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Oulton Week 2014 at Waveney & Oulton Broad Yacht Club

by Veronica Falat 27 Aug 2014 00:59 PDT 17-22 August 2014
Broads One Designs about to start at Oulton Week © Karen Langston

Oulton Week, hosted by the Waveney & Oulton Broad Y.C., is one of the major summer regattas in the Norfolk Broads and attracts lots of visitors from neighbouring clubs. Usually it's 'T-shirts and shorts' weather but this time wetsuits and waterproofs were the clothes of choice, partly due to the strong winds on the first two days and also because of the unseasonably chilly conditions and frequent rain showers that kept on coming. Despite that, the racing was great, the socials were excellent and fun was had by all.

Many competitors arrive by boat. The River Cruisers are the racing yachts with cabins and so provide their owners and crew with accommodation for the week; in all, 28 River Cruisers arrived and moored on the broad while other people turned up with motor cruisers, towing their racing dinghies or keelboats.

Sunday was seriously windy and many people decided to give the racing a miss. Nevertheless there were enough crazy people to give it a go to make things interesting for the spectators. The local keelboat one design classes and the River Cruisers could put in reefs and they coped well. The dinghy fleets however gave the safety team a really busy day and at times the broad was littered with upturned hulls or boats getting blown sideways. By late afternoon the decision was taken not to sail the final two races of the day. No one complained at that!

Monday was also very blustery but gradually the wind moderated and for the rest of the week it was quite OK except when the black clouds came over producing sudden gusts and shifts. By Friday the problem was more one of no wind rather than too much.

As usual the biggest fleets were in the Mixed One Designs races. Some 36 assorted Waveneys, Yare & Bures, Broads One Designs and Squibs entered the afternoon series. Bryan and Jenny Riley were the eventual winners in their Squib Brimstone, ahead of the Y&Bs of Chris Bunn and Paul Carrington. The morning Mixed OD series had fewer entries but was fiercely contested, especially between the two leading boats. Denise Sinclair in her Squib Slinky took an early lead but by midweek Chris Bunn in Y&B Fox was just ahead on points. In Thursday's race, Slinky led most of the way round but Fox caught up on the run and a luffing match ensued which eventually led to both helms filling out protest forms. For Slinky this was a lost cause because she was recorded as a premature starter and so disqualified and the protests didn't go her way either. On Friday Fox made sure of the series with a clear cut win.

In the keelboat class racing, the biggest fleet was the Broads One Designs with 15 boats. Last year's winner, Nick Truman in Spoonbill, won two of the races but was narrowly beaten overall by his nephew Matthew sailing Shearwater. Richard Dell in Solan took third place.

Meanwhile, the Waveney racing was dominated by Trevor Balls and his sister Valerie Walker in Creeping Jenny, winning five of their six races. Simon and Caroline Marfleet in Iris were the runners-up, ahead of David Yapp and Julia Deary in Foxglove.

The smallest keelboat fleet was the Yare and Bures with 8 boats but the racing was well contested. Paul Carrington's Lunar had 2 race wins but did not sail enough to get into the overall prizes which went to Fox in first place, ahead of Tim Frary's Peacock and Richie Dugdale's Galium Hawk.

The Squib races saw a close battle between the Rileys in Brimstone and Lloyd Crisp's In the Pink. Coming into the last race, In the Pink was ahead by one point but Brimstone sailed an excellent race in Friday afternoon's light and shifty breeze to take the series. In third place was Slinky.

There is always keen competition between the keelboat fleets and the Blackburn Trophy 4-a-side team race between Waveneys, Yare & Bures, Squibs and 'Brown Boats' is one of the highlights of the week. This year pouring rain and a flat calm on Wednesday evening meant it was put back a day but fortunately conditions were better on Thursday. Two Squibs finished comfortably ahead but their team mates were near the back of the fleet and the Yare & Bure team was victorious for the second year running. The Waveneys finished third.

In the dinghies the biggest fleet was the Slow Handicap with 29 boats, mostly sailed by juniors. Joe Drake in his Topper dominated the mornings, achieving 6 wins in 6 races, with the Optimists of William Pank and Alexandra Knight finishing in 2nd and 3rd places respectively. In the lunchtime series, the father and daughter team of Chris and Rosie Pank were overall winners in their Mirror dinghy, with son William just missing out on second place to Molly Desorgher in her Topper. However, the tables were turned in the afternoons when William in his Optimist took first place overall, with the Mirror second and Molly third. It was a very well fought series with all three boats gaining two race wins each.

The Fast Handicap racing saw James Wilson in his Streaker Plane Seeker winning everything possible on the first couple of days. Then Jenny and Trevor Whiting in their Wayfarer Big Blue joined the action and were soon also notching up race wins. Plane Seeker took the morning and afternoon series but Big Blue won the lunchtime one. Every race was very competitive especially amongst the Streakers and Solos. Veronica Falat's Streaker finished among the prizes in all 3 series, while Roger Wilson's Solo gained third place in the morning.

Interestingly the only racing to suffer from poor turnouts was in the two Laser series. Richard Smith won in the mornings ahead of Andy Bedwell but in the afternoons Joe Drake sometimes found he had no-one to race against.

The Access dinghies race on 3 days during Oulton Week but this year they only sailed on 2 because of the gusty conditions on Monday. The sailors are members of Waveney Sailability and it was great to see 10 boats on the water. Last year's winner Kell Tisdall won both of Friday's races but this wasn't enough to beat Marcelle Speller who took overall victory. Third place went to John Page.

For most people the fleet that defines a good Oulton Week is the River Cruisers. On Sunday only a few raced at midday and the late afternoon race was cancelled because of strong wind but as the weather improved, 28 boats raced during the week and the regatta's success was assured! Whisper, helmed by Chris Pank, won the midday series two points ahead of Anthony Landamore's Matilda. The first of the 'slower fleet' was Phil Davies' Joy in 3rd place overall. Wednesday's race for the Blakes Cup was won by Richie Dugdale's Zingara. In the afternoon series, Mike Barnes' Maidie, over 100 years old, was the very popular winner, looking very elegant, while Melinda (Tom Heaffey) and Mischief (Steve Seeney) took 2nd and 3rd prizes. Newcomer to the River Cruiser fleet, Nick Heath in Tamara also had a good week despite sailing to a provisional handicap which meant that his results couldn't count for prizes; in the 'slower' fleet he scored 4 race wins during the course of the week.

The final race of Oulton Week 2014 was the all-comers Bloodbath pursuit race in which 45 dinghies and keelboats took part. The breeze was very light indeed but the Optimists did extremely well to stay ahead of everyone else for the first lap. However as the race progressed they were overtaken and it was Richard Smith in his laser who led for much of the race, only to be passed by Julian and Bethany Hood in their National 12 who went on to win.

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