Dark and stormy conditions for the re-emergence of the annual inter-school regatta

Having sailed into the sunset with the Charterhouse Bowl after three action packed days on the water in 2019, the Old Marlburian Salling Association (OMSA) had a hard act to follow this year, dusting off their cobwebs as well as a fair amount of encrusted saltiness from lack of time on the water since our last outing. There was a focus to raise a diverse and competitive crew for the re-emergence of this highly regarded regatta after a year’s COVID hiatus, bringing in the energy of youth, whilst retaining the steeliness that comes with the experience of age.

What resulted was a team of mariners with a spectrum of age and experience: Hugo Hentenaar (C2 2012-17), Freddie Cooper (B1 2010-15), Charlie Kendrick (C1 1998-2003), Edward Gregg (C2 1988-93), James Harding (TU 1987-92), Mike Orange (PR 1986-91), Angus Mcnab (SU 1986-91), Katie Beney (MO 1989-91), Sebastian Katkhuda (C2 1985-90) and Andrew Knatchbull (B1 1983-88). Typically, we lost one crew member to a duplicitous series of positive lateral flow tests the last day before muster… a few frantic calls later and we had secured the brave commitment of Karen Hill (B2/MM 1988-90) who was keen to experience not only a first day’s racing but her first full day sailing!

The bugle sounded and the crew congregated at noon the day before racing at the Sunsail Marina where we were allocated “Raymarine Simply Superior”, one of 12 new yachts in a split fleet of two classes from Sunsail’s reconfigured offering.  Friday afternoon was spent getting used to our vessel allocation with a series of impressive nautical manoeuvres carried out in fast repetition under the steely eyes and calm demeanour of our helmsman, Mike (Jaffa) Orange, until all roles had been allocated and all foreseeable tacks, jibes, hoists and pole configurations mastered.  Therefore, it was with some satisfaction that we made Cowes as the sunset over the West of the Isle of Wight, a clear but diminishing blue sky, heralding the end of an afternoon well spent.  Further tactics were discussed over salt and pepper squid, rump steaks, and Rose´ in the aptly named, “Mullets” restaurant before we moved on to size up the competition at the Royal London Yacht Club where the race committee had organised their “Dark and Stormy” happy hour. We retired to our hammocks smiling, with sliplocks and winches well-oiled and ready to go…

Sadly, the choice of cocktail the previous evening brought not only lingering mist to sore heads but the portents of a lively day on the water.  Race instructions were issued early and annoyingly all our spinnaker practice the previous day lay in tatters due to the forecast as the order was circulated for “2 main reefs and no kites” with the high likelihood of racing not lasting past mid-day.  Our intrepid crew were disappointed by the curtailing of competition to starts with winds of less than 25 knots. We only managed to get two races completed before competitive sailing was officially called off for the day, having had one vessel retire with irreparable damage and several other boats limping home, of which we were one, with a damaged spinnaker pole car, having watched various bearings, nuts and bolts fly off into the deep following one sudden and ferocious gust hitting our goose winged fore sail.

Having returned to the Marina with our pride in a better condition than our boat, we found out that due to the weather Sunsail were refusing to service their vessels anywhere but their own moorings, on the far side of the Solent.  Not Ideal.  After a jerryrig repair, we retired to the comfort of our crew house tucked just behind the Anchor Inn on West Cowes High Street for a debrief, drying out and hot cocoa.

Sunday morning saw the loss of Karen to the RedJet, not a result of her baptism of fire, but due to previous appointments that could not be cancelled at short notice.  Though in slightly lighter winds, the morning’s instruction briefing was met with similar sailing orders to the previous day and the second Sunday race was cancelled. Refusing to let circumstances get the better of us, and in true OM fashion, the crew kept their humour up throughout.

All in all, and despite the strong winds and set-backs, it was a fantastic event, thoroughly enjoyed by all, with a broad variation of ages and skills on display. A special thank you to all those who worked behind the scenes to make this the event it was and to the OM Club for their support.

Sebastian Katkhuda (C2 1985-90)
Edward Gregg (C2 1988-93)