Graduate Dinghy Association

After several days of strong winds Sunday 8th September 2019 brought brilliant sunshine and a gentle force 2 to Swarkestone Sailing Club in Derbyshire for the return of the club's Graduate Open after a hiatus of seven years. Also returning to Swarkestone was the "Derwent Challenge Trophy" which has been in the care of David and Sandra Wilson who, in Graduate 2974, won the event in three out of the last four outings.

What David and Sandra knew from previous opens, and many of the rest of us were about to learn for the first time, was that the beauty and calm of Swarkestone is very deceptive and the gentle wind we found on arrival would prove to be what can only be described as at best as skittish, but more honestly as devilish, as it shifted direction and strength on a whim!

And so, it was that eight Graduates gathered to race, crewed by husbands and wives and twins and triplets.

Eight boats took to the line for the first race and local lads Patrick and Jonathan Hill choose the starboard end of the line getting the best start and showing great speed. At the windward mark Adam & Jack Froggatt managed to round first, closely by Patrick and Jonathan with Richard and Jane Thorpe in third and John and Josh Froggatt in fourth. Adam and Jack managed to pull ahead and hold their lead to the finish whilst the rest of the fleet had a great battle chasing the best wind with Richard and Jane winning through to take second, Dave and Sandra taking third and the juniors not far behind.

Graduate open meeting at Swarkstone © Carolyn Hand

After an excellent lunch the fleet regrouped for Race 2 with the majority of the fleet choosing this time to start at the starboard end leaving Hannah Whitham and Henry White near the pin. Hannah's decision paid off in the skittish Swarkestone wind allowing her to take an early lead. On the left-hand side of the course Adam, now sailing with Josh, also managed to find some wind and crossed the fleet to round the windward mark first, closely followed by Richard and Jane and Dave and Sandra.

Then on the second reach Richard and Jane deftly took the lead which, despite some hard chasing from Adam and Josh, they held to the finish. Dave and Sandra again took third place whilst the sparing pairs of Patrick and Jonathan versus Hannah and Henry, and Simon and Moses Forward versus Ami Hopkins raced for the finish with John and Jack Froggatt, until John realised that Jack was no longer in the boat!

Graduate open meeting at Swarkstone - photo © Stephen Wiggly
Graduate open meeting at Swarkstone - photo © Stephen Wiggly

 Going into Race 3 both Richard and Jane and Adam and Jack/Josh had a first and second taking it to a final race decider. However, there was a minor disaster for Adam - both boys having mutinied in favour of the club's swings - but his day was rescued by Carolyn Hand from Swarkestone Sailing Club who kindly agreed to crew the final race. At this stage of the afternoon the wind was dropping, but there was just enough to race.

This time most of the fleet opted for the starboard end with Adam and Cass narrowly winning the start, with Richard and Jane and Dave and Sandra chasing - this was going to be an exciting race. On the run Richard and Jane showed great boat speed, sailing under Adam and Caz to take the lead, which they then held right to the last mark where Adam and Caz managed to tack above them on the beat to the line and take the win by one second with Dave and Sandra in third place, enjoying the best seats in the house as the drama unfolded.

All in all, it was a fantastic day's sailing and it was clear that everyone enjoyed the challenges of Swarkestone's wind and the other Graduates on the water. The welcome we received from the club was exceptional and everyone really appreciated the time and effort that had clearly been invested in the event and the pleasure expressed by members at seeing a Graduate fleet racing for the Challenge Trophy again. It was fantastic to see our younger graduate sailors doing so well with Patrick and Jonathan winning the Juniors and Hannah winning the Ladies prizes.

Finally can we express our sincere thanks to Joanne Hill for time and effort she put into making this event happen and for the lovely soup and cakes devoured by everyone. Thanks also must be extended to the OOD - Tim Hand, Rescue - Patrick Bowles (and son), David Hill and David Moore, plus Commodore.

Graduate open meeting at Swarkstone - photo © Carolyn Hand
Graduate open meeting at Swarkstone - photo © Carolyn Hand