The Footy fleet (or some of them) met at Branston Water Park, Burton-on-Trent at 09:00 on the misty morning of Saturday 14 October. Since this did not involve any physical intervention by either Angus Richardson or Keven Jackson, it did in fact happen more or less as intended. Angus, piloted as ever by the faithful Mark Holcroft, arrived somewhat later.
At stake – the St. Modwen Trophy, a 2-pint brass beer jug presented as a perpetual challenge trophy for Footys. The problem: no wind. Nevertheless, with some 10 boats lying on the bank, marks were laid and all preparations were made for racing. The wind stayed obstinately away. Around lunch time, everyone agreed that nothing was possible, the marks were recovered and some people went away.
This was rather a pity because shortly afterwards a light, if patchy and irregular breeze set in, no doubt wafted down the A50 by the Ogre. Without any marks, we ended up playing tail chases, mostly instigated by the Ogre’s MoonShadow. After a while, Gary Zimbabwe got out his internet course, ballasted by massive quality failed nuts from the brakes of London Underground trains.
In the very informal racing that resulted, it was fairly generally agreed that, if there was any wind at all, MoonShadow was by far the fastest boat there. The Ogre is less convinced. Gary ‘Babwe’ Sanderson’s new boat went remarkably well, despite its small sail area. With more sail, it looks as if it could give MoonShadow a run for her money. In general concept, it is MoonShadow-like with narrow beam and full ends. Its transom-hung rudder is exceptionally good as an oar!
In no wind, there is no doubt that MoonShadow was by far the slowest boat present. In force 0 < -1, she carried vicious lee helm and the rudder angle required to keep her in a straight line was big enough to stop her dead. General opinion – including that of her often pessimistic designer - was that this could easily be sorted out.
Of the Razors, the most interesting (if only because nobody had seen it before) was Andrew Halstead’s new tomato coloured device, finished the night before. Nicely engineered in styrene sheet, she seemed to be reasonably light and had an excellent surface finish. Her rudder was very small and I suspect that Andrew is building an EDVMD (Enhanced Directional Variation and Maintenance Device) as we speak. His sails were large and well made from a redundant golfing umbrella, in stark contrast to Gary who favours yellow Argos carrier bags.
It was, of course Andrew – a man with a deeply engrained sense of sardonic humour - who provided the real entertainment of the day. As dusk crept over the lake and the great crested grebes made off for their tea, his batteries went flat. Innumerable attempts to lasso him (well, his boat) with the Internet course failed and finally Gary ‘Babwe took his courage in both hands. Duly informed that the lake was entirely free ofboth hippos AND crocodiles, he took to his canoe again, paddling himself swiftly over the calm waters with his hands. The surrounding vultures – human and otherwise – were sadly disappointed. He returned intact bearing Andrews boat and with his bum still dry
In terms of formal racing, a thoroughly disappointing day – but in terms of enjoyment most enjoyable. An afternoon in a beautiful setting spent sailing in the company of some really nice people. What could be better?
For some more photos, see