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BEER FESTIVAL

LAKESIDE

The Ninth Lakeside Sponsored 24 Hour Race for the Lifeboats Report
24th & 25th June 2006

Ferry Meadows, Peterborough
In support of all members of the Lifeboat Service who put the safety of others before their own.


photos courtesy of www.peterborough.net


Depending upon how prompt and early each of us was in greeting the new day on Saturday, we awoke to a bit of a downpour or its soggy aftermath, hoping that this dismal beginning did not set the pattern for the rest of the weekend.

Meanwhile, over at RAF Coningsby, deep in the heart of Lincolnshire, the members of the aircrews of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were quietly and efficiently assembling to prepare for the day's mission. Whilst preparing to spend the day keeping the chain of appointments prepared for them over several months by Adjutant Jack Hawkins and his staff they would quietly admire yet again the fruits of the labours of the mechanics who so loving tend and prepare the evocative and honoured aircraft which these people were again to be privileged to fly. The day's sorties could take them anywhere in the length and breadth of the country and abroad, to the delight of spectators gazing at them with respectful pride in what they see. The Lancaster bomber and its crew would find themselves visiting Peterborough on the day’s travels. At Lakeside Sailing Club's home at Ferry Meadows at a quarter to four they would flypast the annual sailing race run to support and honour the crews of the RNLI lifeboats. They would deliver again, as they have each year for as long as we care to remember, a "flypast" spectacle fit to be flown in the name of our wonderful lifeboat crews.

Back in Peterborough, the Mayor and his lady were rousing themselves and assembling the energy, and a couple of gold chains, to face the demands of another day of civic engagements. An hour or so before the Lancaster was to give its show at Ferry Meadows, they would be received by the Lakeside Sailing Club's Commodore, Dennis Kirk, before assisting the Race Officer, John Gray, in officially starting the sailing race. Their official driver was preparing himself and the "Transport of Delight" for the day's tour, in the course of which he would deliver the city's first citizens to Lakeside in good time to perform their civic duties as race starting officials. They all would be welcome to take a cup of the finest tea and a little refreshment lovingly prepared by Charlotte and her team at the Watersports Cafe.

At Gunwade Lake and in the adjacent dinghy park final preparations were being made with sailors and folks from far and wide assembling, intent on enjoying themselves, winning a sailing race and handing over their sponsorship money to a tremendously grateful RNLI Branch Chairman for the ninth successive year. All were excited and shared so openly their spirits of warmth and friendship and determination to do their best in support of one of the best causes and the finest groups of people they could think of .... the RNLI's lifeboats and their crews.

Then, as time moved inexorably forward, the best laid plans all came together, it seemed from all corners of the known universe.

Her Britannic Majesty's Press Corps turned out in force, to record the event, photograph the brightly shining Commodore and the Mayor and Mayoress standing with him, with one photographer commandeering a rescue boat and a driver for a tour of the lake just after that start to collect action shots like they were going out of fashion. They would ensure that printed and electronic media informed and educated the poor souls around the known world who were prevented from being present either by great distance or by virtue of having something "better to do" liking visiting the mother-in-law!

The Mayor and Mayoress of Peterborough arrived at the appointed hour and were greeted by a beautifully "scrubbed-up" and beblazered Commodore Kirk and Race Officer John Gray on behalf of Lakeside Sailing Club, the RNLI Branch and all the sailors. Every sailing boat within sight, that would hold (out) water, was rigged and on the water to join the all-night racers and enhance the spectacle for the start of the race and wish them well for the next twenty four hours. At five minutes to three the first Mayoral blast on the horn and the first flag announced the commencement of the starting sequence of signals which culminated in the strident and excited "OFF" signal at exactly 3 pm.

Tony Lines and his Phantom dinghy led the masses away from the starting line, hotly pursued by the Fishers, Brian and Alison, in their Windfall Wayfarer which they used to demonstrate that having not raced that boat for so long, for them sailing her so effectively really was like riding a bicycle - you never forget how to do it! The massed fleet followed them as they headed for the first mark of the course not really giving much of a thought to the absence of a decent breeze to propel them along with perhaps a little more energy.

As the excitement of the start began to subside, on time as always, the Lancaster bomber appeared over the end of the lake as she came out of a banked approach turn to line up to fly over the race skimming the tops of the dinghy's masts as she went - not once, not twice but three times she circled the lake and made heart stopping low level passes over the race in her salute to the lifeboat crews and the sailors do their bit to support them. If everything below had not fallen silent of its own accord and if every mouth were not hung open as she passed, the awesome sound of those engines would have drowned it all out whilst bringing tears to more than one pair of admiring gazing eyes remembering how grateful we all are for the actions and sacrifices of others who flew in that aircraft and so many others, years ago.

The night remained calm and almost windless presenting a continuous challenge to all the sailors to extract from their boats what "speed" they could. The passage of the night was assisted by the spirit of commitment and goodwill among all involved and by the lamb and rosemary pasties so artistically prepared in Charlotte's cavern of culinary delights at the Waterside Cafe as a special treat for the event.

The sailors all admired the tenacity and envied the stamina shown by the team of canoeists whose vessel repeatedly "shot past" them every few minutes throughout the night. It could have been Winston Churchill who said “Never have so many sailing boats been lapped so many times in one race by one canoe!”.

Several sailors endured the pleasure of their own company for sessions of about two hours at a time whilst manning their team's singlehanded dinghy. Other sailors voluntarily and even repeatedly endured the company of unbearable "friends" whilst being trapped aboard a small boat with them. The single-handed achievements of the sailors supporting the National Solo and the Laser teams were particularly admired along with those sailors who occasionally kept a two-handed boat careering (in our dreams?) round the lake for a couple of hours whilst the crew was "AWOL"! The patience and persistence shown by the crews of the Falmouth Bass Boat were exemplary as they worked hard to drive on their traditionally designed and definitely "non-racing", wind-loving gaffer in the still of the night (and the day for that matter!).

To summarise and probably misquote in the detail whilst repeating the spirit sounded by an earlier scribe..."There can be few things more worth doing than sailing all night to support the lifeboat crews"! - except perhaps collecting and donating sponsorship money!

The grandiosely titled "Results" of the race were:

Sailing Dinghies Class - the coveted RNLI Chairman's Naked (beautiful and tasteful!) Lady Trophy

  1. Welland Sailing Club's Graduate sailed 51 laps, adjusted to 60 laps by handicap calculations using the boat's Portsmouth Yardstick/

  2. The National Solo sailing members of Mad Frank's team battled through 50 laps - adjusted to 58

  3. "Gentleman Jim", Commodore Kirk's Wayfarer was also coaxed to complete 51 laps but handicap calculations only made it 56 laps.

  4. The Laser Radial, not letting its brother, the Graduate, have all the glory sailed a stout 50 laps - adjusted to 55.

  5. The indomitable Comet Trio, despite its age, scratch crew and its hard life in the hire and tuition fleet of Lakeside Leisure sailed 48 laps - adjusted to 52 laps.

  6. Andrew Belson's Wayfarer was encouraged to complete no less than 46 laps which were adjusted to 51

  7. Mark's Wayfarer carried its various crews around 39 laps - adjusted to 43

  8. What can be said about The Falmouth Bass Boat? Her crews made of stern stuff and forming a determined bunch "magiced" this beautiful gaffer around 24 laps which were adjusted on the basis of the RYA's published Tideway class handicap figure. Her owner and the RNLI can surely be proud of her contribution to the event and the guts needed for her crew to achieve those laps in the windless conditions.

The Alternative Propulsion Class
First, Second and Third (in fact all the places!) were admirably taken by the Canoe Team who propelled her around 78 laps and take the World Canoe Society record for lapping sailing dinghies whilst racing!

And the overall best result - the RNLI win with another few thousand pounds to help keep it all running!

We all thank Barrie Easom, the proprietor of Lakeside Leisure, who first had something to do with the whole thing ever happening some nine or ten years ago. We thank him for his continued energetic support, advice and practical help. We also acknowledge and thank major suppliers to Lakeside Leisure for their generosity in donating numerous prizes for the event. The RNLI is deeply grateful to all of its supporters and particularly thanks all who contributed to this event in any way - the RNLI crews know that without the support of us all they could not honour, in the magnificent way they do, that age old defiant cry of the lifeboatmen "The sea shall NOT have them!".

THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS TO ALL WHO TOOK PART AND SUPPORTED THE EVENT.
WE WILL DO IT AGAIN on 23rd and 24th JUNE 2007.
THE TENTH YEAR,,, AND, YES, A FEW SPECIAL BITS ARE PLANNED!