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Bournemouth Digital Poole Week 2023 – Day 5

by David Harding 25 Aug 06:03 BST 20-25 August 2023

In the context of one of the south coast's biggest regattas, it might seem strange to say that it's not all about the sailing. But in the case of Poole Week, it never has been.

Sailing is the focus, of course, and it's the sailing that brings people together. The coming together is what makes it for many of those who take part. The mornings are free so you can do other things. Then you have six afternoons of racing in Poole Harbour, and the evenings to relax at Parkstone Yacht Club, enjoying good company and what many people consider to be one of the finest views in England.

And when there's no sailing? Over the course of a six-day regatta, it's always likely that one day, or possibly two, will be lost to the weather. Thankfully, sailors are generally sociable creatures and, by their very nature, pretty resourceful too. Finding ways to pass the time when it's not possible to go afloat rarely presents a challenge.

If the sailing has to be cancelled, it's normally due to too much wind or too little. On the Thursday of this year's Poole Week, it was too little, plus the satellite image of a band of lightning in the English Channel seemingly heading straight towards Poole. It also happened to be raining, not that that really matters. You can sail in the rain. Sailing in no wind is harder, and setting sail into the path of a big patch of lightning might be seen by some as unwise. One boat did venture out for a sail anyway, once the rain had eased and the wind gusted briefly to all of six knots. It wasn't a Flying Fifteen, because they were all at their golf tournament.

A day off gives everyone a chance to take stock and, for those who are serious about winning, to consider their chances of lifting the Britannia Cup. This impressive piece of silverware, bearing many illustrious names, has a long history and a royal pedigree (King George V won it in 1924). It's awarded to the top boat of the week, the calculation using a formula that takes into account factors including the boat's total points score - significantly, without discards - and the number of entrants in the class. Various names were mentioned at the daily prize-giving as possibly being in the running, including John Tremlett in the ultra-competitive, 22-strong XOD fleet. Richard Whitworth, leading the even-bigger Flying Fifteen fleet (29 entries) might be in with a shout, as might Roger O'Gorman in the ILCA 6s. And then there are those who, like Steve and Ally Tyler (fast handicap), have simply dominated their fleet to the extent that their discards include a 1st and they have already won with a day to spare.

For most competitors, however, it really is about the taking part - enjoying the racing, learning how to get the boat going better and, among other things, being in with a chance of winning one of the many randomly-awarded and very desirable prizes. These include the goody bags from Rooster that are handed out every evening. At Poole Week it's not only the race-winners who win the prizes. People who score notable results get a mention (and a prize), such as Graham Latham and Sara Briscoe in the Flying Fifteens. Starting the week with results well into the 20s, they improved with every race to score a 5th and a 4th on Wednesday.

Daily prizes - from the goody bags to caps, T-shirts and lots of beer - are still awarded on days when there's no sailing, but in Poole Week you've always had to be there to receive it. No show, no prize. It'a a good idea to stick around in the club house after racing, just in case.

One feature of Poole Week this year has been the increased use of the wider harbour for the courses. As several people have pointed out, this isn't just a regatta - it's Poole Week. You can sail windward/leeward or triangle/sausage courses on any stretch of water that's big enough, but in Poole you have a vast expanse of water, stunning scenery, and islands to sail around, so why not take full advantage of all that? As the three XODs from Itchenor proved during Tuesday's race around the islands when they filled the top three places, local knowledge doesn't seem to count for much.

So, after an enforced day ashore on Thursday, what does final Friday have in store for Poole Week 2023? In terms of results, it will decide who wins what and, importantly, who gets their name on the Britannia Cup.

It promises to be a day with a moderate south-westerly breeze, and that should please pretty well everyone. That part of the day will be all (or, at least, mostly) about the sailing. After that, it's prizes and party time.

Provisional results on

Photos on

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