Arrow Trophy Final 2023

On the afternoon of 6th October, 10 Old Marlburians assembled on the south coast, to compete in the 36th Arrow Trophy. The sailing competition held each year between independent schools. This annual weekend regatta, organised by the Royal London Yacht Club, is held in two fleets of One-design yachts crewed by former pupils, in the challenging waters of the Solent, off Cowes.

Following the very successful outing by the Old Marlburian Sailing Association in 2022, where Mike Orange (PR 1986-91) led the team to victory in the second fleet, winning the Bobby Reynolds tankard, Marlborough was promoted to the faster Sunsail fleet for 2023. The objective this year was to perform within the stronger fleet and also ensure the place was retained, to avoid relegation in the following year.

For 2023 the OMSA crew featured a strong line up with Mike Orange returning as skipper, Andrew Halliwell (C3 1988-93) new on as tactician, Hugo Hentenaar (C2 2012-17) on main, James Merideth (B2 1988-93), Edward Gregg (C2 1988-93) and Angus McNab (SU 1986-91) as trimmers, Charles Kendrick (C1 1998-2003) in the pit, Karen Hill (B2/MM 1988-90) on kite,  Sebastian Katkhuda (C2 1985-90) on mast, James Harding (TU 1987-92) on foredeck.

After picking up the boat Friday afternoon, the crew headed south form Port Solent, into a steady breeze of 15-20knots, towards Osborne Bay to blow of the cobwebs. The team practiced fast upwind tacks, and spinnaker host, gybes and drops, checking James Harding’s nickname of ‘sideways Jim’ wasn’t going to apply to his spinnaker hoists. With the sun setting and dusk falling the team headed up the Medina in Cowes, to raft up with the other 22 school teams represented at Shepherds Wharf marina.

As has become tradition pre-regatta, after checking in at the crew house in Cowes, the OMSA team enjoyed dinner at the restaurant No. 3, joined in addition by OM Piers Dibben (B2 1981-85). A pleasant evening of great food, OMSA comradery and amusing anecdotes’ from school days ensued. After polishing off desert and the wine, the team headed onto the Royal London Yacht Club for Dark n’ Stormy hour, for cocktails and to size up the other crews that had been assembled for the 2023 Arrow Trophy.

After the 8am brief the Royal London committee laid a start line off the off Hillhead and set a windward leeward course with 2 laps for each race, with first start at 10am. The sea state was fairly calm with a stiff fresh breeze of 13-15 knots gusting up to 20 kn. The OM team chose a conservative start, with the intent to stay out of trouble, and then make up places on the upwind legs. Probably a sensible decision, given Winchester College forced retirement from all racing due to a significant collision involving their boat prestart on the first race.

After an unexciting start the OM team struggled to make up the places on the course. Mike Orange’s helming was excellent and the crew’s boat handling was good and the team felt to be on the right side of the course with no major tactical mistakes, cheating the tide and making the most of any available wind shifts. The team’s boat however was plagued by unwelcome significant breakages, with a broken main strop requiring distracting on the water repairs and making setting a fast mainsail shape and pointing to windward well increasingly challenging. The team finished 8th in the first race.

The second and race had a similar start and first beat with a further breakage of the other main strop. Following a caught jib sheet at the spinnaker drop on the leeward mark, the team clipped the leeward mark, picking up an unwelcome yellow flag and a two-place penalty in the second race, resulting in a 9th. In the third race, although the tide advantage had dissolved, the team were still finding slightly more breeze on the north side of the course. However, with a breakage of the vang this time on the windward leg. The team sailed well, although the upwind pointing was still slightly off, and achieved a slightly improved 7th in the third race.

On the 4th race of the day the team had a stronger start, with Mike Orange and Andrew Halliwell finding space by the committee boat, despite the busy line. The team held 6th position at the windward mark. Cheltenham tried to squeeze in at the windward mark on port, but with no rights or water. Words were exchanged regarding lack of water, including clarification that this was a “non-contact sport!”. The result was a 2-place penalty to Cheltenham degrading their place from 5th to 7th.  With slick kite work from James Harding, Seb Katkhuda and Karen Hill and fast tacks and effective trimming by Edward Gregg, Jim Merideth, Angus McNab and Hugo Hentenaar the team held their best result of 5th place in the fourth and final race of the day.

With a full-days sailing under the belt, the team scrubbed up with old school ties and went out to enjoy the regatta dinner at the Sugar Shack with the 22 schools that made up the fleet. Following dinner, the fantastic team building of an obligatory tour of Cowes drinkeries ensued, finishing at the infamous Vectis tavern for dancing and late-night drinks.

When the OM team woke bleary eyed on Sunday morning ready to go again, the Solent looked like glass. There was unlikely to be enough wind to race. Sure enough all racing was cancelled by the race committee at the 10am briefing. The team made the most of things and headed off for a pleasant swim and a picnic off the island shore, on an unusually hot October Sunday, before heading home.

Over the weekend we took some time to remember our crewmate Mike Dana (B3 1959-63) who sadly died suddenly at home on the Isle of Wight on 1 May 2023. Mike was a stalwart of the OMSA for many years. We always enjoyed his company, and his perpetually cheerful demeanour will be greatly missed.

In no small part due to the support of the OM Club and the organisation of the OMSA committee, the team all greatly enjoyed the weekend on and off the water at the Arrow trophy. With a fairly modest 8th overall but significantly improving results of 5th place in the last race within the much faster more competitive fleet this year, the team were clear of relegation. But most importantly the OMSA team much enjoyed the company of old friends. And with the momentum of improving performance, all felt the best results for the OMSA team are ahead of us at the Arrow trophy and look forward to the OMSA assembling the team for an even stronger result in 2024.