Windsor Cup - 2007

The Windsor Cup is a charity event run by the English medical community to raise funds for children's hospitals. It is a one day event held in Cowes UK concluding with a dinner at the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron.

As part of our "give back" campaign the escaped Aussies were keen to participate as we have a number of UK based Doctors as part of the EA fraternity. In fact a mandatory rule of the regatta is that a Doctor must steer the boat. Our helm for this day was Simon "screwy" Thomas who was determined to fly a spinnaker on the downwind runs at all times regardless of the conditions. A decision he made the night before - " we dont pay all this money to charter the boat and not fly a spinnaker ! " he said. This unwavering attitude was to have serious consequences later on, making for a more interesting day than most had bargained for.

The two races that day were held to our surprise, for a supposed laid back amateur event where most crews pack the picnic basket not the foulies, went ahead in cold wet and the windiest of conditions. In the first race we had nothing less than 28 knots and in the second it gusted to 38's. In the first race we flew the spinnaker on our J109 and managed to hold it on the edge for a thrilling run which saw us overtake 4-5 boats and eventually finish 3rd across the line. The second race though was full of drama.

After the 1st windward mark we hoisted the kite in 30 plus knots and the 109 took off passing much of the fleet who sensibly refrained from flying the kite. Shortly after the hoist and sailing on the fine line between pacy exhilaration and a massive wipeout we realized to our left and in our course was a huge 200 m long tanker. Going forward we were on a collision course , gybing left was to put our bow at the tankers midships. A kite drop to slow down would have put the crew in danger. With gritted teeth and white faces we held on and hoped. To my surpsise , and i have never seen this before , the huge vessel changed course to avoid us. Looking up ( a long way up) almost as if our chins were pressed against the orange vertical hull we could see the whites of the eyes of the crew on the bridge looking panicky and talking nervously on their radios.

As the tanker eventually responded , speeding up and turning right we had to contend with the stern of the monster that would sink us and take 8 lives in seconds as it swung towards us. Not worrying about collapsing the kite as we turned left and slightly by the lee without gybing we just managed to dodge that ominous backside. As the turbulence at the back of the tanker hit our boat and part of the kite refilled we lurched and then stood numb as we watched the kite tear at the head and float in slow motion down to the bow and along the side of the boat. We came to a halt trawling the makeshift fishing net and embarrassingly seemed to take forever fishing it out while the rest of the fleet watched with the "I told you so" look on their faces as they brisked tortoise and hare fashion by us. We continued on , spinnaker less , flying just the small spinnaker head triangle at the top of the mast which could only be retrieved by climbing the mast back at the dock. This was our reminder and trophy for all to see as we motored sheepishly back to our pen.

During the presentation at the beautiful club and after a wonderful meal we got the rightly deserved "spinnaker award" for having the biggest balls flying a spinnaker in that wind and narrowly avoiding the monolith. In the end it was a memorable and enjoyable day had by all and a wonderful "give back" event. And to our helmsman ? - "Screwy by name , screwy by nature !"