The first of the big celebratory events for the Gareloch’s 90th birthday. Teams from the Fairy Class at Cultra on Belfast Loch and the Howth 17 Footers visited for a three cornered team racing match.
We were all bright eyed and expectant on Saturday morning but the Gareloch was its usual self. There were ripples here and there but no air to speak of. The decision was made to take the boats to the East Patch, off Helensburgh, where there was a steady and reliable breeze.
The plan was for six races and Race Officers Bill Inglis and Simon Jackson, aboard Tim Henderson’s Blue Iris, got them all in. Albeit the last three were shorter than they would have liked. Two teams of four boats raced at a time with the third on Bill and Jane McLaren’s Vagrant of Clyde, enjoying hospitality and listening to tales of adventure sailing round the world. If it has a coastline, Vagrant has been there.
The visitors raced each other first, with Howth taking the win. Both were feeling their way and aggression was muted. The Garelochs, on the other hand, had been practicing and had benefited from coaching by expert team racer, Mark Greenhalgh. We knew where we wanted to be on the starting line and we knew how to slow an opposition boat so as to promote one of ours. We won our next two races.
In the fourth the Fairies got the better of Howth. Howth won the match on aggregate. By now, things were getting a little tighter. The Garelochs were still winning starts but not with as much conviction as earlier. There were times in the last two of our races where the home team was in trouble. Delaying tactics going upwind and turnovers downwind brought enough of us through for a series of four wins.
The dinner on Saturday evening was especially good. These team racing matches began more than 30 years ago so that we reminisced and remembered all those characters who were so central but are no longer with us.
A fleet race on Sunday morning. The idea was that helms from the team racing should crew for members of an opposing team. Six boats competed. For some, it was the morning after the night before. The Gareloch at first teased us with large, glassy areas of water. In the end there was wind for a good race. Howth 17 sailor Seamus McLoughlin in Catriona got to the better air on the Clynder shore first. He made good use of Catriona’s spinnaker downwind and was never in any danger. Even from Vagrant, who had a few of the more delicate aboard and sailed the course.