This event was part of the Midland Circuit.

Unlike last year’s Trent Valley Open Meeting, this year saw a full Dalby family turnout. Both the current and original Dalby sisters (the latter now relegated to Dalby Uncles, or should that be Dalby Aunts?) were present, all racing under the TVSC flag. Phil Dalby, in particular, had something to prove having just won the River Championship on that junior and overpopulated river in the South.

A total of 15 boats took part, including 7 boats from Blithfield, Shustoke, Ragley and Midland. Unfortunately Fat Pig stayed in the sty and made no appearance; her crew being otherwise occupied at the front end of the aforementioned Aunts’ boats.

Those who had stayed at the club after the previous night’s barbecue awoke to a slight mist and about 1 knot of wind. Fortunately, as they realised that at least some of the mist was in their heads, the weather also realised that it should perk up its ideas and produced sunshine and 8 to 10 knots of wind, although from a fairly variable direction.

The assembled fleet was split into flights and sent up the river so that the Race Officer could find something approximating to a beating start. The two fleet starts both got away cleanly, although the Race Officer was seen to be holding his breath as the first fleet returned downstream more quickly than had been expected; fortunately the second start got away just in time.

The first fleet was led off with a battle between Matt Biggs and last year’s winner, Jim Hopton, closely followed by Tom Davies. Matt and crew Tom, despite never having been to Salcombe, were showing a good turn of speed on the river and won the first fleet from Jim and Robert.

Phil Dalby made a good start to lead the second fleet around most of the course, hotly pursued by Paul Hollis who was making use of his skills honed on the restricted waters of Ragley. A little further back, Andrew Dalby was making best use of his minimal crew weight to pick up speed on every gust. Despite Phil and Andrea’s best efforts, they were unable to hold off Paul and Sarah who took first place followed by the Dalby sisters.

After a quick re-hydration break, battle resumed with a downstream start from just upstream of the clubhouse. Whilst the first start was clean, all but one boat from the second start was over the line, necessitating a general recall.

Jim Hopton, intent on keeping his title, did battle for the first fleet with Phil Dalby. Matt Biggs, still fired up from his win in the first race, wasn’t going to let them get away. Jim and Robert held out to win, with Matt and Tom just sneaking in front of Phil and Andrea to take second. In the second fleet, Andrew Dalby quickly settled into the lead with Midland Circuit Chap Steve Watson leading the rest of the pack home in second.

By now everyone was well in need of some lunch, so the Steward obligingly provided roast pork and all the trimmings. This gave the front runners time to consider their strategies for the last race as there were four different winners from the morning races. There was food left over, which suggested that some may have been curbing their intake, hoping to remain more alert and agile than the competition.

The final race used the first race’s upstream start with the second race’s full length course, as the wind through the ‘doldrums’ had proved to provide some interesting sailing… All the action was likely to be in the first fleet as all the morning’s winners were sailing against each other. Barring any major catastrophes, this left the second fleet to pick up the crumbs. The first fleet was lead off by Paul Hollis and Matt Biggs, with Jim Hopton in hot (and sometimes heated) pursuit. Meanwhile, near the back of the fleet, Andrew Dalby realised that he would have to pull out all the stops to make use of his morning’s first. Concentration was vital, all those years of putting away reserves and learning from his father were going to be needed. Slowly but surely he picked his way through the fleet, Rachel urging him on at each tack. Having established the lead by half way through the race, the pressure was truly on to maintain his cool and focused approach. This he and Rachel managed to do, extending their lead to finish a clear first and taking their first open meeting title. Matt Biggs and Tom Chadfield came home in third to take second overall.

Meanwhile, in the other fleet, Phil Dalby and Andrea Murphy finally managed to stay in front and took third place overall, together with the old boats prize. Peter and Tim Male took second in this fleet, having slowly improved their positions during the day following a hectic preparation for the first race.

With such close racing and the places evenly distributed, the results took a bit of calculation and back counting.

Rob Sloane

Disclaimer – all though the results below are a true and accurate reflection of the day’s events, the racing details involve a level of fiction governed by what could be seen (and remembered) from the crew’s quarters of a boat towards the back of the fleet.


Position Helm Crew Boat Club
1 Andrew Dalby Rachel Williamson Light Fantastic Trent Valley
2 Matt Biggs Tom Chadfield Never Been to Salcombe Blithfield
3 Phil Dalby Andrea Murphy Dire Straits Trent Valley
4 Paul Hollis Sara Duval Needle Makers Ragley
5 Jim Hopton Robert Hopton Bah Humbug Shustoke
6 Peter Male Tim Male Moondance Assassin Blithfield
7 George Dalby Alice Bellamy Roaring Forties Trent Valley
8 Tom Davies Wendy Pickler Ambience Ragley
9 Steve Watson John Sleightholme Time Zulu Midland
10 Dave Fowler Anya Colley Seventh Heaven Trent Valley
11 Julian Harms Samuel Harms Smoked Salmon Shustoke
12 John Dalby Rob Sloane Valley Freight Trent Valley
13 Peter Browne Lorna Orton Chiefy Trent Valley
14 Guy Browne Richard Pilgrim Atomic Mustard Trent Valley
15 Roger Britton Keith Marshall Aftermath Trent Valley