AS Harry Taylor so beautifully put it in his speech of thanks to the Host Club, the keynote of the 1976 Rally was “Efficiency without being officious”.
We held two very successful Rallys on the shores of Lake Ullswater, and for 1976 we moved south to Weston Sailing Club, on the shores of Southampton Water. Instead of the glorious backdrop of the Lake District hills, we enjoyed the view of the busy waters of Southampton, with frequent traffic and constant interest. Personally, I did not mind the power stations on the other side, whose tall chimneys, silhouetted against a watery sky, with grey clouds sweeping across with the prevailing winds, made an imposing background. Once on the water, the woods sweeping down to the edge, were again something different. The camp site was superb; rolling parkland with immense trees running right to the water’s edge, and, although the water dried out to leave mud- flats at low tide, and prevented the non-stop sailing we had enjoyed in the past, there was still plenty of time for everyone to launch and recover their boats from the Club slipway, and get in as much sailing each day as they needed.
The Officers of Weston Sailing Club did a superb job of organisation, and gave to our Members the sort of service we have come to expect from Championship Host Clubs. Many of them gave up a full week of their annual holiday to sell us bread and baked beans, serve our beer, empty our refuse, arrange our fun races and escort us on long-distance cruises.
The first of these cruises was six miles up Southampton Water to the little village of Eling, where we parked our boats and walked the short distance through the graveyard to the pub, and a welcome pint, or two, or three. On Monday, a great number of us joined in the Club Pursuit Race, and, although the Mirrors failed to win it in the lessening wind and under greying skies, it was a very well-attended event, and thoroughly enjoyed by my own small crew, in his first-ever long race!
The second cruise really put hairs on the chest of one small boy. Our destination was Hythe Sailing Club (which had opened up to offer its toilet facilities), almost directly across Southampton Water. Among the last to leave, we were on a collision course with a Thoreson ferry, and had to stand off in the already lumpy sea to allow her passage. While Paul made comments like “Adrian would be terrified of this! Jonathan would be frightened, but I’m not”, I sheeted back on course too early, and we were almost swamped by the stern wave of the ferry. Swept a little far down by the tide, we had to tack to clear the anchored shipping on the far shore, and by this time one terrified small boy had to be taken off by a rescue boat, who held us head to wind while we bailed out and salvaged tomatoes, lettuce, sandwiches and a knife, which were by now floating on a level with the top of the tank. Dried out (to some extent!), Noni and I made it to the shore, where a Cheshire-cat-like grin on the face of the small Paul greeted us. We offered him a ride back in a car, or even in a rescue boat, but our young intrepid mariner insisted on doing the return journey in the Flag Ship. The return home was rapid and exciting, a non-stop plane which took us across Southampton Water in just over twelve minutes.
Yet another eventful cruise was down Southampton Water and up the mouth of Hamble River. On this occasion we were accompanied by Garman, our ship’s puppy, who now makes a habit of swimming out behind the Flag Ship until he is dragged in over the transom, allowed to dry off over Mum’s knee and then takes up his figurehead position on the fore deck.
Friday saw the bulk of the fleet indulging in fun races, and the Class Secretary relegated to the front seat while five-year-old Paul took the helm, with increasing competence, for a solid two hours. He saw a piece of driftwood he wanted, and was told he could have it if he could pick it up. He immediately got into irons and cursed like a veteran. Talked out of his difficulty, Paul came alongside the driftwood, which Mum very deliberately failed to pick up. The second time around the tiller was thrown across with gay abandon and complete seamanship, and the driftwood recovered.
Weston Sailing Club did not leave anything out, They gave us an excellent evening of country dancing, to the tune of their local club group ‘Itch ‘N’ Scratch’. We had a discotheque, we had a very interesting talk-in, and the Club bar was open every time we thought about a drink. With hind-sight, we were perhaps wrong to choose the Whitsun holiday for this event, because there is a camping club rally at Bala which attracts a great many of our Members annually. However, with so many racing events taking place in the summer holidays, and with the country so divided by local councils in terms of durat ion of holidays, we are really limited to three weeks in August to stage our big events and ensure that our Members can attend.
During the discussion evening, which covered the racing rules and many interesting subjects, I posed one question “How many of you here do not sail regularly with a Club?” The answer was deafening. There was not one single Member there at our non-racing Rally who does not sail with a Club, or who never races. So what happened to all those lovely cruising Members, for whom these non-racing Rallys are deliberately staged?
Perhaps they were put off by the price of the entry. £8 for a week on a superb camp site, with showers, bar, a shop, a discotheque, a launching strip, rescue services, organised escorted cruises and a busy social programme. If they were frightened, it was because it was too cheap, and £8 for the service and facilities offered us by Jack White and the Officrs of Weston Sailing Club was pitifully low.
The thanks of all who attended go to our Host Club, with one request—how soon can we come back?
Sally Karslake, M39000
Editors Note: This article is from Reflections No. 26 October 1976, page 9. It has been captured by OCR, so typos & errors are possible.