Report by John Renouf assisted by Lindsay and Neil Weatherley
At the new location this year of Mengeham Rythe SC, Hayling Island, everyone taking part was given the option of sailing with a supported fleet (supported by a RIB) or unsupported fleet, relying on the principle of cruising in company. Most of this article by John Renouf, from his vantage at the helm of the support boat, reports on the larger, supported fleet and the event as a whole. We asked Lindsey and Neil Weatherley to complete the picture by writing about the experience of the unsupported fleet, which Lindsey led. The Weatherleys’ authorship is indicated by the paragraphs in blue type. Thanks to excellent timing, the return of both fleets from their different destinations before the tide fell too far was one of the successes of the new format. Unfortunately sailing was reduced to two days owing to adverse weather conditions.
The first Wanderer-sailors to arrive at Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club (MRSC), on the opening day of the event, were greeted with the impressive sight of a vast expanse of water, as the tide was at its highest.
All was not what it seemed, however, as the ebb quickly revealed extensive mud flats either side of the main channel which, itself, reduced to a trickle as the tide reached its lowest point. (Insert photo Low Water) This indicated that sailing activities would be regulated by the clock rather more rigidly than at Cobnor, where water was always present. Nonetheless, it was clear that MRSC had made extensive preparations to make Wanderer sailors feel welcome and comfortable, with areas dedicated to camper and motor caravanners, and a boat park conveniently located very close to the slipway access. Also, much work had been done to clear a field for those using tents.
Having use of the Clubhouse facilities (complete with lounge and bar!) was also very useful, and would be a great benefit later in the event. (Insert photo Club room) For the support boat crew there was luxury indeed as the club RiB was launched and berthed on a pontoon, eliminating an early-morning row out to a floating mooring in a tender. (Insert photo Support boat on the pontoon) A briefing for those using the on-site camping facilities was held, after which a large group of participants assembled for dinner at the Yew Tree pub, which surprised both with the extent of its menu and the generous quantities of the portions served!
On the Thursday morning about 12 helms and crews assembled for a briefing on the sailing activities for the coming days. Due regard was paid to the forecasted worsening weather which looked likely to prevent any sailing on the Saturday or even the Sunday, so the intent was to pack in as much activity into the first two days as was possible given the tidal constraints (HW +/- 3.0 hrs). The fleet was organised into two groups, the first being the “unsupported” group that was happy to sail together without the presence of a support boat, and the “supported” group which would have a (possibly) more relaxed sail with the support boat in attendance. Lindsey Weatherly took the lead with the unsupported group and they planned a sail to East Head, Cobnor and Bosham. The supported group, led by Richard Maltby, planned a similar but less ambitious cruise with a lunch stop at East Head and, depending on time and conditions, sailing on to Cobnor Point before returning to MRSC. In the support boat, our regular support team of John and Jenny Renouf, were accompanied by a local MRSC member whose knowledge of the local waters, and especially the precise route between the club and the main channel, was invaluable. Another MRSC member, using his own launch, also shadowed the fleet.
Six boats formed the unsupported group starting with a planning session held the evening before and a group decision to have Bosham in our sights decided on a quick departure and ensured we were the first to set out to make the most of the tide. We headed down wind via the narrow channel to black buoy half way down the rythe (creek) to regroup before following the rythe down to the main channel. (Insert photos Leaving Mengeham rythe (creek) for the main channel and 1443 tacking off Hayling Island SC) We then made our way to East Head to regroup, after crossing the full strength of the tide at the harbour entrance at 3 hours before high water. Following a quick check that everyone was ok, we then headed up the estuary towards Cobnor Point, an opportunity to fly the spinnaker. Here we again grouped up and enjoyed a lovely run to Bosham where boats were either anchored or tied to road signs! As the tide was still rising, lunch on the lower road ended quickly with the water lapping our feet while the ice cream van retreated into the village. We looked on as Rick and Neil, pringles being held aloft, waded out to their boat, which was now a little deeper in the water than thought. Leaving Bosham meant a beat back to Cobnor point and a regroup on Pilsey Island. This gave me a chance to do some unplanned maintenance on Bistarai. (Insert photo Lindsay at the helm) We returned to our new base, beating upwind against the tide in the creek between the moored boats arriving in good time just after the supported group.
The supported group had a smooth cruise to East Head with a safe landing on the beach, having been warned of the potential hazards of what otherwise looked like a benign beach landing.
Lunch was followed by a good run up to Cobnor Point, with some boats venturing up to the Cobnor beach, the historic location for previous WandererFests before turning back for a comfortable beat back to MRSC, with enough water remaining to avoid any anxious moments.
After recovery of all of the boats, helms and crew were able to relax in and around the clubhouse, the bar was opened and the barbecue was lit. Some local members joined in and sailing stories were exchanged well into the evening.
Friday morning dawned bright and fair with the promise of a little more wind as a depression slowly approached with ominous conditions for the weekend. Hence it was decided to make the most of the good weather while it lasted. The unsupported group made a prompt getaway with the intention of getting to Dell Quay, leaving the supported group to follow, planning to sail to Emsworth.
After the successful trip to Bosham and another planning session, the unsupported group decided to aim for Dell Quay. A slight change to the original six Wanderers was the replacement of one boat by a Gull. The group headed quickly out flying spinnakers to regroup at Cobnor Point. We then made our way to Birdham Pool and up to Dell Quay.
We stopped on the stony shore in front of the pub for lunch and a convoluted phone call about Lindsey’s dog which was 100 miles away which had escaped from a friend’s garden (all safe in the end). The return was more challenging with the wind picking up from the west. As the single hander had to stow the jib the fleet made less headway back to Birdham Pool. From here fortunately the going was easier and the six boats regrouped at Pilsey. Heading away from Pilsey, we crossed a very choppy harbour entrance, keeping a look out each other and for the channel from Hayling Island SC to MRSC. With the tide now on the ebb we reached the creek just as the supported group coming back from Emsworth arrived to join us in the final tack leg of our passages, tacking back up the creek to the club and boat recovery.
The supported group of 13 boats made their way to the main channel, but had to hold station for some time just off Hayling Island Sailing Club until the last of the fleet was on its way. A pleasant cruise was enjoyed to Emsworth where the impressive sight of the fleet entering the anchorage in line astern owed much to Melvyn Powell’s planning and guidance.
The pre-booked landing was made on the public jetty, giving crews time to get ashore, have a lunch break and enjoy the local amenities for a short while, as always keeping one eye on the clock to ensure a timely departure and hence arrival back at MRSC. With the weather clearly starting to worsen, a lively sail was experienced with all participants arriving back safely despite a gear failure and a grounding that were handled by the supporting launches.
In the evening the tired and weary sailors were able to enjoy a superb meal in the MRSC clubhouse expertly prepared by their in-house caterer. Following the meal our recently-appointed President, Philip Meadowcroft, was called upon to perform his first official duty of presenting a number of prizes, but only after he was presented with an official “chain of office” complete with WCOA insignia, which he wore proudly for the rest of the evening.
On Saturday a rainy start confirmed the accuracy of the weather forecast and, with winds gusting over 30mph expected, sailing was cancelled for the day. However, with a cooked breakfast available to all in the clubhouse, spirits remained positive. The weather worsened during the day and some took the opportunity for some local sightseeing. In the afternoon a few local sailors ventured out, but a broken mast and busy support boats confirmed that the Wanderers had made the right decision to stay ashore. The comfort of the club house was particularly appreciated as tents sagged in the deluge outside.
Fortunately, the weather failed to dampen the atmosphere during the evening when the now traditional curry night took place. There was food a-plenty, and rumours that the bar was in danger of running dry!
On Sunday the rain had gone and the wind had moderated a little. However, with high tide being in mid-afternoon and the need to vacate the site by 6pm meant that sailing was not feasible. Hence decamping and packing boats ready for travel could be carried out at a more relaxed pace, affording earlier starts for the journeys home to avoid the worst of the traffic, although some campers did not strike camp until well into the afternoon by which time their tents had dried out!