We were on our way to Filey on one of those gin clear Sunday mornings, in the company of seven or eight other Hustler 30’s in our class, together with perhaps 20 Class A and B cruisers and half a dozen raters. It was around half past eight on that glorious day in 1970 when, off Sewerby, I looked across to see a diminutive little boat, seemingly about 12 feet long, batting along happily with the rest of us in our big cruising/racing yachts (I use the term loosely). I thought to myself, quite erroneously as it turned out, that she wouldn’t be with us for long; however that little boat, with her distinctive tan sails, was not very far behind us when we arrived back in Bridlington in the afternoon. That was my first encounter with a Squib, and the start of an association with a class which has endured 45 years.
Sail number 67 was the first National Squib to arrive in Bridlington, brought to the club by the late John King, a stalwart of the RYYC. As coxswain of the lifeboat, it was appropriate that he should name his boat ‘Flare’. The Squib was designed and built in the late 60’s by Oliver Lee of Burnham on Crouch, and ‘Flare’ was an early incarnation, proving to be a tough little boat, well able to look after herself and her crew. It was a class which grew rapidly, both nationally and in Bridlington, to the extent that in the mid-70’s the Bridlington fleet numbered in excess of 20 boats.
Around this time I bought and fitted out a Danish built LM27 motorsailor, and whereas ‘Solution’ didn’t do either job particularly well, she was an excellent Committee Boat, so I undertook to organise races with windward starts for the Squibs and YODs (and later the J24 Class). In 1999 the members of the Squib class asked if I would take on the role as Race Officer for the first East Coast Squib Championship to be held in Bridlington. In those days, Olympic type courses were favoured, finishing (unlike the fashion today) at the windward end of the last leg. For that event RYYC Member Ronnie Mountifield very generously offered the use of his sport fishing boat ‘South-wold’ as the committee boat. She is better known today as ‘Force Four’.
Powered by two Mermaid diesel engines, ’Southwold’was a powerful boat and much faster than ‘Solution’, which was a big advantage because we didn’t always have back-up from a rib, so had to lay all the marks, including the wing mark, from the committee boat. Sitting in the wheelhouse after the start of that first championship race in which I had set 3 rounds, I was puzzled to see that having sailed one triangle, one sausage, a second triangle, followed by another windward leg, boats were now circling around at the top end of the course, clearly no longer racing. Basking in our success after a clean start, and having set a good course, we unfortunately were enjoying a coffee at the bottom end of the course. To my dismay it was clear that boats had finished. Arriving at the windward mark, it was pointed out (with great tact under the circumstances), that an Olympic Course comprising one triangular course and one windward/leeward course is defined as TWO rounds. Boats therefore had sailed the last windward leg to finish, having completed two triangles and one sausage. That incident has remained with me ever since, indeed many members going on to enjoy a bit of mischief at subsequent briefings by asking for the definition of ‘A Round’. Good for them!
As a consequence of that incident, I thought I had better find out how to run a yacht race a bit better, so embarked on a series of race management courses with the RYA. This resulted in running open events as diverse as J24’s in Wales, Dragons on the Solent and dinghies on reservoirs, in ad-dition to Regatta Week at Bridlington for several years. I am grateful to the Squib Class for sticking with me as RO to run their East Coast Championships when the RYYC has been selected as the host club.
Whereas we have witnessed a decline in Squib numbers in Bridlington, nationally the class is thriv-ing, so I was very pleased to learn that the RYYC had once again been selected to stage the East Coast Championships, and even more pleased when invited to act as Race Officer. On this oc-casion however I sensed that the 2015 event might be different. Competitors’ expectations are much higher today compared with 20 years ago, as are the stakes.
Judging by the names on the entry list it was clear that the Squibs weren’t making the long haul from as far afield as the Isle of Wight and Wales to Bridlington for the fun of it. Names such as Chris Hogan (136 Ricoshea) 8 times National Champion, Bryan Riley (73 Brimstone), Dave Best (797 Crossfire) and Nigel Harris (65 Banshee) who have won the National Championship many times between them, gave a clear indication that the class meant business. Malcolm Hutchings (819 Lady Penelope) who won both the Black and White Groups in Cowes Week 2013 making him overall winner, (who went on to win the White Group again in 2014), Steve Warren-Smith (13 Aquabat – Chairman of the Squib Association) and Dick Batt (11 Squib/Batt Sails), were among the 22 entrants who put their names down to come to Bridlington.
Particularly worthy of mention are Gerard Dyson, who has finished in the top 4 on at least 10 occasions, having competed in 36 Nationals, and Tony Saltonstall who has competed in 37, in-cluding winning the event twice, sailing with John Good. It is due to Gerard and Salty that the best sailors in the National Squib Class were attracted to Bridlington. The event was won by Nigel Grogan (Hyde Sails) crewed by his son Jack in 105 ‘Helmut Shoing 2’, who later recorded in Yachts & Yachting that ‘with visitors from the Isle of Wight and Wales travelling ‘up north’, it felt more like a National Championship than the East Coasts. That shows how well run and organised the event was. It would be impossible to fault the race team and members of RYYC staff who probably are the best in the country’. So they had a good time then.
The club is indebted to Ian Porter and young Sam Turner for the outstanding work they carried out in the rib, and to Dave Stamford, Jim Butcher and my redoubtable cousin Tom Davies who travelled up from Weybridge to be part of the team on board ‘Force Four’. Every one played an invaluable part, displaying an ability to stay cool when it mattered, especially after the general recall at the start of the first race when our heart rate was marginally higher than normal. The 2015 East Coast Championship was indeed a great success, a great team effort and a great en-hancement to the reputation of our club.