OGA Crouch Rally, 1985

'Noorderzon' taking part in the Crouch Rally, 1985
‘Noorderzon’ taking part in the Crouch Rally, 1985

At the OGA Annual Dinner in March 2015, East Coast members introduced the 30th anniversary of the Crouch Rally by reading this report.

The afternoon of Saturday, 25th May [1985] was bright but breezy as I left North Fambridge on the leigh cockIer Alice & Florrie bound down river to Cliff Reach for the start of the first Crouch Rally. Dick Morris had preceded using his motor launch, loaded to the gunwales with firewood and with the large new barbecue, loaned by Mick Wilkins, resting on top. That other essential, the beer, was with us on board Alice & Florrie.

On arrival at Cliff Reach I was disappointed to see only 4 gaffers anchored there. They were Skua & Chittabob from Maldon and Francesca & Marshmallow from Paglesham. But looking down towards Burnham I could see Tarka on her way with her new owners, followed by two big but very different boats in the steel cutter Noorderzen and the spritsail rigged barge yacht Tiny Mite. The Cawley Blackbird joined us from Creaksea and Teal arrived from North Fambridge. Golden Plover sailed round from Heybrldge (via a trip up the Roach) and a newcomer to the scene was Portbridge from Bradwell. From Wakering we had Playmate, followed later by Fashion, a recently restored smack. So fourteen gaffers eventually lay at anchor in Cliff Reach that evening and about fifty people enjoyed the barbecue on shore.

Unfortunately two accidents temporarily marred the event when Ray Walker’s wife slipped on the beach and broke her wrist, and Bob Cooke of Scalloway arrived by road with a broken finger acquired off Bradwell on Saturday morning when a sheet caught him in a strong gust of wind. But gaffers don’t go down without a fight and Lee Walker was back on board Noorderzon to join the race on Sunday morning and Bob and Lena sailed round from Maldon to join us at Fambridge on Sunday evening. Another ‘missing person’ was Don Hunt, but I found Greenshanks on a Burnham mooring buoy on Sunday morning, having left Tollesbury on Friday, broken his rudder, gone back to do a temporary repair and then sailed across to join us, even though he could not race.

Sunday morning was dull and hazy with a forecast of S.E.4 possibly gusting 6-7 as Galloway Princess arrived to pick me up. We had decided to start the race at 0900 hours, the course Burnham, South Buxey, finish at Fambridge. Blackbird did not race but Aussie 2, a Cornish shrimper, had joined us, so we still had fourteen boats in the race. At 0900 hours the wind was E. to S.E. variable and light as the first group crossed the start line just below Burnham. First away was Fashion, followed closely by Allce & Florrie, then Teal, Tiny Mite and Port bridge. Ten minutes later the next group, consisting of Francesca, Marshmallow, Tarka and Aussie 2 were all away close together and on time. Group 3 should have been Greenshanks and Scalloway but for reasons already stated they were unable to race. Playmate made a very precise start in group 4, followed by Golden Plover, Noorderzen and Skua, last to start, for obvious reasons to all who knew her, was Chittabob, the ECOD recently re-converted to her original rig by her owner Arthur Keeble.

By the time the first boats were approaching Branklet Spit, Teal had taken the lead from Fashion. At Holliwell Buoy Marshmallow was in second place followed by Aussle 2. The last boats were just past the Roach entrance, but with only about half an hour to go to low water and the wind virtually non-existent, I decided to shorten the course. By this time Teal was about a mile past the Crouch Buoy, but as this was my husband, I had no qualms about telling him to come back, and turned the rest of the fleet on the Crouch Buoy. Teal and Marshmallow were in fact the only two boats to round the buoy before the tide turned, but they were followed fifteen minutes later by Chittabob, who soon caught up and passed them on the return leg. Golden Plover was now in fourth place with Playmate close behind, followed by Aussie 2 and Tarka, then Fashion, Francesca, Skua, Allce & Florrie and Noorderzon. Tiny Mite and Portbridge had retired.

At about 1300 hours a nice breeze got up from the S.E. and I decided to make for Fambridge and the finish line to be in position when the first boats arrived. It was just as well I refused the offer of a trip ashore with the owner and crew of Galloway Princess because no sooner had they disappeared over the sea-wall than I saw Chittabob approaching. Having taken the lead near the Roach Entrance, Arthur had dropped his huge foresail and was now sporting a minute blue one and crossed the finish line at 13.42, just 13 minutes ahead of Marshmallow, who was just 2 minutes in front of Teal. There was another gap of 13 minutes before Golden Plover finished and some 15 minutes later a mass of white sail heralded the arrival of Playmate and Skua, a lovely sight with all sails set, and then came Fashion, Noorderzon, Francesca and Tarka, followed shortly afterwards by Aussie 2. The time was now 15.35 and the sky was darkening ominously. About half an hour later we were hit by the most sudden and violent line squall seen in these parts for a long time. Luckily all our boats were safely stowed and anchored, with the exception of Alice & Florrie who we contacted by radio and found to be O.K. She arrived at 17.00 hours with all sails set, to complete our number.

By 19.00 hours everyone was making their way the short distance to the Ferry Boat Inn where Mr. Norris Silk, a director of Ind Coope & AlIsopp, was to present the prizes. Arthur Keeble of Chittabob received the Ind Coope & AlIsopp Old Gaffers Trophy, Ivar Jones of Marshmallow the Skua Trophy donated by Mick & Jo Wilkins, and the crew received the Teal tankard on behalf of Teal’s skipper. All entrants received a commemorative plaque made and given by Mick & Jo Wilkins and John Huggett, and some lager donated by Ind Coope & Allsopp.

This was a first-time event and I should like to thank everyone who helped to make it a success:-
Ind Coope & Allsopp for their sponsorship;
Mick & Jo for the barbecue, the trophy, the plaques and all their general help;
Dave Woodford and his crew and the boat Galloway Princess;
Dick Morris and Don Garman for all their running around, launch service, supply of firewood, etc.;
Bill & Vi and their staff at the Ferry Boat for all the good food and drink which helped to make Sunday evening so enjoyable;
Ken Gargett for the use of his moorings (free of charge) at North Fambridge Yacht Station;
Mrs. Sanders, commodore of N.F.Y.C. for the offer of the use of the clubhouse and for flying our pennant there;
my husband for all his support and for putting up with me organising things!
And last but not least, thanks to everyone who came to the rally, without you there would not have been a Crouch rally. Please come again next year and bring a few more gaffers with you.

Report by Brenda Jago, first published in the OGA Newsletter 1985/2