I was woken at 6.00am by the whistling of wind through the trees and the drumming of rain on the windows – after months of dry, warm weather, the day of the Whitefriars British Moth open was going to be cold, wet and windy… would anybody bother to come to eat all the lunch and cakes I’d bought?
A couple of hours later when I arrived at the club, expecting to be the first there, I had my answer – there were 3 visitors already there, rigging in conditions that were more like standing under a cold shower than a Cotswold sailing club in mid June. As more boats arrived, some from as far away as Cambridgeshire, I realized that the British Moth fleet are a hardy bunch, with 14 of the expected 18 braving the wild conditions!
Conditions for the racing were hardly ideal for a dinghy with a reputation of being a boat for confined waters and light winds. The rain was driving sideways, and the anemometer was reading 17 knots gusting 27, and the wind chill factor reading -2! The first casualty was Peter Lee’s boat, the rudder stock giving way after only minutes on the water, just before the 1st start.
All 3 races followed a similar pattern, with a short beat to the first mark, followed by a wobbly run down the lake before turning onto 2 screaming reaches – it is amazing how much of a supposedly slow 11 foot boat you can have out of the water for several hundred yards at a time! A very shifty beat saw the fleet back through the start line. With gusts whistling across the water, in the first 2 races Tim Davison, Roger Witts, Rob Wilder, and John Claridge were the masters of the conditions, battling for the lead all the way round, with finishes as close as the starts had been. From the shelter of the start hut we watched with a mixture of awe and amusement as tactical decisions made the beats into a game of snakes and ladders – getting on the right side of the very unpredictable shifts was how to win – it was easy to see from the shore! Somehow, Tim managed to be in the lead at the right time to take the race wins, with Roger 2nd.
The 3rd race saw a new player come into the game – Mark Wiltshire built himself what, in steady winds would have been an easy lead to defend. At the end of the 3rd lap he was a comfortable leader. However, as tiredness began to take its toll, Tim, Rob and John closed with him, and yards from the line, all overtook him. As Tim and Rob approached the finish line, I couldn’t separate them. I was just about to sound the horn and call it a dead heat when Tim’s years of cunning sailing came to the fore. A brilliantly timed luff put his bow a couple of inches in front of Rob’s, and the win was his. Roger had had to sit out of the 3rd race with a damaged lower shroud, but Tim’s luff kept him in 2nd place over all.
There were only 5 finishers in the last race, the rest of the fleet either having succumbed to the cold and damp or broken their boats, the most spectacular being Andrew Perrott’s broken shroud, which caused the whole rig to go overboard!
After the boats were packed away, a noisy prize giving (complete with more cakes and pies than even a Moth fleet worn out by stormy conditions could manage) saw Graham Pope receive the prize for completing all the races without actually troubling the leader board (though to be fair, in the first 2 races he was pressing them hard), and the winner, Tim Davison, pick up the Gyro cup, with Roger Witts and Rob Wilder collecting wine for 2nd and 3rd.
Amazingly, despite the weather, both the competitors and race crew had an excellent day. Racing was the tightest I’ve seen for a long time, but it was very good humoured, despite the lashing rain and vicious gusts. Whitefriars is looking forward to the British Moths coming back next year, so long as they bring sunshine!
1st Tim Davison, 846
2nd Roger Witts, 880
3rd Rob Wilder, 881
4th John Claridge, 878
5th Mark Wiltshire, 87
6th Andrew Perrott, 834
7th Graham Pope, 870
8th Richard Keefe, 73
9th Gary Tompkins, 862
10th Ian Haywood, 871
11th Tony Latham, 756
12th Elaine Laverty, 850
13th Abby Freeley, 783
14th Peter Lee, 815