Erith Yacht Club

The finest sailing water on the tidal Thames

Erith Yacht Club
Anchor Bay,
Erith, Kent, DA8 2AD
Tel. 01322 332943
Secretary (PO Box 231, Bexleyheath, Kent, DA7 9AZ)
Tel 0208 310 2686

Untitled Document

Erith Yacht Club International Snipe Open Meeting 2006

It is finally sunset. I am tired after two consecutive days of races under this very hot sun and 30 degrees Celsius. My legs are hurting, but I am pleased of the great experience. It was my first time in a Snipe. The Snipe is a, one design-racing dinghy with a rich history. My mind is still in Erith in that 15-1/2 foot, 2-person little boat. I was a crewmember of this boat, which at the slightest mistake does not forgive. I had to keep balance. It is as if the race-sailing video game went tri-dimensional and I risked capsizing at any moment. I remember George Mees, my helm, saying that sailing on a Snipe is like a ballet. Then George said, "pull the Cunningham of the jib", "let the jib go out just a bit", "pull the Cunningham of the main" and so on. I was a bit confused. The ropes have lots of different colours, but which one is which? Of course, yes, George explained already very patiently.

To sum up it has been another fantastic weekend at the Erith Yacht Club, but let us go with order. 1st and 2nd July the Snipe Open was announced which means the Erith Yacht Club invited Snipe sailors from any corner of the country to race in the Erith waters. According to plan at 12.30 on Saturday the race officers briefing was held. Graham Campbell, race officer for the day, explained from the deck of club-ship Folgefonn to sail around big orange inflatable buoys a windward-leeward triangle course. All marks shall be sailed to port. Wind was blowing westerly 2-3; tide was just starting to flood. The plan was to have on Saturday two races of around 45 minutes each and on Sunday again two races of the same duration. The second race on Saturday would start shortly after the first race to make everything ending on time to watch the England match. I met several competitors some of them real champions coming from different parts of Southeast England and from as far as Manchester with their beloved Snipe. "Robbie George" was committee boat and was crewed by Graham Campbell, Sarah Mees, Peter King, Hellen Pethers and Julien.

At the starting line near the moored barges George and I had to sign on "on the water" to inform the committee boat of our intention to race. The starting sequence started and George, my helm, gave me the last instructions. After several tackings where it appeared obvious that I did not master the way on how to swap gently place from one side to the other, we approached the windward mark. I did one last mistake in balancing myself and shortly after we capsized. I ended up in the Thames, but my lifejacket kept me nicely afloat. I could not even say what exactly went wrong, as I am too inexperienced. The Thames water was salty but not cold. Safety boat, Reliant, manned by Bob and Sarah Taylor, was immediately behind us to check everything was all right. Later we capsized also a second time in the same place. We retired from the first race and went back to the starting line for the next race. I feel a bit sorry for the events. George is a racing champion of calibre. He competed in several regattas in France and in Finland. How much patience is he going to have to teach me the fine art of sailing?

At the beginning of the second race George noticed that the starboard shroud was loose and for that reason we did not start the second race.

At the end of the first day of races everybody was on the club ship, Folgefonn. Most of the people were watching the England match and some were enjoying the late afternoon sun on the deck. In the evening visiting champions and EYC members were treated with fish and chips from the committee.

On the following day more visiting competitors arrived. A new racing briefing was held around 12.30. Sailing course, wind direction and tide conditions were more or less the same as the previous day. What had changed in the briefing was the denomination of a certain Thames area. Graham Campbell said: "The windward mark is just off the "Feddersen sounds" (the "Feddersen sounds" is the area of my multiple capsize)." A laugh followed.

Out on the water the wind was slightly less then the previous day. The first race of Sunday went quite smoothly for George and me. I felt being better than in the previous day in the balancing or in the ballet exercise. In fact we managed to arrive dry to the finishing line at the first Sunday race. I was very pleased to hear the finishing hoot. It was like a liberation for me.

At the start of the second race George and I we had a late start as we ended up shortly before the start signal in shallow water. The centreplate touched the ground. Other competitors were already ahead. Once sailing again we made it just after the second mark then we capsized again. This was enough racing for the day. Safety boat, Reliant, was immediately ready to take us back to the club ship. Adrian Reeves and Ann Finck were happy that their patrolling under the hot sun with 30 degrees Celsius has been worth something.

At the end of the day there has been a very nice prize giving on the deck of Folgefonn. Sarah Mees, sailing secretary of the EYC, took the word. The overall winner of the Snipe open got a trophy and bottles of wine. Other winners got wine. Richard Banner and Peter Reeves got a trophy and wine bottles as the best team from the EYC. Other participants like George and myself got a honey jar from a local producer. I have to thank not only George Mees who was my master for the day, but also the Thamesmead YMCA for having trained me on the lake and the training section of the Erith Yacht Club for their excellent courses given me during the winter.

In total over the Snipe Open weekend four races were held of around 45 minutes each. To make all these races happening many EYC members have volunteered to help and this exactly one week after another huge event, the LRTT. I am always amazed in seeing all this participation. My thanks goes to all of them even if I have not explicitly mentioned them by name. Darren Leigh prepared packed lunches and breakfast on Sunday for the Snipe champions. Last but not least the bar has been kept open during the whole weekend to quench visitors thirst. Thanks to Jean Crompton for this.

If you happen to see somebody around very tanned and walking very slowly, because of the leg pains for keeping the boat flat, but who is overall very happy, I would be pleased if you say hello to me.

Hendrik Feddersen, EYC member since December 2004.