Scott Wilkinson sailing to success

Rum Race under way on the River Rother (Photo courtesy of Richard Morley.)
Rum Race under way on the River Rother (Photo courtesy of Richard Morley.)

Four boats from Hastings & St Leonards Sailing Club travelled to Rye Harbour Sailing club on Sunday for the annual Rye Rum Race on the River Rother.

Extremely strong winds were forecast and at the start of the day it seemed unlikely that racing would go ahead.

The race was delayed to allow time for winds to subside, which they did a fraction, but at start of the race they were still force 4 to 6, with some gusts even stronger.

Sailors just about coped with periods of consistent wind but with fearsome gusts frequently battering the fleet, it soon became a test of endurance as much as racing skill. Of the thirteen boats that launched, six completed the race.

A steady stream of boats headed for the landing area to retire. For some it was one capsize too many, for others it was broken bits of boat and for a few it was a disappointing tow in after drifting capsized amongst the moored boats on the far side of the river.

The course was a short up river leg before sailing down to almost the mouth of the river and then back up again, and repeated for an hour. Sailing was on a beam to close reach throughout which gave relatively stable points of sailing but at times break-neck speed.

Hugh Ashford (Laser Radial) had the best start of the Hastings' boats and was in close competition for the first half of the race with another Hastings’ sailor, Melanie Clark (Laser 4.7). As the race progressed, Ashford pulled ahead and finished 4th, the highest placing amongst the Hastings’ sailors, and just ahead of Clark who was 5th. Other Hastings’ sailors, Philip Blurton and Gavin Conway (Tasar), were blown into the shallows on the first leg, dislodging their rudder; once fixed into position again, they found themselves near the back of the fleet with the challenge of playing catch-up, which they did to good effect, eventually finishing fourth over the line and 6th overall on handicap.

The final Hastings and St Leonards Sailing club competitor was Steve Eccles (Laser Radial) who retired after a capsize. Victory in the race went to the youngest competitor, Scott Wilkinson (Laser Radial), from Rye Harbour Sailing Club who sailed a faultless race that made it look easy.