Getting ready for 'the Big One'

Hundreds

of Old Gaffers will be descending on the Isle of Wight next week ready for a record-setting

Jubilee festival.

From

15 to 18 August, Cowes will be awash with revellers, celebrating the finale of

the Old Gaffers Association’s (OGA) 50th anniversary year.

With

125 boats signed up to take part the OGA Jubilee Festival’s main race on

Saturday 17 August, organisers are hoping to set a new

world record for the biggest ever fleet of racing gaffers.

Here’s the latest report from OGA secretary Sue Lewis, who says ‘the pleasures have outweighed the hardships’ for the round-Britain challengers:

Several Old Gaffers at the OGA Jubilee Festival at Cowes,

perhaps as many as 20, will have come here as part of a circumnavigation of

Britain to celebrate our 50th Anniversary.

A significant Dutch

contingent have delighted all with their company and their enthusiasm for gaff

sailing – you’ll see this in action with the Inter-Area Dutch Clog Racing on

the Friday of this Festival.

During their Round Britain odyssey participants have endured

everything that you would expect to have thrown at you when sailing the British

coastline: fog in Lyme Bay, storms in Devon, northerlies in the Irish Sea,

southerlies on the east coast, fishing lines round the propeller, fouled

anchors, blocked loos, arduous trips home for work, enforced long passages,

night passages, shortage of crew –

and yet more blocked loos.

Plus a few things you wouldn’t expect (like runaway

Land Rovers!).

However the pleasures have been far greater than the

hardships. The welcome extended to the fleet by the areas of the OGA has been

magnificent. Starting on the east coast in April the first two of the

circumnavigating boats were given a fine send-off.

In the Hamble the RBC fleet

had grown, and together with locals from the Solent Area enjoyed a fine dinner

and dance party. They were greeted by Royalty and returned the compliment at

Southampton before zooming off to Plymouth where, again, an excellent party

with music was laid on.

Weather delays

They were kept

in Plymouth for days by the weather – well done South West area for

keeping them entertained!

A few hardy vessels made it to the Isles of Scilly but then

had to stay there for a few days (weather of course) while others enjoyed a

cracking Welsh knees-up in Dale hosted by the Bristol Channel Area.

Many of

these had to stay in Milford Haven longer than intended (weather again). By

this point what should have been a leisurely cruise from beauty spot to beauty spot seemed to

have become a series of long stays with mad dashes in between to catch up.

Holyhead was the next scheduled stop and 11 boats made it

here, to be met by a welcome truly above and beyond the call. Nowhere else were

torches flashed and lines taken by local members until 3 o’clock in the morning

– and the bar still open at that!

After a couple of days of North Wales Area

partying the fleet was begging for mercy, but Dublin offered no respite.

Non-stop festivities

The

Dublin Bay Area hosted a series of jolly musical evenings at Poolbeg Marina as

well as running some historically important races which you have no doubt

already read about.

NI OGA then rose to the challenge in some style, laying on

excellent and varied entertainment on no less than three interesting boats in

Belfast, including the First Class passenger tender to the Titanic.

Meanwhile Scottish OGA boats headed north from Campbeltown

to Stornaway to enjoy a weekend of traditional boating and to collect a

commemorative Harris tweed burgee, before heading on to Lerwick in the

Shetlands.

With the Scottish OGA off ‘round the top’, some East Coast members

stepped into the breach and organised a party at Loch Melfort on the west

coast.

Funds were raised for the RNLI with fun and games in a beautiful

loch-side setting, while local musicians played and all enjoyed a superb

barbeque. Next treat for most: the Caledonian Canal.

Heading south

As I write this report all the boats are on their way south

again, the Scottish boats returning home through the canal, the RBC fleet now

on the east coast at various locations: some have partied at Anstruther and

Eyemouth, and most expect to join in the festivities at Newcastle.

They can

look forward to racing and parading in the Humber after that and then a week-long

tour of some highlights of the East Coast Area, and a weekend festival at

Ramsgate. By the time you see them at Cowes they will have more tales to tell

of their adventures.

I have taken part on Bonify and I believe I speak for all

the participants when I say it has been a fantastic adventure.

We didn’t all

get to every event, but we loved the ones we went to, and, although you could

be forgiven for thinking it, this has not just been a summer of parties.

A few

of the participating boats have made a sort of pilgrimage to a place of

significance for the boat, while other skippers have set themselves individual

challenges and have learned about their own capacities and those of their

vessel.

Everyone has managed to make of this cruise something

special and memorable, and we all come to Cowes the richer for it – and ready

for just one more celebration: the Big One!

Pictures: 65+ old gaffers in Ipswic; and the Old Gaffers Rubber Flubber football in

Ipswich dock. Credit: Old Gaffers Association