After an uneventful motor across to Cowes we enjoyed our traditional pre- race meal at the Cowes Tandoori and were all raring to go at the 8.00am briefing the next morning. The weather forecast was for strong winds, followed by stronger winds and rain so we were instructed to put two reefs in our mainsail and to keep our spinnaker below decks in its bag, a relief for the author who had paid the damage deposit. That was the set up for the whole day.
Race One was a little chaotic as everyone discovered the vagaries of a new design of boat, probably better suited to balmy Mediterranean days than a bleak October Solent. After a conservative start in the first race the team sailed a good route to get the best of the wind and tide and had a narrow lead at the first mark which we were able to hold and extend to finish first. In the second race our start was more ‘conservative’, or to put it another way we were a little late to the line, but again excellent helming by Archie and consistent navigation and crew work brought us up to second at the first mark, a position we held at the finish. With the wind increasing as forecast the Race Officer decided to call it a day and it was a wet, and speaking personally, tired crew heading back to the crew house for tea and cakes, but all revived in time for pre-dinner gin and tonics.
The traditional Arrow Dinner was a great success with 26 schools present; a great opportunity for reminiscences about almost quarter of a century of sailing at Bradfield and the positive impact it had on all of the OB crew.
Sunday dawned with 10-15 knots of wind forecast to increase. With this in mind the Race Officer decided to run just one further race for the whole fleet rather than have a Match Racing Series for the top four boats based on the Saturday results. The OB team were disappointed as the Arrow Trophy is one of the few opportunities we have to indulge in the dark art of match racing, where two boats race one on one, the same format as the America’s Cup, albeit in much slower boats on an infinitely smaller budget and without the fans! Nevertheless, it was the right decision and the fleet set off for a final race around various fixed racing marks rather than on the simpler windward-leeward course used on Saturday, which involve just two turning marks. The racing was certainly close with a crowded start line
We were in the lead at the first mark but ended up in third having experienced some close racing, including having to avoid a boat as we rounded one mark despite in our view having right of way; at least we avoided any collisions. The race was eventually finished after we had completed about two thirds of the planned course because the wind was increasing and the Race Officer wanted everyone safely home. A quick review of the finishing positions and we knew our third place was enough to secure the series overall from Uppingham and Tonbridge, so it was a happy team breaking out the pork pies and heading for home, planning our visit to London to collect the Arrow Trophy for the fifth time since we had first raced in 2002 at the prizegiving.
As always, the team must thank the Bradfield Society for continued financial support and also the members of staff who over the years dedicated so much time to running the sailing teams and introducing so many of us to the world of competitive sailing. Sadly, in recent years we have lost two of those, David Moss-Gibbons and Morgan Laimbeer, and the OB Arrow Team would like to dedicate this year’s win to them.