In the Commodore’s Review of 2005 at the SWSYC Annual Dinner, David Latchford raised his concerns that the youth of today are not cocking up enough and that he was in a good mind to launch an academy to kindle chaos, calamity and the crunching of carbon fibre amongst our younger sailors.
It was somewhere in the bottom of either eighth or ninth pint of Bitter one night in the White Horse in Parsons Green that Tom Montgomery and Dan Howe stumbled across the genius idea of creating a regatta in Poole to race for the SWSYC Academy Cup. Whilst the winner (or loser) was by no means guaranteed membership to the Club, it would be a superb cultivating ground for young sailors to learn the fine art of boat-to-boat contact, crashing into committee boats and attaching your craft’s underwater appendages to the mooring tackle of race marks.
The inaugural event of the Academy season has been covered elsewhere in the 2006 Archivist’s Notebook, but this report will concentrate on the Academy’s first invitation to showcase their sailing in front of the Club.
Saturday 23 September was the big day for the Academy. Dawn’s crack was appreciated as most of SW London’s young sailors headed down the motorway to Dorset Lake for the Pico racing, but Club activities were well under way before anyone arrived with the Club’s Chaplain expertly attaching his motorboat by a propeller shaft to a mooring buoy just of Rockley Point.
The literary and planning skills of the Academians were tested to the extreme, with the need to print off a map, bring the right clothing and turn up at the right time. We eventually had all crews present and correct 11⁄2 hours after the first warning signal was due to sound. Race Officer Howe (jnr) briefed the crews for the day’s racing and suffered the usual water pistol-shot-in-the-crotch treatment before all headed out towards the Top Triangle.
For those unfamiliar with the Laser Pico, they are ‘indestructible’ plastic single sail bath-tubs designed to be sailed by children single handed. The Academy however sail these two-up with not quite-so-small adults so a stiff breeze is a pre-requisite of a good day’s racing. Luckily for us, the wind settled in with a SE 12-14 knots and warm sunshine.
Eventually all the Picos made it to the starting area where Hugh Carter promptly opened the account of incompetence by capsizing on top of the committee boat before the racing had started. Three races before lunch and two after was all we had time for due to the slightly later than scheduled start.
The Academians showed some impressive racing in the plastic bath-tubs over short triangle-sausage courses but capsizes, crashes and MOBs were not uncommon across the fleet. Nick Phillips and his beautiful assistant showed the fleet their socks around the race course with the tail brought up ably by Steve Rockey and Lucy Howe for most of the races.
No blood or tears were shed in the first three races so the call was made to head back to Dorset Lake for burgers and beer. In fact many beers were drunk and the race committee had their work cut out trying to push the Academians back out onto the race course.
One triangle-sausage race and a passage race from Dorset Lake back to Parkstone Yacht Club (who kindly leant the Academy the Picos) was all we had time for. More crashes and more chaos resulted in another bullet for Nick Phillips. Charlie Hagan and James Nicholson however were the first to draw the first real blood of the day in between the races. Charlie should have believed James when he said he couldn’t sail, before Charlie jumped overboard. James managed to go a whole ten yards before capsizing, catching his head on the way over and shedding a good deal of claret into the Harbour. Luckily for him the good Dr Howe was nearby for a quick assessment and application of butterfly stitches.
A very entertaining day’s racing was followed by a superb dinner at the Royal Motor Yacht Club and the presentation of the silverware by the Commodore. Victory was toasted, losers commiserated, fines administered and James had plenty of liquid pain-killer to get over the bop on the head. Nick Phillips walked away with the overall prize with Steve Rockey and Lucy Howe flew off on their golden broom following an impressive clean-sheet of last place finishes in the five races.