Newsletter, 22 May 2020

Dear Sailors,

When I first arrived at Redhouse Yacht Club and met Pam Miller, I was sure that I had met her before. There was something strangely recognisable, but as much as I have tried, I am unable to recall any specific memories that might explain this sense of familiarity. We have chatted and it seemed that although we sailed on the same waters, Pam was sure that she had left Emmarentia Sailing Club (ESC) before I started. I put the lingering sense of familiarity down to the fact that Pam represents the archetype of the hard-working, no-nonsense, female sailing administrator that many clubs are lucky to have. Those stalwarts who put in hours behind the scenes year after year. I can think of a few.

Recently Pam sent me an ESC newsletter from February 1982 with an account of the 1981 Dabchick and Optimist Nationals at Swartvlei. Those were the days: 207 entries, made up of 94 Optimists in the main fleet and another 22 in a separate novice fleet (I was one of them), alongside 91 Dabchicks. It’s a fascinating (and for me a very nostalgic) account of our sport a long time ago. Two memories stand out: the one is that I sailed with a plastic bag over a newly broken arm. The other is the one and only occasion when I arrived at the weather mark in front, I had no idea which way to go. It was a triangle and sausage course, so once around the weather mark, I would have had just two marks to choose from. I chose the wrong one.

The decline in junior sailing numbers between then and now is, sadly, stark. Many of you would have read the recent Scuttlebut article on the state of the sport. The writer suggests that both the increasing professionalism of the sport and the technical evolution of our boats are making the sport less attractive to social sailors and too expensive for many middle-class families (let alone working-class ones). I fear that he may be right. My folks were not wealthy, yet they could ensure that their four children had good boats and gear. I doubt that an equivalent family could do the same today. This should have those of us who care about the future of the sport worried.

And back to Pam. Tucked away at the bottom of the newsletter are the mid-season standings for ESC club races. My name is listed in the Optimist fleet and Pam is listed amongst the Laser sailors. We must have met before, many years ago. Sailing is a small world.

The scuttlebutt writer makes a few sensible points. It is important to make it fun; individual drivers, like Pam, are crucial; and family involvement ensures continuity. There is a twist to my long story that illustrates just how family involvement perpetuates the sport. I was a ten-year old sailor at the 1981 junior nationals. Today I discovered, by remarkable coincidence, that another familiar young sailor, who you will all know, competed in those same national championships. It turns out that Tim Jones and I first sailed against each other nearly 40 years ago! How cool is that? It is a small world indeed.

Which brings me to the present and our own season results. This year the club ran a different format for the Class Championships in an attempt to encourage more consistent levels participation. With the sudden curtailment of the sailing season, The Championships were based on the combined results from the Opening of the Season regatta, the Hurricane Series, the Special Trophy 1 series, the Christmas Regatta, the Summer Series, and the Special Trophy 2 series. The results, which are attached, are no surprise. Those who sailed most often are also the ones who top the leader boards.

In the largest fleet, first place goes to Charlie Hills on his Laser Radial, just two points ahead of Matt van Rensburg on a full rig. Ralph Hodgen took a clean sweep of first places in the Finn fleet. Tim and Adam Jones came first in the Sonnet fleet. Cameron Hills took first in the Tera fleet. Allan Impey won the Open B fleet. Warren Harvey and Tim Mundy made brief appearances, which was just enough to share the spoils in the small Open A fleet.

Well done to the winners.

See you soon,

Charles