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,
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