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Oulton Week 2015 at Waveney & Oulton Broad Yacht Club

by Veronica Falat 4 Sep 2015 01:38 PDT 23-28 August 2015

In the days running up to Oulton Week 2015 (Sun. 23rd to Fri 28th August), the forecast for the Norfolk Broads area was for very strong winds and the competitors' briefing touched on what would happen if races were cancelled. Fortunately things weren't quite as bad as predicted but even so, there were several days when only the brave went sailing! In terms of numbers of boats racing, this wasn't the busiest Oulton Week but even so 125 different boats took part – 60 dinghies, 44 keelboats and 21 River Cruisers.

In many ways it's the River Cruisers that set the tone for the week as they involve large numbers of crews and provide the most spectacular sailing. This year they were often well reefed and it was Richie Dugdale's Zingara, one of the smaller boats in the fast flight that dominated the results, winning both the midday and late afternoon series. Mike Barnes' Maidie pushed her hard and always was thrilling to watch and there were several of the slower flight that did very well on handicap, especially Anthony Landamore's Matilda and Bill Bacon's Whisper.

Some of the fast boats are sporting new, taller carbon masts this season and when conditions allowed, they put on a good show with Storm and Raisena chasing each other round the broad, towering over Maidie, even with her topsail set.

The keelboat racing is always very competitive in Oulton Week, whether in the class races or in the 'Mixed One Designs' in which the local classes (Waveneys, Broads ODs and Yare & Bures) race level with the Squibs. In the morning Mixed OD series, the Yare & Bures of Chris Bunn, Ian Tims and Tim Frary were well placed after the first few days but on Wednesday the conditions were so strong that only Lloyd Crisp's Squib In the Pink and Richard Dell's Broads OD Solan completed the course and eventually it was these two that topped the results sheet at the end of the week.

In the afternoon series it was again the Wednesday race that provided the drama when Broads OD Fulmar was dismasted in a gust and Lloyd Crisps fell out of his Squib as it lay flat on the water after broaching most spectacularly right in front of the clubhouse, where the spectators renamed his boat In the Drink! The series winner was Sam Cole's Broads OD Pipit, ahead of Jim Tubby's Squib Silver Fox and Geoff Little's Waveney Naiad.

The Yare & Bures fleet is always the smallest as there are no resident boats at Oulton but their class racing was incredibly tight with 5 different race winners, with the trophy eventually going to Tim Frary's Peacock. In the Waveneys Naiad finished on top and Richard Barrett in Drips won the Squib series. Home-grown international sailor Nic Asher was the helmsman in Harrier and won the Broads OD series after tying on points with Pipit.

The dinghy racing was no less keenly contested and it's really good to see that some of the most impressive performances came from junior sailors. Fresh from coming 2nd in the Topper Nationals, 14 year old Joe Drake was competing in his Laser radial and, when the breeze was up, was able to give the standard Lasers a really good run for their money. He finished 2nd to Richard Smith in the class series (when radials and standards race level) and then won the big lunchtime fast handicap series, with Richard Smith second and Julian Hood's National 12 third.

The slow handicap racing was dominated by William Pank in his Optimist, winning all three series. 13 year old Arabella Sabberton was usually the race leader in her Laser 4.7 but on handicap dropped back to 2nd overall in two series while James Percival-Cooke (Topper) was runner up in the other.

The morning and afternoon fast handicap series were both won by Veronica Falat in her Streaker, with 2nd places going to Mark Langston (Streaker) in the morning and Richard Fryer (RS300) in the afternoon. Waveney Sailability competitors raced their Hansa dinghies on three days (including windy Wednesday). Jerry Ballam was quickest in the strong winds but overall the winner was Tony Barkes, finishing first in 4 of the 6 races, For the first time in many years Norfolk Dinghy races were included in the programme. Only 3 boats sailed but it 's hoped to include them again next year. This time the trophy was won by Ray Johnson's Cockle.

Despite the winds being strong on most days, the evenings were much quieter. The main evening race was the 4-a-side keelboat team race for the Blackburn Trophy on Thursday. Unfortunately just before the start there was a sudden downpour and the wind died. Only the lightest breeze filled in again. The Broads OD team nailed the start and were convincing winners, ahead of the Waveneys, Yare & Bures and Squibs in that order.

The final race of the week was the Bloodbath Race, named in the days when this would have a mass start of all classes from Optimists to River Cruisers. Nowadays it's run as a 75 minute pursuit race which means there's less blood shed but gives an exciting finish. 42 boats took part and the leader from start to finish was William Pank in his Optimist. It was a nerve wracking last few minutes as the fleet closed but William kept calm and deserved the win.

Full results are on the Waveney & Oulton Broad Yacht Club website: wobyc.com/racing/oulton-week-2015

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