark, Andy Banks from Minima in third.

Race two was slightly better, or maybe people were getting the hang of the conditions, and in the Ents positions were reversed, with Ed 30 seconds ahead of Ann, the rest of us 10 minutes-plus behind. Positions were unchanged among the Solos, with Mike well ahead.

By the third race some of us had had enough, which was a pity because it was a pleasant sail, with the sun shining and the beginnings of the northerly which brought a lot of cold rain later. Ed secured his Enterprise win leading throughout, but finishing just 30 seconds ahead of clubmate Robin Broomfield in turn just 15 seconds ahead of Ann who he overhauled on the last lap. In the Solos Godfrey Clark was within seven seconds of victory, but Mike Dray squeezed past him on the last leg to make it three firsts.

Firkin Trophy: Minima YC

Enterprise results:

1 Ed Mayley and James Budden (Minima)
2 Ann Jackson and Alan Skeens (Burfield)
3 Robin Broomfield and Paul Bloomfield (Minima)

Solo results:

1 Mike Dray (Littleton)
2 Godfrey Clark (Fishers Green)

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