Saturday, 29 August 2009

Pirates on the Hamble

Bursledon Regatta on the lovely River Hamble had a pirate theme this year, though Chris Waite, Brian Pearson and I didn't dress up - we just went to row in the Bursledon Gig races.
Bursledon Gigs were moulded from Falmouth workboats, and a dozen or two operate on the river. Until now, they have been used individually by Sea Scouts, various marinas and families, and have come together only for ad hoc races such as the regatta and the Hamble River Raid.
This may change with the formation of the Hamble River Rowing Club, which will arrange more events and also aims to keep a gig in the water at all times on a convenient pontoon, with the oars stored close by. Understandably, they are hoping the Jolly Sailor might be able to host the boat, which would then be available for members to use every day instead of by prior arrangement with the individual owners as at present.
Chris, Brian and I rowed in the Boatyard Sheave Race from the Mercury boatyard to the Jolly Sailor, and the big news is (a) no-one died, and (b) we did not come last. Further details are unnecessary, I feel.
We also tried to enter the Press Gang Race, six handed, but what with one thing and another failed to get out in time. Had we got to the start I am personally convinced we would have won by a country mile.
The men's single-handed race was hotly contested by two Iain Oughtred designed Acorn skiffs, pictured pulling big wakes.
For me, the eye-opener boat was the Peanut Dinghy, made by the Elephant Boatyard where the regatta itself is staged.
Just five foot long, the Peanut was designed by none other than Cockleshell hero and OSTAR founder 'Blondie' Haslar to encourage children to take up rowing. It is just 5ft long, extremely stable and has enough buoyancy to float when full of water. And kids love it - several were rowing round the river at speed, with great skill and obviously enjoying themselves enormously. The picture shows the race for children under 8, with two Peanuts heading an inflatable. I have to tell you, those infants were rowing to win. Congratulations to all of them.
The procession of dinghies, dories and assorted inflatables dressed up as pirate ships displayed all the inventiveness that enabled Britain to build an empire, and the sense of humour that kept us going while we lost it. The winner was the wonderful Black Pig, shown here repelling an attack by a Peanut. I was taken by a group that had updated the pirate theme by fitting an inflatable with a super soaker that looked just like a machine gun, and a pump feeding water to a hose. They took to the water as Somali pirates, and ruled the pond with their overwhelming firepower.
The regatta ended with a duel between Race Marshal Glyn Foulkes and his son. Click to play:

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