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Henri-Lloyd 2022 December - YY LEADERBOARD

The Wonderful World of Regatta Weeks

by Mark Jardine 8 Aug 2023 20:00 BST
More action from Horning Sailing Club Regatta Week 2022 © Holly Hancock

At a grass-roots level, sailing and yacht clubs are the life blood of our sport. Our boats are kept there, most of our local sailing is run from there, and many social events are organised there. Without them sailing would be lost.

Cherish your club, support your club, volunteer at your club. In fact, do all you can for your club, as without them we'd all be lost, and recreational sailing and casual racing would probably cease to exist.

Volunteering doesn't have to be a chore. As written in Your club needs you! a couple of years ago, club often rely on a few extremely dedicated individuals who give up their time to ensure everything happens. They don't do this for money, they do this for love. The love of seeing what happens thanks to their efforts. Volunteering can be extremely enjoyable when you see the results of your role, and nowhere is this more visible than during a club's regatta week.

In the UK, the first week of August sees many clubs hold their regatta week. Already we've received reports from Kippford Week at Solway in Scotland and the Horning Sailing Club Regatta Week, held on the Norfolk Broads.

Regatta weeks appeal to sailors across the full age range, and nearly every conceivable type of boat you can think of. We categorise every photo we receive by club and class, and it's during these events that I have to rack my brain to recognise the different designs. Over the years I've got to know the difference between a Yare & Bure and a Rebel!

Unlike 2022, where the sun shone and temperature records were broken daily in the UK, July and August have been wet and windy, but this hasn't tempered the fun at all at these events. The sailing is competitive, but the enjoyment element is paramount. Racing days can be good and bad, but if there's merriment to be had regardless, then it's far more likely that competitors will come back next year, particularly if they're in their formative years of sailing.

Locally to me we've just had the Keyhaven Regatta. I took the week of work to take part, which was a lot of fun. Despite it blowing 37 knots at times, the event only lost one day to the weather and, even then, a bunch of us got out on the water windsurfing. There's something truly cathartic about being out on (and in) the water day after day.

One of the unique aspects of many regatta weeks is that they're often made up several miniseries, rather than one week-long event. This was the case at the Keyhaven Regatta and allowed me to sail with one my kids in our Scow for a couple of days, then he switched to an ILCA 4 for another day, while my other son sailed a Zest, and I took photos from a RIB. You can mix and match to your heart's content, without feeling the pressure of having to do the same thing every day.

Some clubs may feel they're too small to run a regatta week, or that the pressure on the club, hosting a week-long event will be too much on the volunteers and resources. There are alternatives! North West Norfolk Week is a prime example of local clubs working together to provide a week-long event, moving between clubs for the racing.

The event started from the idea of Oliver Atkins and Lionel Wilkinson, who suggested that the coastal clubs between Brancaster and King's Lynn should pool their resources and organise a regatta that involved all the clubs in the area. In the post-war austerity of 1948 and 1949 it was conceived as an event which could fit in with a family holiday in a very attractive and unspoiled area of the country. This ethos still prevails, making it a competitive but fun family event.

The idea of regatta weeks is often to gather the locals, but many travellers are often attracted to them, due to the holiday spirit at the events. I have to admit that North West Norfolk Week is one that's on my bucket list of events to attend. The area around that coast is stunning, and having the variety of venues all in one week is a major draw, with the National 12 class coming back year after year.

Clubs are often twinned with other clubs, and regatta weeks provide an opportunity to strengthen those bonds and relationships. At Keyhaven we're twinned with Twickenham Yacht Club, which is on the banks of the Thames in London. The sea sailing is markedly different to their usual river sailing, but a loyal and enthusiastic group are always welcomed at the club for our regatta week. This all adds to the holiday atmosphere at the event.

All in all, regatta weeks are another important and traditional part of the diverse range of ways we can enjoy our sailing. I haven't yet mentioned the big regatta which took place in the Solent, with Cowes Week attracting sailors to the windy waters, and crowds to the foreshore, as I was focusing on the smaller scale.

At the same time as all of these were many one design championships, headlined by the 29er World Championship at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy, which attracted competitors from all around the world.

This all continues to demonstrate just how wide a range of events we can enjoy in sailing. If you ever find yourself bored of doing the same thing over and over again, then you can look on your doorstep or further afield to find something to rekindle your enthusiasm for the sport.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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