Sunday, 29 July 2012

OGA Swallows & Amazons 2010

Found this old post in drafts - some good memories.

The Old Gaffers Association Big event for small boats, 'Swallows and Amazons'.

It took a short drive up the A12 with the Shellback dinghy in tow in order to take part in the OGA's annual main event for small boats, "Swallows & Amazons" weekend. The main emphasis is on fun and relaxing, with one or two less than competitive races among other small gaff dinghy's.
I rarely race other than rushing down the boat after work, so being the first official race I can remember entering myself into this would have to be a 'dinghy cruise' around Horsey Island, only going as quick as the little lugsail boat would take a crew of two quite large old gaffers.
The host venue; Walton and Frinton Yacht Club who go out of there way to make this event as enjoyable as possible for all the gaffers attending.
The Walton Backwaters are simply a dinghy sailors delight, so inevitably a variety of classic dinghy's were present from one off lugsail clinkers to the ever popular Mirror dinghy.
The race (fast cruise) around Horsey on Saturday began with a registration at 09.00 hrs followed with a briefing at 10.00hrs in the club house. The launching of boats and making ones way down to the start line at the Twizzle for 11.00hrs.

The fleet head down from WFYC to the start line at the Twizzle.

The Shell in relaxed mode.
Being in relaxed mode ours was the last dinghy to be led down the slipway, in doing so getting her first taste of East Coast salt water.
Today's forecast: F 3-4 NE. At 10.45hrs and with the sky overcast we began the beat down Walton Creek, nudging the little balanced lug-sail rigged boat into every ditch and rill found on the way to the Twizzle .
The event Safety boat cruised past offering a tow to the start for the last of the fleet making way down, which being proud cruising men we suddenly became hard of hearing and refused. Even though it was past 11.00hrs we continued for a further 10 minutes along with three or four others and still we hadn't reached the Twizzle. A short while later and making very slow progress into a head wind we began wishing we had took the tow as the gun had just gone off and most of the fleet of 28 small gaff dinghy's had started sailing off around Horsey with bunting, flags, ribbons etc streaming.
There was a second tow attempt from another launch which we did try to accept but it then ran out of fuel so the yard went up and we continued on under sail again.

2nd tow offer.

I was particularly interested to see how the Shellback would perform today with a crew of two. After reaching the Twizzle the competitor in me took over -  a push on the tiller to starboard for the final tack out into the Twizzle proper and onto a broad run, down past Titchmarsh Marina on our port side and passing Horsey. The farm was now to our starboard side on the Island as we began crossing this very shallow stretch over the Wade - shallow stretches that are navigable by shoal keels at HW springs.

Under way, crossing Horsey Mere.

The wind was well up by now but we had a passage to make, no windy chop or salt spray would stop us now. The heavy ballast of two crew keeping the little shell in check before rounding into a fetch up to Honey Pots. Swimming seals were seemingly waving us through the shallow water and pointing the way past the landing stage, most of which was under water. On into Kirby Creek where we had a wet beat sponging back the salt as we charged up the creek to Hamford Water, passing two gaffers who had become overwhelmed by the conditions, so much so as to throw in the towel and take the helpful tow home from the safety boat. As we passed them the Shellback left an impressive wake in all the chop. Turning into Hamford water the single turkey-red lugsail was eased out to begin reaching along this fine stretch of historic water, favorited by icons of the East Coast such as Arthur Ransom and Maurice Griffiths. White knuckle holding a steady course while we took in the surrounding views, ahead in the distance the huge cranes of Felixtowe Docks while on our port side large yachts sat anchored, and then the East Coast Sails buoy appeared just before Island Point.
On nearing Walton Creek and the line of lighters to starboard the wave swells lifted the little Shellback as she surfed down them into the creek and onto a run. I managed to steer us out of the now ebbing deeper main channel, running us up the starboard side of Walton Creek in 18 inches of water. The dagger board was pulled up just as the long grassy saltmarsh brushed our topside. This was creek crawling in the extreme, I am sure the little shell would have planed across on top of the saltmarsh at 5knts had I lifted the rudder! But we are in a race and that would be cheating.
Crossing the entrance to the Twizzle we blazed up along the port side of Foundry Reach before rounding into Walton and Frinton Creek, passing the finish line at the WFYC club house to the sound of the horn. The old gaffers racing marshal waved at us from the window of the club, behind which the sun had began to shine. The afternoon was finished of with a barbecue washed down with some apre sail real ale.

The Shellback dinghy,11'3" wooden lapstrake with lifting dagger board and balanced lug sail, a very pretty dinghy which also rows and sculls well, designed by Joel White.


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