Thornbury Sailing Club Regatta
Over the season, I've taken part in many different types of sailing : club racing, open meetings, regattas, the RS Sprints (yes they are an open meeting, but the format is so different the Sprint qualifies as a 'type') and of course training. Last weekend, I was at Thornbury SC for their annual regatta, and thought I'd write a few lines about the club and event.
Thornbury SC is situated on the banks of the river Severn, just north of the old Severn Bridge. I learnt to sail at TSC in the early '80s, and remain close friends with some of the sailors from those days. We always make an effort to get to TSC for their regatta, it is a relaxed affair and for us it is as much of a social meet up as a competition. In many ways, not much has changed. My friend Andy has just bought a Laser after a prolonged absence from singlehanded racing. "What sort of conditions were to hoping for for your first race Andy?" I asked as we stood on the slipway. "Exactly this. These are my perfect conditions, and probably too much for you to get that thing downwind" he replied. When it comes to pre-race banter, nothing has changed at all.
There is something very special about this type of club regatta, and it is really down to the people who help make it happen. There were a huge number of TSC members who were helping with race management, patrol boats, catering, helping launch and recover, the bar and no doubt many other roles. The delightful thing about the event is that all of those that are supporting the club are really happy to be doing so, and it makes for a great atmosphere. Also, a decent bacon sandwich and cup of tea is £1.40 (served by some very cheerful ladies!), and a pint is £2!
An observation from the weekend is that the same people that taught me to sail in the '80s are still helping me sail today. By way of an example, one of my instructors then was John, who was on the slipway helping to launch boats at the weekend. So 30 years ago it was an optimist he was helping me with, this weekend it was a RS300. Even though my generation are now involved with teaching the youngsters in our club, those that taught us are still helping us sail.
On reflection, it strikes me that it is this willingness to help others that embodies an excellent club. Those that contribute consistently over a long period set the culture within a club, and set an example that others readily follow. Many clubs now seem to operate as a business (rather than being run-by-members-for-members), and I imagine for a large set of sailors that is a model that suits their needs. But for me, clubs like Thornbury (and for that matter Slipper and TISC) have got it right.
As to the racing, it was an interesting weekend. It would fair to say that an understanding of tides is a dominant factor in the racing, the Severn has one of the largest tidal ranges (approx 15m) in the world. So starting, boat handling and transits all play a major role, you may as well leave the compass at home. Saturday started with very light winds that built to a very pleasant force 4, with around 50 boats competing. Sunday was forecast as a continuance of the force 4, but ended up as 20-26 knots and building, so a much reduced fleet took to the water for some windy racing. I retired to get my windsurfer rigged, but forgot my harness lines, not the best end to the weekend!
Many thanks to Thornbury SC for a great regatta, we will no doubt see you next year.