Salcombe always offers something a little different, and this trip did not disappoint. Fourteen boats from eight different clubs assembled for the next instalment of the Rooster and Zest sponsored Southern Tour for a three-day estuary binge. Courses take you the full length and breadth of this busy and beautiful waterway. Likewise this can evoke the full range of emotions depending on whether you’ve just snuck ahead of the pack, fallen into a private vacuum, or hooned off on a gust downwind - towards the hordes of moored boats.
The RS400’s shared the event with the local Yawls, a sizeable Solo contingent and mixed it up with the normal local racing on the first day. A map was essential, as was a chinagraph pencil, and a very good sense of direction. The club kindly supplied the first, but the other items occasionally went missing. Sometimes loudly.
A west wind meant an initial beat out to the neck of the harbour. Richard Cain and Barney Dearsly of Starcross managed to skid out in front and obligingly hooned off while the remaining fleet scuffled with each other up and down the estuary like an aquatic episode of keystone cops. Howard Farbrother and Louise Hosken of Queen Mary managed to escape the melee and set off in pursuit of Messrs Cain and Dearsly, but the Salcombe bungee didn’t quite stretch that far, and the Starcross boat took the win, with Mike/June Baker of Lymington in third. With so much excitement, the fleet gratefully took to the bars and sampled the warm hospitality of a bank holiday Salcombe, ready for two races the next day.
Sunday dawned to much cooler, cloudier conditions, and the sound of people scrabbling around for warmer clothing. Late course changes provided some excitement at the start, with simultaneous course changes, guns, and vicious gusts giving some the chance to practice their capsize drills and pencil recovery technique. The race got underway with a similar scuffle out to the neck of the harbour, and by the time the fleet had completed a run down one of the creeks it was Starcross one and two. Unfortunately for them, either a missing pencil or sense of direction resulted in some extra mileage being accrued, while the rest of the fleet despicably took the shorter course. Howard and Louise took full advantage and stretched out for the win, with local legend John McLaren coming through for second, from Mike/June in third, and Paul and Katy Engelmann in 4th.
After a long lunch allowing time to reflect and lower core temperatures, race three of the series kicked off with a loud bang, as a couple of boats came together using a technique last used by the ancients Greeks for removing unwelcome tourists. Luckily both parties were still on speaking terms afterwards, if a little shellshocked. After much exploring pf the creeks Howard and Louise again took the win, with Richard and Barney securing second, from Dave and Sofie Stockton of Wimbleball in 3rd.
One final race on Monday to decide the series. With a scoreline of 2,1,1 in a four-race series it looked straightforward for the Queen Mary boat, but with the discard kicking in, with a 1 & 2 to count there was an opportunity for Starcross to ghost a win, providing they nailed first place in the last race. With a forecast of 14 gusting 27kts it was going to be interesting. The first beat was again a topsy turvy affair, with multiple places changes. Max Tosetti and Jules Thorne of Queen Mary rounded first - clearly against fleet orders - and hooned off downwind, with Howard and Lou sneaking through next, and Richard and Barney emerging from the melee to set the pursuit running. With gusts in excess of 25kts, downwind moved between terrifying and stopped as the fleet passed through the harbour. Max unfortunately stopped to look for a lost burgee, but the rest of the fleet blasted through the moorings with tactics nervously confined to obstacle avoidance. Entering “the bag” the fleet had compressed once more, and all bets were off. Richard and Barney managed to get their nose in front, and commendably they stayed there despite the building gusts and very real chance of upwind capsize, to take the race and event win from Howard and Lou on countback, and John McLaren impressively taking 3rd overall with his third crew of the event. You have been Salcombed!