Gaffers Rally at Port Navas

The South West Gaffers, a region of the national Old Gaffers Association, organised a rally on the Helford from the 16th – 18th June. The event followed on from the Falmouth Classics and four of the ten boats had already participated in racing on the Fal and the parade of sail. For the last 8 years there have been no events such as this organised by the OGA since the Cornwall section became defunct.

Boats ranged from a 100 year old captain’s gig from a schooner to the 30 foot 6inch “Devon Maid”,  a Southampton day boat, built in 1914 ,to modern Crabbers and Shrimpers.

Boats arrived on Monday and moored or anchored at the western end of the moorings. Bunting was soon flying to mark the occasion and around 19.00 launches and small sailing craft departed for a barbecue at the National Trust’s Tremayne Quay. Two Cornish Crabbers came alongside whilst a Shrimper moored midstream. The crews enjoyed the idyllic surroundings and made good use of the barbecues and the accompanying food provided by the organiser’s wife.

Tuesday was race day but the force 4 breeze of the mooring was scheduled to reduce in the afternoon. The onshore wind versus the ebb -tide created an unpleasant swell which dissuaded two boats from participating. The race officer, aboard rescue boat “Lunar”, inspected the conditions at the mouth of the Helford at midday and opted for an estuary course around a series of racing marks. Four boats jockeyed for position on the line awaiting the starting gun from the Committee Boat, “Lily Oak” (once a clinker St Michael’s Mount ferry).The yawl “Devon Maid” was first across the line on starboard tack but headed for Porth Saxon which provided a wind shadow. “Mary Ritchie” a 27’ gaff cutter, chose the committee boat end and started on port tack followed by Shrimper “Natalie” and Crabber Yawl “Annabelle”.  “Mary Ritchie” fell into a wind hole and was monetarily in irons but gained momentum on starboard and tacked back towards the Penrose Sails mark. Natalie and Annabelle had made good progress and took advantage of “Mary Ritchie’s” brief predicament. First around Penrose was the 27foot cutter followed by “Annabelle” and “Natalie”. Meanwhile “Devon Maid” had found a wind hole and was struggling to get way on in the west going swell. “Mary Ritchie made the seaward mark with just one tack but was being hotly pursued by Annabelle but  a wind slowed as she was about to tack for the mark, meanwhile “Natalie” was fetching the mark. Having rounded the seaward mark, “Mary Ritchie” poled out her staysail and began to benefit from the early flood to the Hine Downing mark.”Devon Maid” was now making headway towards the first mark on the Lizard shore. The race officer decided to shorten course and from Hine Downing it was straight to the finish line. “Annabelle” and “Natalie battled it out to the line whilst “Devon Maid” found yet another wind hole at the seaward mark. By the run back home boats were benefitting from the increasing flood, reducing swell and the early whispers of a sea breeze which provided a pleasant  sail  up the Helford after finishing.

In the evening 25 skippers and their crews retired to Port Navas Yacht Club, participated in prize giving and enjoyed a sumptuous buffet and reflected on the success and enjoyment of the event.

Race prize winners:

1st John Scarlett Memorial Trophy “Mary Ritchie”  Don and Pauline Garman,  Port Navas Y.C.

2nd David Cade Memorial Plate “Natalie” George and Judy Brew, Port Navas Y.C.

3rd “Annabelle” Brian and Estelle Budden, Rock

Resilience Prize “Devon Maid” David and Cecilia Bisson, Helford

Longest passage “Malin” Martin West, Millbrook, Plymouth

Best dressed vessel “Aeolus” Steve and Carole Lorraine, Mylor Y.C.

Report: Don Garman, Organiser