Two Bloody Marys have taken place since my last newsletter. The 42nd, in January 2015, saw 235 entries,118 starters, and a hard core 71 boats defying the demanding conditions to finish. This year, on 9 January 2016, conditions for the 43rd Bloody Mary were less extreme but it was still a windy one. As usual, our favourite pursuit race attracted a wonderful mix of classes and competitors, with young sailors, club racing regulars, and national and international sailing names competing together under the increasingly refined Great Lakes handicaps. With 274 entries from 125 clubs and 60 classes, and 220 finishers, it was a busy day on the water. Thanks, as ever, go to our excellent race management and safety teams, together with all the land-based volunteers who, between them, enabled competitors to arrive, launch, race and depart in a variety of wintry conditions and whose welcoming, cheerful assistance was repeatedly praised by our visitors. At the other end of the 2015 season, the second Bart’s Bash global race delivered another vibrant and inclusive day’s sailing. Particular congratulations go to Emma Hoffman-Becking, sailing for QM Sailability in a Hansa 303 with her crew, Roger Pescod, who came sixth overall at QM.
Club racing continues to thrive on Sundays and Wednesdays, with over 130 sailors taking part in the 2015 Wednesday evening series and final placings up for grabs right to the end. The inaugural RS400 Gold Regatta, aimed at getting more of the boats in the boat park out on the water, was a great success with a double figure turnout for most race days. There was, perhaps, even more close attention than usual paid to synoptic charts as the weather attempted to play havoc with our programme. The Club Championships went from postponement due to lack of wind to a thoroughly windy and testing competition when rescheduled. Congratulations to 2015 Club Champion, Gordon Goldstone, and Junior Club Champions (and Youth Captains) Alex Knight and Rosie Johnson. All our Club racing is run by our much appreciated pool of volunteer Race Officers and Assistant Race Officers. If you would like to join this happy band, the Club provides training, and existing ROs will support new recruits as they learn the ropes.
In other racing news, QM Lasers fielded twelve entries at the Laser Masters, with Orlando Gledhill and Tony Woods securing top ten finishes, Orlando coming second overall, whilst at home our Laser sailors stepped easily into J80s and retained their place as Battle of the Fleets victors for the second year, although this time they were given a run for their money by the Youth Team in the first all youth entry in this event. QM was also pleased to be the venue for the keelboat UK Sailing League trial event, organised by Royal Thames YC and the RYA. The weather intervened once more, with racing curtailed due to lack of wind, but I was pleased to see our combined adult and youth team working so well and enthusiastically together and it promises good things to come. In their Cherub, Andy and Jill Peters demonstrated their mastery of all conditions, winning the 2015 Inlands on home waters here at QM having already taken the 2015 National Championships earlier in the summer. And Lizzy Foreman successfully completed the demanding solo Mini-Transat race from Douarnenez to Guadeloupe, finishing 31st overall and the first woman to boot.
While an absence or an abundance of wind has given Race Officers a few headaches this year, the windy days have brought windsurfers out in force. The ION sponsored Leader Board challenge has continued with Richard Lloyd speeding to the 2015 top spot. A full programme for 2016 is in the pipeline with plans for demos, clinics and a push to beat the 40 knot barrier on the water here, together with a clutch of new trophies - we look forward to seeing an even larger windsurf table at the next Christmas prizegiving lunch. Youth windsurfers have been making their mark, with Team 15 meeting on Saturday mornings and seeing great progress. Consistently strong and enthusiastic performances from some of our dedicated young windsurfers, including QM Junior Windsurfer of the Year, Emily-Jane Eldred and fellow RYA Zone squad members Millie Searle, Zoe Davis, Josh Lane and Tom Skoulding and Junior National Squad member, Hugo Thomas, have notched up some impressive results at Team 15 and UKWA events, Zone Championships, the Eric Twiname Championships, the Whitwell Marathon, and Inland, National and World Championships.
Meanwhile our youth sailors continue to impress, with particular highlights including consistent high performances from Dan Thompson at the Topper Nationals, Irish Nationals and Worlds, Callum Dixon in the Finn Nationals, and Daniel Martin 7th in the Laser Radial Nationals. Other excellent individual performances over the year came from Iona Dixon, Magnus Handley, Edward Benz, Joseph Dormer, Haken Digby, Ellie Wall, Coco Barrett, Lucy Gates, Will Birchall and Alice Smith. None of this thriving youth activity would be possible without the enthusiasm and commitment of parents and other volunteers who dedicate so much to supporting QM’s young sailors and windsurfers.
Our other activities continue to flourish. More sailors are joining QM Sailability’s regular Thursday programme with an increasing and enthusiastic demand for regular racing. Saturday Club has grown to become a popular and very enjoyable fixture in the Club calendar, attracting 70 different participants over the season and with a regular attendance well into double figures. Wednesday Club has a small group of regulars and will relaunch this Spring with midweek social sailing, aimed predominantly at women.
Members all make their own mark at the Club and, sadly, sometimes we are reminded of that by their loss. This year we heard of the deaths of John Hartwell, Richard Nussey, John Speller, Dan Wiggins and Charles “Ginger” Barron. We extend our sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones in 2015. It was a pleasure to welcome both Lucy Wiggins and Caroline Barron to the Christmas lunch and prizegiving as they presented inaugural trophies: the Dan Wiggins Laser Endeavour trophy and the Ginger Barron Youth Sailor of the Year trophy. Many of the Club trophies celebrate former members; it is a special way to commemorate them and celebrate their contribution and values, and I am very pleased that information about the trophies, their namesakes, and history, are now available on the Club website thanks to much hard work and research by Isabel Joce.
It is a great pleasure to recognise current members’ contributions and achievements. In 2015 we successfully nominated three people for different awards: I am delighted to congratulate Bill Eadie on his Spelthorne Sports Council award for Outstanding Service to Sport, Paul Schroeder on his RYA Lifetime Commitment Award, and Daniel Thompson who was named 2015 RYA Thames Valley Youth Champion.
Maintaining a healthy financial position remains a focus, since the Clubhouse, grounds and equipment will always be a demand on resources. We also learnt, at the end of the year, of a change of tax regulations which directly affects our Community Amateur Sports Club status and means the Club must expect to pay business rates for the first time for several years. This issue has affected many sailing clubs and we have all been taking advice from the RYA. As a result, your Council has made the difficult decision to increase membership subscriptions to partially meet this additional charge. We continue to vigorously pursue grant funding to cover other costs, where possible, and have secured a £75,000 grant from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities fund to replace the old wooden pontoons on the West side with two new robust and stable pontoons. The generosity of individual members, together with QM Sailability, has meant that we have at last managed to repair the lift and we now have a PA system which even reaches into the boat park, thanks again to members’ generosity. We are also very grateful to Richard Steele and his Escargot Marine club whose continued donation of time and hard work has delivered many improvements and savings which have allowed the Club to install new hand-dryers.
The Sailing School continues to support the Club and to develop new enthusiasts for our sport, with over 650 children taking courses in 2015. Planning for 2016 is well underway with winter training ongoing and online bookings already open for 2016 main season courses.
Thyme Lords catering continue to supply good food and refreshments before and after sailing, as well as delicious meals which underpin events such as the Christmas lunch and volunteer suppers.
On the staff side, there have been some glad hellos and sad goodbyes: having been at the Club since he was 14 years old, Freddie Cardew Smith left us to travel and explore new opportunities, and we welcomed Chief Sailing Instructor, Greg, Senior Instructor, Abby, and bookkeeper, Petra.
On a personal note, I warmly thank my fellow Flag Officers, Council and other committee members for their continued support and commitment. I would also like to pay tribute to our staff, whose depth and breadth of commitment and expertise is incredibly valuable to the Club. This year they have risen to many difficult challenges and I continue to be impressed by their leadership, professionalism, and the friendly and supportive environment they all help to create.
In 2016, with the Bloody Mary already under our belt, we look forward to a full Club and Open racing calendar, including Laser 4.7 Winter Championships, RS400 Winter Championships, Laser Masters Inlands, RS Feva Inlands, R700 Open, and LWA Icebreaker.
Finally, may I thank you all for your continued support to the Club, and wish you and your families a happy and fulfilling 2016.
Queen Mary Sailing Club