Sunday 22nd August started off a bit drab and damp as the first sailors arrived at Fleetwood for the day’s sailing. A solitary club member from the scale section was already out, trying his old converted 36 in the fair breeze that curled over the sandbank in a north-westerly direction and eased the flag on the club’s flagpole out in a steady fashion.
The Northern District has not, until recently, been an area known for its involvement in the Radio Six Metre class. But back in the 1930s there were Sixes being free sailed in races before large crowds of people at the then newly created, purpose built model yachting lake at Fleetwood. These events were sometimes captured in photographs and even films and coincided with the popularity and building fervour for their full-size Olympic class brethren.
The turnout suffered from a catalogue of sailors recuperating from operations and hospitalisation (see you soon guys), last minute obligations to complete boats on time for others (doh!), running events elsewhere (arrgh!) or being between boats (mmm…) plus a few who remarkably had other things to do (really?). However, it was still an entry replete with the keenest and most able northern skippers ready to contest this inaugural sailing of the ND 6m Radio Championship, delayed for 12 months thanks to you know what. Even before a boat touched the water there was a minor catastrophe when Shaun Holbeche managed to break the top of his mast when manoeuvring his boat in the clubhouse (who needs metal roof beams anyway?). Derek nipped home to return with an impressively large selection of aluminium tube off-cuts and some tools, (If you ever find your mast seems shorter than it used to be.......?) and Eric dug into his toolbox for some small tie wraps. Thanks to both of them. Shaun cut and slit a small piece of tube and ‘splinted’ the break and all was well in the world again……if it held.
And so, the Famous Five got on the water under the watchful gaze of Race Officer Bob Jolly and Course Manager, Rescue Boatman and jolly good Cake Sponsor, Peter Isles. A straightforward course was set with a start line about a quarter of the way up the lake to a bouy towards the far end, taken to port, followed by a run down to a leeward gate opposite the clubhouse with another beat halfway up the lake to the finish line. The wind started out of the northwest but sported significant flaws, occasional short-lived shifts and some gusts on top but averaging around about 8-9mph. The overcast sky had given way to breaks in the clouds and some sunshine as well. Pleasant conditions indeed.
Bob had to keep his eyes open at the starts as the line was attacked hard and keen by all the participants, all looking to gain an early and sometimes decisive advantage. Everyone was over at least once during the day, with two or three general recalls and a fair few individual ones.
Racing settled into something of a pattern. Steve Mattison and Eric Austwick who have both recently acquired boats, (this being Eric’s first event) locked horns and enjoyed an afternoon of close racing between them sailing a Renaissance and a Rococo respectively. They also managed to improve their sailing performance during the day, getting closer to those in front and learnt more about their boats and identifying some small jobs that need attending to that will help improve their boats further. Meanwhile the top three, all sailing Ravennas, swapped places, had some close finishes and took turns restarting their races as they sought the best sail settings and advantage on the line where the wind direction was favouring the port end of the line.
At some point in the morning the wind direction started to move round to a WNW direction, as predicted by the forecast, and freshened some for good measure. This further improved the sailing situation as it opened up the breadth of the lake. From race 6 onwards Shaun found a groove with the right combination of settings to take advantage of the conditions, suffering a blip in race 10, the last before lunch, when the boat collected a crab line on the far shore.
A relaxed lunch was taken and cake was consumed, (thanks Peter!) before the final six races were completed in a similar vain with Steve and Eric making further progress, closer to the front three who in turn continued to have some close battles. The day was a really good one even with the fleet being small. The conditions were near perfect, there was friendly competition for everyone in the fleet and we really had some fun. We had fellow club members come along and enjoy the spectacle. One or two even had a sail! The boats continue to look good on the water and provide ‘big boat’ sailing in a package that is still reasonably priced and pleasingly practical.
Because we were so busy having fun and were kept busy by the competition photos were not taken during the day. You need to be here sailing if you want to see what it’s like! Bob’s tally of results showed that Steve and Eric had been really evenly matched, tied on points after discards, with Steve getting the nod on countback to lie 4th.
John ended up 3rd, Derek 2nd and Shaun stole the day and the trophy pictured below. A word about it. It was made by former full size Six Metre owner, racer and enthusiast David Brewer who makes half models as a hobby with a view to sale, depicting the full size yacht ‘May Be III’, designed by the well-known Swedish designer Tore Helm and launched in 1935, around about when those free sailing Six Metre yachts could be seen on our lake at Fleetwood.
May be III was initially built for a Swede but she soon moved to Switzerland, was renamed and sailed under the Swiss flag in the 1936 Olympics. After the Olympics she was again renamed on two occasions back in Switzerland where she was kept on Lake Geneva before eventually moving to Lake Constance in the 1960s or 70s where she was given the name Marabu and the sail number G21. She remains there today. Shaun Holbeche.
The Northern District Trophy for Six Metres
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