31 August 2016

The Last Ever Splieth Regatta

I have been a Member of the British Kiel Yacht Club (BKYC) since 1984 when I returned to Germany after various other postings, and a Life Member since 1991. My very first Splieth Regatta was in 1986 after just qualifying as a Skipper. In that regatta I sailed with my girl friend Chrissie Hooper and a Warrent Officer and his family, though to my shame I have forgotten their name! In that regatta we came last in all races and in fact, so far behind in the last race that the committee boat had left the finish line! When I got ashore Bruno Splieth the German Olympic Yachtsman, after whom the regatta is named, came up to me and gave me much advice about sail setting and sailing a big boat. Something I have never forgotten. 

If I'm honest I don't really like racing. I am more of a cruising sailor, but very early on in my training to become a Yachtmaster I raced to gain experience and to become more instinctive and wind aware in my yacht handling. I have also been fortunate in that my race crew always included my best friends which made the whole thing much more enjoyable. 

The advice from Bruno Splieth and my own pigheadedness helped me to win the Whit Regatta in 1988, which in the 80's was the BKYC's pro sailing regatta, much to the consternation of the other skippers, who I have to say were better at racing than I ever was. With my friends as crew, particularly Bob Moody, I went on to win the Royal Pioneer Corps Offshore Regatta twice. 

I gave up racing when I bought my own yacht in 1994. However, in 1991 I was persuaded to enter the Splieth Regatta. My crew in this race was a good friend Graham Barker, William Heal, aged 16 and the son of the chief instructor at the Kiel Training Centre, a New Zealand exchange officer and my 66 year old father, who was not a sailor! In the first race we were not allowed to fly spinnakers as the wind was too high, so I flew double headsails and we were in the lead up to the mark where we had to take one sail down. My father now fell over board!!!! The committee boat said at the time that they had never seen a yacht stop and turn round so fast before. Thanks to the crew's efforts we got father back on board, and as Graham is a very experienced Doctor, all was well. But that was the last time I raced.

The Splieth Regatta this year is exactly 25 years ago, though it was as yesterday in my mind. So much so that unlike all the other crews I made my crew all were life jackets. Bob didn't like it, but he is such a loyal friend he did not complain much and just did as he was told.

I had said at the outset to my friends, that it was to be a team effort and each of us was to helm at least one race. We were there to enjoy ourselves and to indulge in a little nostalgia, being able to sail one more time at a club that had all given us so much in the past. The Baltic Four made up the nucleaous of the crew and the Club gave us two extra hands to bring us to six. These were Michael Brown, a very experienced big boat racing sailor and well qualified skipper himself. He was also an ex Gunner which we did not hold against him. We made him an honoury Pionier! The sixth member was a German woman called Christine who had some sailing experience, and a very useful addition to our crew. She was also the nominated "novice" and helmed the Novice race for us.


                      We flew the Corps Flag on our boat which was Wigeon IX.

Some of the fleet racing back to the BKYC. We are the lead boat in this picture, but not winning the race!

I have not brought back or kept for that matter, a score of how we did in each race. I remember we came second in the first, which I just happened to helm, then went downhill for a bit before doing a little better later in the series and also of course winning the Compass race. This was, not just because we won, for me the most enjoyable race, for it needed some thought and tactics to win, as well as helming it well. I put the best man on the helm, Charles Telfer. Together with Michael we discussed the tactics, and I'm pleased to say our tactics and helming won us the race.

My crew who all worked hard. From the left, Colin Langford, me, Michael Brown, Christine, Bob Moody and Charles Telfer.  I'm holding the Compass Race trophy and the other is for coming 8th overall. That is to say last, as one boat, the Admiral of the Club's, retired and didn't race after Saturday!

  The majority of these photos are due to the kindness of another good friend, Paul Lockhart

As it was the last ever BKYC Regatta there were festivities in the evening and much drinking was done. It was also nice to see old friends and sailing acquaintances that one had not seen since the 1980's and 90's.

                           Yours truly with "Monster" Mccacaffery. We both scrub up well!

By the end of the weekend my right knee had blown up. Clearly all the squatting and kneeling around winches and in the cockpit did for it. I went to the doctors and my orthopedic specialist, who just happens to be Borussia Monchengladbach's team doctor. He  took a look and sucked out most of the inflation!

He also gave me an injection in the knee to deal with the swelling and inflammation and wished me well for the long walk to come, saying it should be OK by Tuesday!

So ends an era in Germany, but not the friendships made during it. Sail safe.

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