Elizabeth College 450th Regatta
In October Elizabeth College held the first ever team dinghy sailing event involving multiple schools to be held in the Channel Islands. This was one of a huge number of special events to have taken place this year to mark the College's 450th anniversary. Friday dawned bright but rather breezy, so with the safety and umpires' briefings complete, the race officer sent the fleet out into Belle Greve Bay as there was a heavy swell reflecting around Havelet Bay.
Some of the teams were clearly much happier in these conditions than others, with the tall boys from Victoria College Jersey able to sail flatter and faster by hiking their Fevas hard, so taking an early lead by winning all their first round robin matches. Whilst the two host teams and Norwich School did their best not to make it too easy for VCJ, some of the sailors from Jersey College for Girls and Ladies College Guernsey succumbed to the heavier gusts and capsized. Soon the conditions began to take their toll on some of the boats as well, and so the decision was made to go in for an early lunch to get some of the breakages fixed.
After chilli all round, the racing was continued in now much lighter breeze, but still some persistent chop. The Norwich sailors, used to racing on the calm Norfolk Broads, clearly found this challenging, but seemed to love every minute. These conditions favoured the local boys, as well as the Jersey girls, who all managed to claw back a match against Victoria. With the Jersey boys then losing out on a win due to a disagreement with the chief umpire, the two places in the final were taken by JCG and Elizabeth Blue. The girls were the favourites to win, but the local boys used their tactics patiently in an exciting race that went down to the last few metres, but ultimately ended convincingly for the hosts.
Ironically the second day promised much lighter winds for the heavier crews in the Youth regatta, although many of the sailors were the same, particularly in the visiting teams, who were limited in the numbers they could bring over. Fortunately, however, the breeze stayed up enough for the racing to go ahead, and for most of the morning the sailors enjoyed "champagne" sailing conditions: clear blue skies and constant wind over flat water. In the first series of round robin races, it was very tight between the three Channel Island schools, with some incredibly close finishes in their races and a noticeably higher standard of racing than on the previous day.
After most matches had been sailed twice, the other teams went in for lunch, whilst Elizabeth and Victoria Colleges' senior teams fought it out for their annual trophy, the Brennan Transom. Again, this was a very closely contested series, with each race being won by alternate teams, unlike the previous two years, when the Guernsey boys have prevailed by a wide margin. A couple of races needed to be abandoned, one due to an inconsistent approach by the committee boat to a premature start by more than the half the fleet, and the second, rather contentiously, because of a gear failure just before the start gun. This left the scores tied when the other two teams came back onto the water. With the scores totted up, and time running short before the jersey teams had to check in for their ferry, there was a crucial decider to sail between Elizabeth and JCG in order to decide who would join Victoria in the grand final. JCG had a strong start, but ultimately lost two places due to a shift on the beat, and so again the local boys managed to edge ahead and take a narrow victory. This left a single race to be completed, to decide the result of the Youth regatta as a whole, and the Brennan Transom. By now the wind was becoming quite light, and so it was a rather late start for several boats, who overestimated their speed. Elizabeth College looked strong up the first beat, and seemed to have the race in the bag as they turned downwind. What followed was a tactically intense couple of minutes of team racing, with Victoria attacking on every front, and Elizabeth desperately defending. Somehow the Jersey boys got back in touch on the bottom reach, and then came out on top by a very narrow margin at the line.
After the race for the finish came the race for the ferry. Following the briefest of prizegiving ceremonies, the Jersey teams changed and packed as though their lives depended on it, checking in with seconds to spare. All the sailors seemed to agree that it had been a great, fun event, and that it had been especially good training for those going away to Oxford the following week for the RYA Eric Twiname Junior and Youth National Team Racing Championships. Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped to make the regatta a success.