The Jubilee weekend provided the best available tides for the championships, unfortunately the wind and weather gods disagreed. Friday provided the best conditions overhead, but the freshening NE breeze made sea conditions increasingly difficult on the day, with wind over tide making challenging conditions for the 18 boats who decided to sail.

The two race schedule gradually took it’s toll on the fleet, with only 8 Sharpies completing the second race. Capsizes, gear failure, and shoreline recoveries kept our volunteer RIB crews fully occupied. The committee boat crew deserve a creditable mention, enduring over two hours of uncomfortable rock and roll beam sea conditions, due to the wind over tide.

The racing results took on what would prove to be a familiar pattern, with brothers Chris & Tim Gibbs in GBR 12 (77) Rock-a-bye dominating both races, and NED 145, the beautifully rebuilt Wodan, Dennis van Vliet & Ben Kloos a constant threat with two seconds. The Spink sisters, Claudia & Kiki posted a creditable 3rd in the first race, however a broken tiller extension put paid to starting the second race of the day. The final podium place was claimed by fellow Brancaster Staithe SC members, James Nunn & Henry Burkitt sailing their “new” Sharpie Rakker  GBR 136 (123).

With Saturdays predicted stronger NE breeze, PRO Andy Turner OSSC had no hesitation in setting a harbour course. A swinging NE 4-5 made finding a true beat challenging within the harbour confines. Rock-a-bye was apparently missing, as reports filtered through of a broken boom, with hope of making the second race of the day. A Grand Prix speed pit stop surprised everyone, when they arrived complete with new boom for the first start moments before the start sequence began.

Most boats settled for a nervous Starboard approach, whilst the Gibbs’ dropped in from above the line to dominate the Port end on both races. This proved decisive once clearing the outer harbour entrance with a bit of a pinch, to control the left hand side of the beat and round first. Despite some fast reaching from their Dutch rivals in NED 145, they maintained the inside berth at the wing mark and extended to a comfortable win on both races of the day with NED145 second in both. An intriguing battle was developing for third overall, with Will Gibbs & Charlie Orton in GBR 125 Windspiel claiming third in race 3, and James Nunn & Henry Birkett third in race 4.  Most competitors and race team enjoyed the benefit of early starts, with a noon AGM followed by a siesta! The usual Wells SC hospitality meant a full house for the evening Championship Supper.

On Sunday morning, the organisers of the Sharpie championship, and the Queen’s Jubilee Party, woke to torrential rain and a near gale. Both events went ahead in true British fashion, with neither willing to let the conditions spoil such well-planned events. With lessons learned from the previous days racing, and a lower predicted tide, the racing started nearer to Wells Quay, with the windward mark positioned alongside the main channel opposite the RNLI boathouse. Gibbs repeated his Port end start, or perhaps Rock-a-bye started there by instinct, as was the preference of her watching owner! The racing followed the familiar pattern of 1st & 2nd, with NED15 Piet Kraan & Ton van Berkel enjoying the calmer harbour confines, and scoring their first of two 3rd places for the day. On finishing, the Gibbs retired due to further boom failure with the series won, leaving the field open for a new race winner. NED 145 duly delivered, albeit having to overtake Gibbs junior in GBR125 on the fastest reach to the wing mark. NED15 claiming third proved to be crucial in the final standings, with GBR123 pushed down to fourth.

The overall results show a perfect row of bullets for the Gibbs brothers, and Dennis & Ben finally claiming a race win alongside their row of seconds in NED 145. The final race result was enough for Will Gibbs & Charlie Orton to claim third overall, from GBR 123 on countback!

The attendance of the two Dutch Sharpies was greatly appreciated by the British fleet; competitive, friendly, personal and National battles will be resumed at the Covid-postponed European Sharpie Championships, to be held this year at the Clube Naval de Sesimbra, Portugal at the end of July.

2022 marked an incredible 70 years for Her Majesty the Queen; 1931 saw the design and creation of the 12 Sq M Sharpie, an International class and Olympic class in Melbourne in 1956. The incredible history of the class was shown when Roger Smith from Creeksea SC arrived to admire the boats. His father Terry Smith who passed away last year, crewed Jasper Blackall to a Bronze Olympic medal. He moved along the coast to find Chuckles, the Sharpie they sailed, beautifully restored by Mike Farrell, in the BSSC dinghy park.

The class is in their 91st year with enduring competition, and Sharpie International family friendships covering several generations. I hope I am able to record and attend Sharpie events in 2031, a special class that has defied the trend for identikit plastic boats, with some nearing their third generation of family ownership.

Long may she reign, and all who sail in her!

James Case

British 12 Sq Metre Sharpie Championships, Wells SC   3- 5th June 2022