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

Inter-schools/varsities/colleges Newsletter, 19 March 2020

Dear sailors,

The inaugural combined inter-schools and inter-varsity regatta was a great success, thanks to all the hard work of Pam, the Bridge, Rescue, Galley and many others, including, of course, our loyal sponsors, Coca Cola, who have supported our inter-school event for years! Four races were sailed in good conditions on the Saturday and another two on Sunday. The races on Saturday afternoon were sailed in a steady south-easterly, which allowed for some long, competitive beats, while Sunday started in little water and less wind and then became increasingly difficult as a gusty breeze picked up from the south west.

Matt van Rensburg, Cameron Hills and Sophie Hynch were placed first, second and third in the Laser class. Mike Hardy and Bulumko Majezi (Rhodes) won the Open A fleet on a 420, followed by Nathan Muller and Jenna Bailes on the Sonnet (NMU), and Ashleigh Hellstrom and Ashlyn Heneke (Rhodes) also on a 420.

Thomas Young and Adam Jones sailed a private match-racing series on their Tera Sports as a mini-series within the larger Open B fleet that comprised six boats: the two Tera sports, two Gypsys and two Picos. Racing in this fleet was as hotly contested as it was in the senior fleets, and the final order was Thomas, then Alexander Harris and Malaita McGinn on a Gypsy for Rhodes, and then Adam.

I will mention just a few of the many highlights of the weekend. It was great to see so many sailors and their families and friends stay to enjoy the gathering on Saturday night. This, I suspect, had much to do with the fact that Rhodes University brought a crowd of students who kept the sailing and the social events lively. For a short while on Saturday evening I forgot that I was no longer a student. We were treated to a spectacular electric storm that swirled around the club for a few hours, while the insomniacs could enjoy the fiery-necked nightjar that sang from darkness until dawn. Another highlight for me was to see the two youngsters sailing their Tera Sports, especially Adam who was sailing his first regatta as a helmsman: both were competing against and amongst bigger boats and older sailors. They sailed long courses without complaint and struggled only in the final race when the gusts were just too strong. I should also mention Lauren Hynch and her crew-member Lia Damin, who competed in their first regatta together. If we can see more of our younger sailors make the leap that their older siblings have already made, and perhaps also introduce their friends to the sport while they do so, then I think that the future for our club is bright.

The Autumn Trophy Series was will be concluded on Sunday. The start is not before 13h30. This series is scored according to personal handicaps. So far, the usual order has been upturned.

Please see the letter from the Commodore about the implications of the Covid-19 viral pandemic. All forthcoming events, apart from club racing, have been cancelled or postponed. These are unusual times. Give each a wide berth.

Best wishes, Charles

Autumn Series Newsletter, 9 March 2020

Dear sailors,

I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline and happened across some RYC sailing pictures from 1 March, which now seems a lifetime away. In just a few weeks, our worlds have changed. Nowadays I find myself reminiscing, with a sense of longing, about our still incomplete sailing season. This nostalgia prompted this overdue newsletter. In my defence, though I remain busy, time is less pressured. My usual sense of urgency has faded. Every cloud has a silver lining.

We managed a quick sail on the windsurfer on a deserted Bushman’s river one late Sunday afternoon, just a few hours before the President’s much anticipated announcement that the country would be closed for a period. Packing up, I wondered how long it will be before we get to enjoy being on the water again. This is a question that still has no answer.

The last RYC series to have been sailed was the Autumn series, which happened on 15 and 22 March. This series is scored according to personal handicaps. Though we expected the usual order to be overturned, the results were much as they normally are, with a few exceptions.

In the Open A fleet, Charlie Hills on a Laser Radial, and Pierre Goosen on a Full-rig Laser, tied in first place. Third place went to Matt van Rensburg, also on a full-rig Laser, and fourth went to Will Pierce-Jones on his Finn.

In the B fleet, Allan Impey, on his single-handed Gypsy, took first place, with the van Wyngaardts taking second on a Sonnet, while Emma Lucas and Cameron Hills were tied in third place – both having sailed on Tera Pros in preparation for the Tera World Championship, which was subsequently cancelled. Spare a thought for the youngsters who had been training and looking forward to this rare opportunity to sail in an international fleet on local waters. Same, too, for all the Laser and Finn sailors who were looking forward to the Nationals, now postponed.

Since then, we have missed out on the RYC ten-hour event and the Max Lippstreu race. The closing cruise and NSRI regatta are both due to take place on 19 April. While this falls outside of the three-week National lockdown, it hard to imagine that the season will close as scheduled. In the unlikely event that the lockdown is not extended, we can still expect many stringent measures to be in place for some months. Time will tell.

Redhouse Yacht Club has seen two world wars, the 1918 influenza pandemic and much more. We will sail again. Until then, take care.

Best wishes,

Charles

Vice-Commodore

Joint Interschool and Intervarsity Regatta Newsletter, 13 Feb 2020

Dear sailors,

Just a few sailors sailed the third and fourth races to conclude the Summer Series. First place in the Laser Fleet goes to Matt van Rensburg, with Tim Mundy in second. Ralph Hodgen sailed three races to win the Open Fleet on his Finn, while Adam Jones remains undefeated in the Tera class.

In contrast to the small fleet at home, RYC put in a good showing at the Knysna Interclub, winning once again, even though we seconded a handful of our sailors to other clubs!

Important news is the change to the annual interschools regatta to include university and college students. The 44th edition of this annual event will be sailed on 7 & 8 March. Entry is just R150 per competitor, which includes lunch and tea. Camping at RYC is free of charge. The regatta is open to all mono-hull dinghies. The only class restrictions apply to the Novice Junior School and Junior School entries. Details can be found on the flyer that is attached.

If you have not already done so, you have a couple of weeks to organise your school, university or college team. The latter can be interpreted quite broadly to include any young people taking a gap year or enrolled at the University of Life! The addition of young adults and students should liven things up!

Please get you entries to Pam Millar @ chermill@mweb.co.za, preferably by 1 March so that catering can be arranged.

Don’t forget the changes to the sailing programme mentioned last week: The Line Honours Race will be sailed on 23 February, with the start not before 14h00, and the new 10-hour endurance will be sailed at RYC on Saturday 28 March, from 10h00 to 20h00.

Lastly, there will be sailing on Sunday: The first day of the Special Trophy will start 10am or later. Forecast is 8 to 14 knots of wind from the north west.

All the best, Charles

A star is born, 6 Feb 2020

Dear Sailors,

It has been a busy start to the New year. Two races were sailed to conclude the Hurricane Series in relatively light air on Sunday 12 January. In the first, Peter Rist sailed a perfect second beat to be able to drink his tea before the second boat came in. The second race, in contrast, was a much more fractious affair, with the lead changing several times as a result of numerous collisions between boats, between boats and the marks, between boats and the shore, and even between skippers and the water. It was far from the finest moment of our club’s long, illustrious history.

Overall, the series winners are Charlie Hills in the Laser class, Ralph in the Open Fleet, while Mike and Tanya on a Sprog, and Adam Young on the Tera Pro share the Open B honours, with both boats competing in only two races out of four.

The main event of the year was sailed on the following weekend, 18 and 19 January. Seven races were sailed in a variable southerly wind for the River Championships and Gypsy African Championship. Saturday saw four races, with the rest sailed in a stronger breeze on Sunday. The regatta will be long remembered for what must be a new record: Ralf and Esme competed in the Gypsy class as a combined age of 165 years and managed to win the second race! Speaking of records: I managed something I have never done before. Something I have never seen anybody else do before. Which was to run aground on the finish line. Not over it, but on it.

In the end, Allan Impey and Antony were crowned the 2020 Gypsy Champions of all Africa! Bronwyn and Courtney van Wyngaardt came second, and Ralph and Esme third in the fleet of seven boats.

While there was much banter between older members to keep the River Championship Trophy amongst the Great Grand Masters, it went to a Junior: Cameron Hills took the honours sailing his Laser 4.7 with a clean sweep of first places. Matt van Rensburg came second and Charlie Hills third.  

It was also good to see a competitive turnout amongst the Sonnets, something we have not seen for a while. The winners of the Sonnet fleet were Tim and Adam, followed by Sigi and Jenna, Frans and Jamie, and Sophie and Kyle.

A good fleet of ten Lasers, a couple of Finns, a Sprog and a Tera competed last weekend for the start of the Summer Series. Among those who sailed was the welcome presence of Pierre after a long absence, who showed no evidence of this by topping the leader board after two races, with Peter and Matt just one and two points adrift. Ralph leads the Open A fleet sailing his Finn. However, the Star of the Series is young Adam Jones, who sailed and completed his very first and second solo races on a Tera Sport! I expect that Tim might soon be looking for a new crew member.

There can’t be too dinghy sailing clubs anywhere that can boast of an age difference of nearly eighty years between its youngest and oldest competitors.  

The Summer Series concludes this weekend, with a start not before 14h00 on Sunday afternoon. The forecast looks good for 17 to 20 knots from the east, but then meteorologists are much like politicians.

Please note a change in the sailing programme: The Line Honours Race will be sailed on 23 February, with the start not before 14h00. Honours go to the first boat over the finish line. No handicap adjustments for people sailing easy rigs; it’s first come, first served!

Also take note of the new endurance team sailing and paddling event that replaces the 24-hour race at Southend Lake. The new event will be sailed at Redhouse on Saturday 28 March, from 10h00 to 20h00. Entries are open to single-handed as well as double-handed dinghies (and paddle craft if you are a little mad). Teams must consist of at least two but no more than six people, and no team members may sail for more than six hours in total. The idea is to encourage people to stay overnight at the club. So save the date, dig around your garages to find your camping gear, and start recruiting a team. It promises to be a lively, social event.    

The committee has asked that me to say that we encourage members to make use of the WhatsApp group, but urge you to do so in a way that encourages participation. No need to announce that you won’t be sailing!

Results are attached. Sorry about the quality of one; I had to use a WhatsApp picture.
Safe travels to those of you who are going to Knysna this weekend.

Charles
Vice-Commodore

Xmas Newsletter, 20 December 2019

Dear sailors,

I regrettably missed the annual Xmas regatta as we had booked family time away at one of the national parks. But it was an opportunity to pop into Johannesburg to collect an old windsurfer from the same man who built them and sold me my last one in the mid-1980s. Anybody who has had the privilege of meeting Boudewijn Lampe will know that he is a charismatic storyteller, and what I expected to be a quick outing turned into a three-hour affair as he regaled me with stories of the windsurfing heyday. (By the way, Rhona, Boudewijn sends you his warmest regards!)

He reminded me that it is a privilege to be a member of the small, global community of sailors. According to him, with few exceptions, there is something decent and recognisable in sailors wherever you meet them. Having been a member of several different yacht clubs across the country over the course of my life and having visited many others (like all of you), I agree that they are all familiar and welcoming. As a result of my introduction to the sport as a youngster, I have friends around the world. None of my other recreational activities has left me with this sort of priceless legacy.

The more sobering lesson, however, is to reflect on the massive popularity and sudden demise of windsurfing as an organised class. Boudewijn built 22 000 windsurfers, most of which remained in this country and must now be abandoned all over the place in peoples’ garages and gardens (like my first one, which I lost years ago moving from one place to another). Windsurfers were relatively cheap, easy to move about and great fun to sail. It was a true grassroots movement without the need for formal structures like sailing clubs to thrive. Throughout the 1980s there was hardly a piece of water in the country that did not host regular windsurfing activities. But then it died. Those boards are now considered collectors’ items; my first outing on my new, old board at Bushman’s river yesterday attracted all sorts of interest and nostalgia in what is regarded as a vintage craft, yet the windsurfer one design is a younger class than the ever-popular laser dinghy.

Perhaps the reason that the windsurfer class (and windsurfing in general) was not sustained was precisely because it lacked the organised structures of yacht clubs, in which we invest our time and money, and into which we induct our children. It is being part of a club that brings to bear the necessary social pressure to turn out and sail and race and, most importantly, to socialise with like-minded people. Yacht clubs are like families in the way they self-perpetuate. That sailing is an activity passed down generations is evident to me as I read and recognise the surnames of the entrants to the recent youth nationals. But without attracting enough new participants and without diversifying, this hereditary feature of our sport has probably only slowed the attrition in numbers at these annual national championship regattas. Sailing is without a doubt under threat in South Africa.

It would seem to me then that organised sailing will only survive if the clubs survive. An investment in time at Redhouse Yacht Club – whether it be the maintenance work that the old club needs, or rescue, bridge or galley duty, or as a member of the committee, or simply time on the water – is an investment in the future of the sport.

And on that note, I thank those of you who made the Christmas regatta another success. Eight lasers, a sonnet, a finn, two teras, a gypsey and a sprog were entered for the annual end-of-year event. Charlie Hills continues to dominate the lasers (perhaps it is no coincidence that Charlie is possibly our most regular yachtsman), while Cameron sailed to victory in the smaller Open B fleet. Tim and Adam took the Open fleet of two boats, a sonnet and finn.

Well done to Cameron Hills, Emma Lucas and Courtney Van Wyngaardt who represented Redhouse at the SA Sailing Youth Nationals 2019 at Theewater Sports Club. I see that the next edition will be sailed in the Eastern Cape in December 2020. This is a good opportunity for us.

Have a good Xmas and a happy New Year.

Charles

Vice-Commodore