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Bourne End Week 2005

The Merlins were the biggest fleet again at Upper Thames, competing for their River Championships as part of the annual Bourne End Week regatta. Eight races over four days, with six results to count.

The fleet (20 helms in all) was greeted by howling winds on Saturday, with a good few deciding not to risk damage on the first day of the regatta. The wind was blowing directly onshore so ‘lifeboat style’ launching – forwards with all sails hoisted – was the only way to get on the water. The race finished with Colin Brockbank and Liam Dempsey first, Simon Blake and Alex Jackson second and Phil Dalby and Liz Page third. Earlier on Pat and Jilly Blake had capsized losing their second place and Alan and Sue Markham had capsized while lying third.

Race 2, being a bit less windy, coaxed a few more onto the water. Mike Stephens in 1004 wished he hadn’t bothered after a Thames A Rater capsized on top of him and parked several feet of their bow on his beautifully varnished deck. Simon Blake was first across the line but finished to silence – he had been recorded over the line at the start. But all was not lost after he was reinstated on the (totally unbiased) evidence of his dad, who said that Simon had been behind him at the start. Perhaps they were both over...? Final results for Race 2 were Simon Blake first, Colin Brockbank second and Pat Blake third.

Sunday – completely opposite conditions – no wind at all, so even more boats tempted out. The course for Race 3 was shortened at the Home mark with half the fleet finishing the wrong side of it, so there was much changing of places at the finish. Ollie Houseman and Catherine Ashley took line honours with Mike Stephens second and Phil King third.

Race 4 saw the OOD reverse the roundings in an attempt to confuse the fleet – succeeded with some! The on-the-water judge, a regular feature of Bourne End Week, was on the lookout for rocking and pumping, and handing out instant penalties.

photo of the fleet

Monday brought wind but from all directions at the same time. Boats could be seen beating towards each other. Race 5 proved to be a Blake Family Benefit with Pat and Simon first and third, separated by Colin Brockbank second. By Race 6 the fleet was up to its usual tricks and earned 2 general recalls and a black flag. The large cruisers obstructing the start line didn’t help. Another Blake Family Benefit with Pat and Simon first and second and Ollie Houseman close behind in third.

Monday’s racing was followed by team racing in toppers – although one of the Merlin teams made it to the final they were beaten by a UTSC team (although made up of sometime Merlin crews). One of the aforesaid large cruisers, now parked in the marina, made a point of hanging out a whole wall of fenders!

Tuesday saw a depleted fleet as many returned to the world of work after the Bank Holiday weekend. Those that stayed were rewarded by the best conditions of the weekend – sunshine and breeze together! Race 7 saw the fat boats pick up places each time the wind picked up but Pat and Jilly couldn’t hold off Ollie in his thin, but modern, boat and Mike Stephens couldn’t quite catch him up in his thin, but restored, boat. Race 8 saw Pat in first place, Ollie second and Mike third again.

The Yves Plate for the winner of the River Championships went to Ollie Houseman while the trophy for the highest placed Classic Boat went to Mike Stephens.


Report: Alan Markham
Full results