in the chocolates
Behind the icy cold splash of river water is Robert Bellfield, sailing an OK Dinghy into second place at the recent Easter Egg Trophy at Waldringfield Sailing Club, on the UK’s east coast River Deben.
Real chocolates always provide an added incentive to hike that bit harder, sail faster and generally perform better, and this was no truer than at this year’s Easter Egg weekend. In fact, this year was rather special as this very traditional east coast regatta was celebrating its 60th anniversary, and in some very traditional Easter weather – low temperatures, intermittent rain and tricky winds.
The first ever Easter Egg was a single race held on Easter Monday in 1952 and sailed in Fireflies and National 12 footers. It was won by Waldringfield sailor Bob Garnham in the aptly name National 12, ‘Fun’. Enterprises joined in the fun in 1962 followed by OK Dinghies in 1966, the only class of the original four that are still sailed at the club. In 1968 the OKs were the largest class, with 48 starters, out of a total fleet of 132 entries. This year the event attracted 88 entries across eight classes: Larks, Wayfarers, Lasers, OK Dinghies, Fireflies, Mirrors, Cadets and Squibs.
The fleet winners get wooden Easter eggs on shields as perpetual trophies, but all the prizewinners, and all the juniors, get the real deal to take home to replace the calories lost over the weekend. In the early days visitors were also enticed by the offer of a free barrel of local beer, but this is one tradition that seems to have gone by the wayside over the years.
Waldringfield Sailing Club was established in 1925 and is very much a family orientated club and also one of the leading dinghy sailing clubs in the area. It is located on the very picturesque and non-commercial River Deben, famous for its muddy shallows and complex tides. It has produced a host of national champions and a few world champions over the years. Learning the local knowledge is as much a part of winning here as learning to sail, and the knowledge gained has perhaps played no small part when travelling further afield.
The biggest fleet this year was the Larks, with several former National champions among the 26 boats. After a close series the title went to the reigning National champion Alan Krailing from Waldringfield, along with crew Ed McArdle, though they only actually won one race out of six in this very competitive class. Other former National champions in various classes won in other fleets, with Gordon Harris and Joe Hunt dominating the Wayfarers while Robert Deaves took five race wins in the OK Dinghy fleet. One of the original classes, the Firefly, is still sailed and was narrowly won by Steven Greaves and Anne Spalding, despite missing the final race.
The newest addition to the regatta this year was the small Mirror dinghy that has become popular at the club for parents sailing with children, and was won this year by Chris and Ciara Woodward. The junior Cadet, part of the programme since 1995, was won by Faye Gosling and Connor Line, while Ben Stone impressively won all six races in the 22 strong Laser fleet. The only keelboats allowed to race are the distinctively brown Squibs, won yet again by David White and Peter Ballam.
In the early days the Easter Egg weekend was the traditional start of the season, but that was in the days before modern clothing and wetsuits allowed us to sail all year round. In 1952 Waldringfield was seen as a safe bet for visitors to guarantee sailing early in the year, and it would go ahead in virtually all conditions. One of the competitors at that very first event, Firefly sailor Richard Hopkins, presented the chocolates this year to all the winners and remembered six decades of sailing fun. – Robert Deaves.