16th Annual International Wayfarer Rally
Royal Victoria Y.C. at Fishbourne, Isle of Wight * July 24-31, 2010
Report by
James and Claire Ensor


The Isle of Wight International Rally

Claire and I had joined the rally to learn how to sail a Wayfarer. We had only just acquired Bucks Fizz, a wood racing boat, previously owned by Roy Burnham from Upper Thames SC. We could not have had a better introduction. For as well as the sailing skills of the ladies' international champion, Monica, we had Ralph’s inexhaustible knowledge of cruising in all weathers, and help from everyone.  The camaraderie and support was far more effusive than we have experienced on big boat rallies in the past. Certainly Wayfarer sailors spend a lot more of their time sailing than most keel boat crews.
There were only seven boats at the rally, but everyone agreed that the seven boats and a score of sailors were of exceptional quality. Perhaps attendance was reduced by the £100 cost of taking a trailer and car across the narrow stretch of Solent. Four of the Wayfarer sailors owned larger boats, but had brought their Wayfarers for more exciting sailing in company. About half the boats arrived from the World’s so inevitably each day’s cruise became a test of speed in conditions which varied from flat calm to moderately rough throughout the week.
The event was hosted at Royal Victoria YC, at Fishbourne, which has a small jetty leading from the clubhouse but this dried to mud except at the very end.  Our newly purchased long fenders were soon employed on dragging each boat as it arrived up onto the private beach, where on the second day an introductory barbecue was held. Tony, from South Africa (without Wayfarer) supplied generous quantities of wine and beer and this washed down the substantial fare. We met the owners of two bungalows overlooking the beach that had kindly invited us to use their facilities and swimming pool. Hans and Lous from Sneek, conducted us in several versions of the Wayfarer song.  The English version was sung lustily and the French surprisingly well; the Dutch was reduced to two voices and thankfully we were spared the Danish which might have been mute!

John had organised a series of courses starting with a gentle sail to Ryde on the first day, which served to test out his radio network and the boats. The first sail was into the mouth of Cowes before Cowes Week. Ralph volunteered to sail with us (above). Already, some of the most interesting racing yachts were out practising. On the way back, we anchored in Osborne Bay and had picnics on the boats. It was here that we discovered the inadequacy of our grapnel anchor without chain. We decided to hang off a lobster pot instead. On the way back, other Wayfarers had put up their spinnakers, and Ralph helped with our spinnaker, as we tried to keep up with Anne and Dennis on Emma.
The next day’s trip was to Hill Head on the Hampshire shore, with a gentle fetch in light airs which was made much more exciting since we arrived as the club was starting four children’s races.  The starting line was across the narrow harbour entrance, so we had some interesting weaving in and out of the Optis and Lasers before tying up on a wall, which was something we hadn’t done before but was well organised by John gesticulating wildly from the wharf, and Tim welcoming us and taking a line.
Leaving as the last boat, we dodged young swimmers at the entrance. One of them enquired, “Is that a Wayfarer?” to which we responded positively. The enthusiastic reply was “Cool!” The boat obviously holds its reputation amongst the young, despite the introduction of many faster and hairier classes.
The following day we went to Portsmouth with much more wind, and the awkward requirement to enter along the small ships channel on the west side.  That was the plan. For a Wayfarer this proved impossible for just as we became blanketed by the tall buildings on the west, a fierce swirling tide swung us across to the right bank and towards a wall. Eventually all Wayfarers entered without mishap, but there were some close encounters amongst the fleet, and with keel boats motoring in who showed little concern for our plight.
Our initial mooring point on Gunwharf Quay was untenable due to the swell, and the sharp undersides of the girders on the pontoon, so we were towed across by the marina RIB onto a floating ramp designed for a RIB. We then dispersed amongst the crowds of sightseers in the restaurants and cafes along the quay, some of whom were surprised to see such small dinghies enter into the harbour.  Normally Gunwharf Quay hosts ‘round the world’ yachts. It was evidently the first time that a fleet of Wayfarers had put in. Getting out again was equally hazardous and we gladly accepted a tow from the marina RIB with John and Jenny to some mooring buoys, where the fleet assembled. Once again the wind blanket and current took control at the harbour entrance and we found ourselves in a fierce chop heading towards the eastern fort where we were not allowed. 
The wind had risen over lunch and we were met by fierce gusts up to about 25 knots. We were carrying full racing sail and opted for prudence heading straight across to Seaview, where we found calmer waters. We had bought a Wayfarer to ship out to the Cape Verde Islands where we have a holiday home. Winds and swell like this would be the norm. So we had bought brand new storm jib and a cut away storm mainsail. Unfortunately despite John and Jenny’s helpful weather forecast we had not fitted these and there were no reefing points in the racing sails. Although the Solent is our home ground, we had failed to heed the forecast. It was an exciting trip tacking back to Wootton. We touched bottom once, and it was interesting to take a boat into the shallows along the Isle of Wight which we would never penetrate in our keel boat, even in a race. The next day, Ralph lent us his reefing genoa, and we hoisted our new cut-away main, to head for Bembridge, perhaps the longest sail so far.
Surprisingly, the boat was barely slowed by the small main (which was now too small!), and it made it slightly easier on the long series of rapid tacks to sail up the Bembridge River, dodging in between moored vessels. The Brading Haven Yacht Club is at the top of the river and they helpfully provided a RIB to guide us in. We all had a pleasant lunch in the club, and on returning to the boat, discovered that the main halyard had disappeared up the mast. There were as many suggestions as to how to rectify this as there were sailors in the fleet and the club. As time was short and tides were turning against us, we opted for Jenny’s idea of using the spinnaker halyard with two reefs in the main. Monica clambered on board and assisted with the ropes, some of which we were still finding confusing. With our new severely reduced sail, the other boats disappeared over the horizon, and we limped back at a surprisingly good pace. This is encouraging for our Cape Verde sailing where we are never likely to be short of wind.
Arriving back at Wootton Creek, we beached the boat and took out the mast. Heroic efforts were made by David with a basin chain, but this got stuck and was the cause of great mirth. Eventually Ralph’s method of hauling the spinnaker halyard down the mast seemed to work, and the basin chain came out, much to David’s relief. We now have a considerably longer halyard with plastic balls at both ends.
Eventually most Wayfarers abandoned the beach and tied up to the pontoon, drying out at low tide. One or two seemed to forget to retract the centreboards but no damage was done and it was very convenient to walk up the pontoon to the tents and motor caravan which were encamped in the yacht club lawn.
The end of event dinner at the RVYC was held a couple of days early as some Wayfarers had to make early getaways. Several club members attended as well as the beach owner, Blue who had been so helpful during the week. The club had been established in 1845 by Prince Albert so that he and Queen Victoria could sail directly from Osborne and it has had an illustrious history ever since. It proved to be an admirable venue for the rally, and we were really made to feel at home by the club members and officers and by Gail, the caterers and John who seemed to be in charge of everything.
The final day was a fetch across the Solent to Calshot Activity Centre. This is where the Schneider Trophy Races were held in the Solent. There were still some interesting memorabilia of that era.  It had once been the original home of our own sailing club, the RAFYC but it is in the hands of the Southampton Council and has become politically correct. It had been considered as a possible venue for the Wayfarer Rally but the members of the local Soviet declared that as they were hosting children’s events it would be too dangerous to have Wayfarer sailors on the premises. As it turned out, we did not even have time to try out the climbing walls and other sports equipment now installed in the former flying boat hangars.  
Our thanks to everyone who helped us learn how to sail our Wayfarer and especially to Ralph John and Jenny for superb organisation. We had a thoroughly enjoyable week, and were exhausted after all the sailing, went to places we would not have dared to go to on our own, and were helped out sympathetically whenever we made a faux pas. It turned out to be the best week’s sailing we had all summer. Sadly, Bucks Fizz, repainted brilliant orange, and renamed Portokali, is on her way to Sal, Cape Verde Islands, and we are wondering how we can find another Wayfarer for the Sneek event 2011! 
James and Claire Ensor