Hampton Weekend 2006Saturday: Vintage Racing
Sunday: Open Meeting
A full weekend of river sailing took place at Hampton Sailing Club with the Merlin Rocket Class descending for their annual open meeting. However, this year there was a difference with Saturday reserved for the vintage fleet, boats more than 30 years old. Boat number 111 (built in 1947) drew a great deal of attention, featuring a rotating wooden mast and lovingly restored mahogany ply hull with owner Gary Rucklidge who had towed her all the way from Aberdeen to take part!
Eighteen boats lined up for the first of the three starts with the south westerly wind gusting up to forty miles per hour. John Bell crewed by daughter, Susannah won the first race with a great display of river sailing skill and the techniques needed to keep the boat going forward at speed.
Spectators line up on the club balcony to cheer/laugh
The wind continued to howl down the river as lunch was taken allowing the racers a chance to tune their boats and get their breath back.
Race two produced a similar result with John and Susannah clinching the event with another first place. The race was notable for a number of capsizes as the wind started misbehaving, catching out even some of the top teams.
John relented in race three and passed the helm to Susannah – the result was the same, first place with another great display.
Overall Vintage Results: 1st John and Susannah Bell (1201 - Grand Teton) 2nd Richard and Liz Page (1222 - Restless IV) 3rd Phil Dalby and Olivia Bell (1695 - Ella) 4th Hywel and Morgan Bowen-Perkins (2018 - Krakatoa) 5th Tim Harridge and Garry Rucklidge (111 - Secret Water)Saturday night of a Hampton Open is always party night, the club provided a BBQ and ale, with all of the competitors comparing notes and having a well-earned drink with friends and family joining in.
Count how many boats seem to be under control...
Sunday morning dawned with a further twenty boats expected for the main Merlin Rocket Open event. The wind had abated slightly with gusts coming down the river at a mere thirty five miles per hour.
Now it was the turn of the modern Merlin Rockets with vintage boats joining in. Thirty boats lined up (in two flights), with pleasure boats, skiffs, the ferry and fisherman all vying for their own piece of water.
The wind was causing all kinds of problems with some fruity gusts of up to force 7 funneling down the river. The first race got under way, 6 laps of a sausage shaped course. Local boat 1222 sailed by father and daughter Richard and Lizzy Page made the best start in the first race, tacking off in to clear wind and sniggling away up the river bank to round the windward mark first. However, it was the wider modern designs that powered through on the runs, Fran Gifford had taken the helm of 3627 in her brothers absence and proved more than capable of the task in hand sailing to a convincing victory while event winner two years ago Rob Wilder seemed to have everything under control with a win in the second flight.
Lunch was served with a lot of weary faces pilling on the carbs for some much needed energy. Hence race two got under way in similar conditions and produced a near carbon copy set of results with Gifford and Wilder both knocking up first, and so it was to the last race with the two front runners battling it out head to head for overall victory.
A rare event on the Thames - crew behind the hoop
Eventually some great sailing from Rob Wilder and Alex Jackson (see photo above) saw the pair take first place from a spirited Fran Gifford and Liam Dempsey who were never more than a few seconds behind their transom.
This was an excellent event, expertly organised and managed, well supported and rewarded with fantastic conditions. It is one not to miss next year.
Overall Open Results: 1st Rob Wilder and Alex Jackson (3656 - Wild Card) 2nd Fran Gifford and Liam Gifford (3627 - Snorter) 3rd Lawrence Tosh and Andrew Maddison (3650 - Headcase) 4th Mark Lark and Bruce (2018 - Krakatoa) 5th Richard and Liz Page (1222 Restless IV)
Report: Mike Hendy
Photos: Robert Harris
Lots more good photos - Brian Corking