November 5, 2019, at 9:27am
By Emily ‘Lara’ Johnston (J 03)
After the success of 2018 with the Uppingham School OU Sailing Team taking the Charterhouse Bowl, there was much to live up to for the crew entering this year’s Arrow Trophy. 22 Schools assembled at the start of what was forecast to be one of the bleakest October weekends on record. Despite the ominous weather as OU’s assembled in Port Solent, spirits and anticipation were high. This was going to be a great weekend.
Chief organiser, David Gavins (LH73) had pulled together an excellent mix of Old Uppinghamians, each bringing a whole range of skills and experience to the F40 yacht, this year race numbered 4020.
On Friday night, the team all enjoyed a curry and a beer at Spice Central on Cowes, reminiscing about Uppingham myths and legends, and swapping stories from the differing years spanning from 1970 to 2009.
Our fearless captain John Tildesley (WB 72) had navigated us through gale winds and crashing waves on the crossing over to the Isle of Wight the afternoon prior, but in contrast we awoke early on Saturday morning to be greeted by mirror-still waters and barely a breath of wind.
Never-the-less the breeze eventually grew and the first race got underway. The newbies learned quickly from the old-hands. Alexander Fahie (F 02) & George Gavins (LH 04) became masters of the main, with calm Lawyer, Nikki Mallett (Fd 75) perfectly coordinating and trimming the jib. Having flown all the way from Edinburgh, David Wells (H 80), proved to be invaluable with installing and raising the Spinnaker alongside Mimi Poskitt (L 97) who was a retrieval queen and meticulous at re-packing the spinnaker ready for the next race.
Preparations for Race 2 got underway with Simon Ward (F 75), Nick Walker (WB 70) and Charlotte Morton-Haworth (L 99) running the cockpit with Lara Johnston (J 03) craning over the front of the bow shouting distances to the start line back to the helm & crew.
We crept perilously close to the line and when the horn blew and we crossed, the radio sounded that there had been a false start. We looked around at each other, wondering if we had chanced our luck a fraction too much... as it happens those jokers at Radley had crossed early and we all sighed with relief and continued racing towards the first mark. We were getting the hang of this now.
The fleet’s confidence and competitive spirit built as the races continued. By the third race, there was an atmosphere of no-guts-no-glory on the water that hadn’t showed itself before. This was it, the teams meant business. We came up on the start line with boats flying across Port and Starboard like never before. The inevitable panicked shouting that comes before a yacht pile up could be heard up and down the start line from all the schools. Despite calling “Starboard” and forcing St. Swithun’s and Stowe to tack off their preferred course, we ultimately found ourselves on the receiving end and had to do the same. Our wise skipper, John, decided to go south and bring us back up through the line instead. As fate would have it, it set us up for a cracking start, albeit slightly inadvertent, and we made excellent progress round the course.
It had poured with rain the entire day but this didn’t dampen spirits. On Saturday night, all the schools came together for a wonderful evening of celebration. The Uppingham team stood proud on the stage to receive the Charterhouse Cup. The next morning we set off to go again but as fate would have it, it was deemed too windy to race after a couple of hours sailing and listening to committee boat updates. Credit to the superb organisation of the Arrow Trophy.
Instead we sailed back across the Solent with the fleet and moored up in the same Marina we had left just a couple of days earlier. As we all stripped off our wet kit, and unloaded the boat, we said our goodbyes. What a fantastic weekend it had been despite the weather and up and down racing - I haven’t laughed that hard in ages – what a great bunch of OUs.