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Training School News

May half-term week saw two five day beginner dinghy sailing courses, with five adults and two youngsters. The week started with benign conditions, giving the trainees a gentle introduction to the sport. Chief Instructor Matt and Dinghy Instructor Findlay gave their groups an introduction to the club and the boats and soon all the participants were on the water in Picos. Tuesday saw another gentle day although there was quite a lot of rain in the afternoon. By the end of Tuesday everyone was able to sail round a figure of eight or triangular course as well as having covered some of the theory topics.

On Wednesday there was more breeze, giving the groups a chance to hone their skills in more challenging conditions while staying close to the shore. Thursday morning was windier still and all the Picos were reefed. Matt decided it was time for a new challenge for his adult group, so they were set the task of rigging a Laser 4.7 (following the laminated instruction sheet). They then took turns having a go in the Laser and all three who tried it declared they preferred it to the Picos.

The morning was spent practicing coming alongside and man-overboard drills, as well as capsize recovery as the wind continued to increase. By 3pm the wind was above 20 knots, with very strong gusts over 30 knots and the coxswain decided to restrict the water to experienced windsurfers only (by flying the blue and white flag). Paul was sailing the Laser 4.7 and managed to get some thrills before returning to shore triumphant after coping with the conditions without capsizing.

By 10am on Friday the wind was above 25 knots, with regular gusts of 35-40 knots blowing straight onto the shore. The instructors reluctantly agreed that there would be no chance of any sailing, and as the groups had completed the syllabus, decided to finish the course at this point. The adult group were setting up a WhatsApp group so they could stay in touch and planning to attend club coaching sessions in the near future, so we are looking forward to seeing them again soon.

The Andrew Lawman Regatta

Andrew Lawman

The regatta was held on Monday 6 May in memory of Andrew Lawman who died a year ago as a result of a tragic farming accident at the age of just 35. It consisted of three back to back handicap races with three starts: Fast Handicap (PY below 1000), Slow Double Handed and Slow Single Handed. The day dawned bright, but with very little wind in evidence across the lake. The optimistic among the assembled competitors were saying that it was due to fill in, the pessimistic that thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon.

The committee boat took up station offshore of the clubhouse, with the wind predominantly, and intermittently, from the north-east. Race officer John Aston got the first race away on time and the Fast Handicap fleet was won by John Reynolds and Fran Howell in a 4000. Nigel and Fiona Denchfield, revelling in the light wind, came first in the Slow Handicap fleet in their Lark. Adele Burbidge, in a Laser, led the Slow Single Hander fleet over the line, ahead of six other Lasers and the Europe of Mandy Horton. Although three Solos had entered the event, they all decided the wind was not to their taste, and stayed onshore.

Mark Aldridge sailing Andrew’s Dart 15 ‘Reservoir Cat’

As the day progressed the wind started to increase slightly. In race 2 the Fast fleet was joined by Mark Aldridge, sailing Andrew’s Dart 15. The fleet was again won by John and Fran, ahead of Peter Curtis in an RS300, with Mark Aldridge pushing Commodore Mark Rushton sailing his A Class Cat into fourth place. This gave John and Fran the fleet prize, although Peter finished first in race 3.

Adele once again led the Single Hander fleet, finishing ahead of Pete Windsor, who with two seconds was second in the final fleet placings. Adele made it a clean sweep with a third first place in race 3, beating Mandy into second place. This was enough to give Mandy third in the fleet overall.

Final prizes awarded in the three fleets were:

Fast: John Reynolds and Fran Howell in a 4000

Slow Double Handers: Nigel and Fiona Denchfield in a Lark

Slow Single Handers: 1st Adele Burbidge (Laser), 2nd Pete Windsor (Laser), 3rd Mandy Horton (Europe)

The full results for the three fleets can be seen here.

Peter Curtis, winner of the Past Masters Trophy

The finishing times for all three fleets were then combined into one set of overall results for the awarding of the Past Masters Trophy, which went to Peter Curtis in his RS300. The first three places were tied on four points each, with John and Fran coming second and Jonathan and Trish Knight third in a Flying Fifteen after the tie was broken.

The full combined results can be seen here.

Quotes of the day – Past Master Peter Curtis: “How come at every mark I came to, Mark Rushton was in the way?”. The Laser fleet: “At one point Adele was hiking flat out while everyone else was sitting on the side”. All competitors: “The wind was very up and down with huge holes”.

Race Officer John Aston said: “Thank you to all competitors and volunteers for turning up to help us remember Andrew, and to all who made donations”. We raised over £400 for Magpas.


Gerry Reeve: 1942 – 2024

With deep sadness we announce the death of long-time club member Gerry Reeve, who passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday 14th February 2024. Gerry had been a member of GWSC for more than forty years and was a popular and enthusiastic member of the Dart 15 fleet. He was always willing to volunteer to help out around the club, and was a prime contributor to the major refurbishment works of club committee boat Grafham Belle a few years ago, as shown in the photo above.

The club extends our condolences to his family and friends.

The funeral will be on Friday 15th March 2024 at 12:30pm, at Cambridge Crematorium, East Chapel, Huntingdon Road, Girton, Cambridge, CB3 0JJ. Family flowers only but donations can be made to the British Heart Foundation.

New Weather Station

The new Weather Station is now online and we hope you will agree it has been worth the wait. All new software and hardware replaces the previous system which was no longer supported and offers a range of new features. The first thing you will notice is that the dials and graphs update in real time so you can see exactly what is going on at Grafham. The ‘Current Conditions’ display also includes sun and moon rise and set times as well as the 3D location of the weather sensor on the roof of the clubhouse. There is also a wealth of historical data that will become available as time moves on. Have a look here.

As this is a brand new system, we are expecting there to be a few bugs that we haven’t managed to find. Please do let us know if you come across anything that doesn’t look right. Please note that the wind chill graph and dial don’t currently display the correct information when it is very windy – we are trying to fix this.

Finally, a huge thank you to Rear Commodore Andy Rhodes, who has done all the research and development of the system.

Gill Grafham Grand Prix Saturday 30 December 2023

The Grafham Grand Prix, sponsored by Gill, was held on Saturday 30 December 2023.  This was the 41st running of the annual event; traditionally held on the weekend after Christmas.  The Grand Prix was the idea of and was initiated by Peter Waghorn MBE, who died last year just short of his 90th birthday.  Peter was a member of Grafham for over forty years and made an immense contribution to the Club, including serving notably as Commodore, and as Open Meeting Coordinator.  The Grand Prix is a part of the Selden Sailjuice Winter Series.

In the week leading up to the event Storm Gerritt was sweeping over the Country and the forecast for the day looked ominous.  However as the weekend drew closer it looked increasingly likely there would be a window of sailable weather on the day.

Overall entry, at 136, was up on last year; numbers being boosted by some late entries on the day.  The entry included some 43 boats from the home club.  As usual racing was split over three fleets: Fast, Medium, and Slow, taking full advantage of Grafham Water’s 1600 acres.  Format was three back-to-back handicap races.

Competitors arrived bright and early for an 1100 start.  The wind on the day started at a benign 10 to 15 knots, and the rain was holding off: ideal sailing conditions.

The Fast Fleet, with 27 entries sailed an upwind downwind course at the West end of the Lake.  The fleet contained a wide range of mutli-hulls and asymmetric monohulls.  Winner of the first race was Will Smith in his Nacra 16, followed by a trio of Musto Skiffs.  Sam Pascoe improved on his first race 2nd place to win both the second and third races, followed in Race 2 by Dan Vincent, also in a Musto Skiff, and in Race 3 by Will Smith.  So overall honours went to Sam Pascoe, discarding a 2nd place, with Will Smith 2nd and Dan Vincent 3rd.

The Medium Fleet, with 55 entries, sailed in the middle of the Lake offering the best views to spectators watching from the top floor of the Clubhouse.   The fleet contained a wide range of single and double handers with a good number of keelboats: 9 Flying Fifteens and a solitary K1.  In the first race, George Smith in an RS600 was a convincing winner, from Stuart Jones in his Contender and then Tom Gillard/Arran Holman in a 470.  The second race was closer, but George Smith was again the winner, with Tom Gillard/Arran Holman and Stuart Jones swapping places to be second and third respectively.  George therefore, with two firsts, had the overall event wrapped up by the end of Race 2.  Race 3 was won by Ben McGrane and James Ross in a Flying Fifteen, benefitting from the increasing wind, with Rob Henderson and Chris Gould second in their RS200 and George Smith third.  So, overall, behind George in first place were Tom Gillard/Arran Holman (2nd) and Stuart Jones (3rd).

In the Slow Fleet there were 54 entries.  There was a strong contingent of ILCAs (7s and 6s) in the fleet with a comprehensive mix of other classes, predominantly single-handers, including 4 Challengers.  Racing was at the East end of the Lake, near the dam, and 48 boats came to the line for race 1.  After an even start, the boats that emerged at the front were the ILCA7s of Alastair Brown and Ben Flower. They were chased hard by Oli Davenport (Solo), Nick Craig (OK) and Luke Fisher (Vareo).  Alastair Brown held on to take the win with Ben Flower close behind.

As the fleet lined up for race 2 a localised squall blew in with swirling gusts of 27-35kts which took out a good portion of the fleet.  Alex Hovden’s Challenger was up on one hull, but he saved it and sailed on. The race started whilst the safety fleet quickly got to grips with the groups of inverted boats. As the leaders reached mark 1, the wind dropped back to 12 kts. Alastair Brown and Ben Flower again appeared at the front, along with the flying Barnum GP14.  Alastair took the win, with Jasper and Fergus Barnum 2nd, and Ben Flower 3rd.  All 4 Challengers did a fantastic job and survived the carnage.

A shift prior to Race 3 required a rapid course reset, and as the sequence began the breeze became more variable in direction. The race started with a touch of starboard bias. Nick Craig held pole position at the committee boat and firmly held out 10 boats before flying off the line. Others went for the other end and made good use of the clear wind.  Luke Fisher, Nick Craig, Ben Flower and Alastair Brown battled throughout the race, and this time Luke Fisher took the honours with Nick Craig 2nd and Ben Flower 3rd.  Overall, the podium read Alastair Brown (ILCA7), Ben Flower (ILCA7), and Luke Fisher (RS Vareo).  The leading Challenger was Graham Hall, and Alex Hovden was awarded the perseverance prize.

Thanks are due to the Race Officers Dave Williams (Fast), Eric Joyce (Medium), and Nigel Denchfield (Slow) for laying on some excellent racing and also to the many others helping, volunteers and staff (over 40 in total), without whom this event would not be possible. The full event results are available here.

Christmas Pursuit Race

Report by Race Officer John Aston

It’s that time of year again:  31 competitors signed up to take part in the traditional pre-Christmas Lunch Pursuit Race on Sunday 17th December.  For once the temperature was mild (no snow on the ground!).  In the comfort of the dinghy park the wind seemed benign; however wise heads knew that in the Open Waters beyond Club buoy the wind would be anything but benign.  The Flying Fifteen contingent made a collective decision that things were better on shore, and the Cat fleet opted to keep their boats in one piece (or is that two pieces?) rather than risk going afloat.

Out on the lake, wind on the Psychological Beaufort Scale was firmly in the “Delight tinged with anxiety” range with occasional gusts into “Anxiety tinged with fear” territory.  Navigating the Course, which took competitors to parts of the West and Centre of the Lake not often visited , was a challenge of itself.  The beat from Pylon to Lymage, at over one mile in length, tested leg and stomach muscles beyond the reasonable. Of the 20 or so who made the start line, more than half retired.  There were just six recorded finishers with Phil Bevan a worthy and convincing winner in an ILCA 6.  Chris and Edward Gould were 2nd in their 2000, and Adele Burbidge took the Junior Prize.

Christmas Pursuit Race photos are now available here.


It’s that time of year again where cars get stuck on the grass.  Please don’t risk it.  

As the Coxswain and Tractor are vital for Club activities, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to recover you if you get stuck – most of the grounds are now too wet even for the tractor.

Catamaran Open Meeting

GWSC hosted the Medium Catamaran Open Meeting and Dart 15 Inland Championships on 14th-15th October 2023.

There were 19 Dart 15s and a total of 20 in the Medium Handicap Fleet, including Dart 18s, Shearwaters and Catapults. Race Officer Nigel Denchfield, ably assisted by Fiona, ran the event in typical efficient style. As the forecast for Sunday was for light and shifty conditions, the decision was made, in association with the competitors, to run 4 of the scheduled 6 races on Saturday. This was a wise decision as the conditions on Sunday were as predicted, so that by the scheduled start of race 6 there were big swings, leading to a delay in getting the race away.

Read a report of the Dart 15 event in Yachts and Yachting, written by Mark Aldridge who took second place, here.

Andy Taylor’s Long-Service Award

On Wednesday 6th September 2023, a special ceremony was held to present Coxswain Andy Taylor with an award in recognition of his 30 years of service to GWSC. Andy joined the Army aged sixteen, straight after leaving school. He served in the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment and, in his ten years, completed three tours of duty in Northern Ireland. After leaving the army, Andy applied for the job of Coxswain and started work at Grafham in June 1993, on the same day that the club took delivery of its newest safety boat, Searider 3. One of Andy’s roles as Coxswain is to maintain the seven Seariders that the club now own, and it is testament to his dedication and skill that they are all in good working order.

Another of Andy’s roles, and arguably the most important, is to have overall responsibility for safety on the water whenever he is on duty and to act as front-line first aider. His training was put to the test when he was instrumental in saving the life of a club member who collapsed with symptoms of a heart attack near the Coxswain’s shed. He quickly fetched the defibrillator from its storage in the café (it is kept behind the pillar nearest the lockers) and then performed CPR until the paramedics and air ambulance arrived.

Much of the work Andy does goes unseen by members and visitors, but he plays a vital role in keeping the club operating.

In recognition of the club’s gratitude for all of Andy’s work, he was presented with a gift of a weekend away in his home city of Leeds, including two nights stay in a hotel for two, a meal for two at a restaurant of his choice and tickets to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds concert.

In response, Andy ran down his ‘Top Ten’ of things he has done over the last thirty years:

  • He has served under 10 Commodores (prior to current Commodore Mark Rushton taking over just after his 30 year anniversary)
  • worked with 9 different office staff
  • been involved in 8 National Schools Sailing Association annual regattas
  • looked after 7 Seariders
  • looked after 6 committee boats
  • driven 5 tractors
  • been taken to hospital from the club 4 times
  • fallen in the lake 3 times – an average of once per decade
  • worked for 2 club managers
  • and used the defibrillator once.

His advice to any other Coxswains is: “fall in during the week when there’s no-one around to take the mickey”.

Gill Wednesday Evening Series Prizegiving

Unfortunately the Pursuit race for the end of season had to be cancelled as there was no wind, but the prizegiving went ahead after another excellent dinner served by Lisa and Alex.

Peter Curtis

Commodore Mark Rushton presented the trophies and prizes, generously provided by club sponsors Gill. The Fast fleet was won by Peter and James Curtis in an RS500, followed by Will Smith, who was 1st Catamaran and Will Russell in an RS600. In the Slow Double-hander fleet, the winners were Dave Philpott and John Forsdike in a Flying Fifteen, followed by David and Sam Bevan in a Wayfarer and Geoff Floyd and Colin Gilbert in a Flying Fifteen. The Slow Single-handers was won by Neil Washington in a D-Zero; second was Ewan Birkin-Walls in a Solo and third Colin Glover in a D-Zero. Ewan’s son Stan won the junior prize, also sailing a Solo and the youngest competitor prize went to Mark’s eight year old daughter Zoe, sailing a Fusion with her mother Nicky.

See the full results here.

Neil Washington
Dave Philpott (right) and John Forsdike
Stan Birkin-Walls

Youth Summer Camp

Summer camp 2023 took place from 7th-11th August. Monday saw the group assemble for the opening briefing where they were told what groups they would in for the morning activities. They were also told what the planned afternoon activities were, and they could choose between double-handed sailing, paddleboarding or windsurfing.

The morning sessions got underway with sorting everyone into the correct boats and, for those who hadn’t done much sailing recently, a refresher on the basics. After lunch, the “double-handed” group, consisting of four dare-devils, all loaded into the Stratos with Nathanael and set off upwind, with some impromptu trapezing (without harness). After the mid afternoon squash break all the youngsters had a go at steering and using the spinnaker.

Meanwhile the group on the paddleboards, including the two mega-SUPs, were finding it hard to make headway upwind so they were towed upwind by a RIB and secured to a buoy, where various races and relays were greatly enjoyed. The three intrepid windsurfers were also finding it hard to make progress against the brisk breeze, so after the squash break they joined the paddleboarders. Many thanks to Tim Berridge for running the windsurfing sessions on both Monday and Tuesday.

Tuesday’s afternoon activities on offer were double-handed sailing again in the Stratos (this time with Olivia), windsurfing and Squidditch. In case you haven’t come across it before, Squidditch (© Matt French Enterprises) is the water-based version of Quidditch of Harry Potter fame. Two teams have to try to sail with the quaffle (a football) through the opposing team’s goal (two dan buoys). Towards the end of the game the golden snitch (a tennis ball) is thrown in by the referee, and securing this gains additional points for the team. The first match was won by the girls’ team so the boys insisted on a rematch which they won. As the wind had dropped by the last session everyone joined in another session of Squidditch.

Wednesday dawned sunny at last and with a bit more wind than forecast, which made for a perfect opportunity for everyone to work on their sailing skills. Megan’s group were set a butterfly course – basically two triangles as mirror images of each other and the trick was to work out which side was favoured by the wind direction. Nathanael’s group were practicing their rudderless and backward sailing in double-handed Picos with jibs. Eveyone agreed that sailing backwards was fine but the rudderless was more of a challenge but they all got the hang of it. Matt and Mandy’s group set off on an expedition to the tower just off the north shore of the lake and worked on improving their skills.

After lunch it was time for the team photo, followed by a choice of double-handed sailing, windsurfing with Mandy or paddleboard challenges with Megan. Nathanael and Olivia took five of the team between them in the Stratos and 2000, with more opportunity to practice helming a bigger dinghy and spinnaker handling. Finally it was time for another Squidditch match, this time on paddleboards. By this point in the week, everyone was getting to know each other and new friendships were being forged.

Thursday saw another light wind day, but on Friday the wind got up in time for the end of season regatta, where a wide variety of boats, ranging from an RS Tera up to a Stratos, competed in three short races. The regatta was followed by the prize-giving, not only for the regatta, but for the whole week, where each instructor nominated their star of the week.

That was the end of the camp, but not the fun, as a special visit to Rumble Live Action Gaming on the north shore of the lake had been arranged for some Laser Tag games.

Many thanks to all the hard working instructors and to the parents, who all made this another very successful summer camp. See you next year!

Gill Spring Series Prizegiving

The prizegiving for the Gill Spring Series was held on Sunday 2nd July and was well attended. All who came along were entered into the prize draw and Abbie Glover was the winner, taking home a pair of Gill sunglasses. The final series results can be seen here.

More Grafham Youth Success at RYA Eastern Region Champs.

GWSC hosted the RYA’s British Youth Sailing Eastern Region Junior Championships on 17th-18th June. Once again our young sailors were successful: Thomas Mattews was 1st in the Topper 4.2 Championship Fleet and Jacob Jull was third in the Optimist Championship Fleet.

William Swann came eighth in the ILCA4 fleet, with Matt Donley twelfth and Skye Collard 15th. Sophie Thomas came 14th in the Topper 5.3 fleet. There was also a rookie fleet for those without racing experience and Abbie Glover and Samuel Thomas joined in. Congratulations to all who took part in the event.

A big thank you to all the club members who volunteered their time to help make the event a great success.

Grafham Leading in the 2023 Cambs Youth League.

GWSC hosted the second event of the 2023 Cambridgeshire Youth Sailing League on Saturday 3rd June. The League is open to youth members of the five participating clubs: Cam, Ely, Grafham, Hunts and Paxton Sailing Clubs. Each club hosts an event in the league each year.

Tim Evans, overall winner

Bright and breezy conditions greeted the 18 local sailors and 11 visitors. Although the sun was shining, the north-easterly wind had a cold bite to it. Race Officer John Aston set a trapezoid course in front of the clubhouse which provided perfect viewing for the assembled supporters.

The first two fleets, consisting of an Optimist, an RS Tera and 14 Toppers, got away cleanly at 11:30, followed by the ILCA/Laser fleet with a mixture of Radial and 4.7 rigs. The action at the front of the Laser fleet was keen, with local sailors Tim Evans and Dom Atherton in Radials battling for the lead closely followed by Adele Burbidge in a 4.7. The Topper fleet was also hotly contested and included eight Team Grafham members.

Mushui Zuo, second under 12

After lunch, two more races were sailed back-to-back, with Tim, Dom and Adele again leading the Lasers. Special mention must go to 13 year old Team Grafham sailor Thomas Matthews, who has just moved into a full rig Topper from a 4.2, and led the Toppers over the line in race 3.

A jury boat made sure that there was good behaviour at the front of the fleet, while a coach boat encouraged the tail-enders around the course. For many of these, it was their first open event, or indeed race, and they all coped extremely well with the challenging conditions.

Issy Rooke, winner of the prize for the youngest competitor

The final positions were combined into one set of overall handicap results and the event was won convincingly by Tim Evans in a Laser Radial, with two first places and discarding a second place. He was followed by Dom Atherton, also in a Laser Radial, counting a second and third place. Adele was fifth with Thomas Matthews seventh and taking the third under 15 prize.

Some of our newest Team Grafham recruits were in the prizes, with two nine year-olds winning mugs and chocolates: Mushui Zuo took second under 12 in a Topper and the prize for the youngest competitor went to Isabella Rooke sailing an RS Tera.

The full results can be seen here.

Photos of the event are available here.

Grafham Dominate at Rutland A Class Open.

Report by Neil Klabe. Photo British A Class Catamaran Association

Over the weekend of 20th and 21st of May Rutland Water SC hosted the A class fleet as part of their 2023 Cat Open.

Five A class sailors entered the event and were greeted with fantastic champagne conditions: warm and sunny with 10-15 knots with some big gusts of over 22 knots blowing down the lake from the dam end. 

The A Class fleet and the F18 fleet shared the second start and the race officer set a long upwind down wind course.

Race 1: The starting horn sounded and the A Fleet were off ! All of us chose to go off on starboard and fly over to the far shore, tack, then head over towards the church. Gordon Upton, the local A class legend, was going well, decided to tack and unfortunately did not unhook his trapeze line, which combined with a big gust had him swimming. Hugh, Neil and Mark carried on after showing concern for Gordon. On the second beat Mark decided to go a different way up the beat to Hugh and Neil, however this did not pay off and Hugh and Neil pulled away. So race one was won by Hugh (honorary GWSC member), second place Neil GWSC , third Mark GWSC, Gordon  DNF and Anthony DNS as he had gear failure before the start and retired.

Race 2: The race started and the Four A class sailor again sped off towards the left side of the course Hugh was first to tack and Neil and Mark carried on towards the shore. As we approached the bank we got a great lift and gained loads of height, tacked and this put us on a course to put Hugh into third place going up the first beat. Neil rounded first ahead of Hugh, Mark and Gordon however that was as good as it got for Neil as Mark and Hugh both passed him down the run and the order of finish was Hugh, Mark, Neil. Gordon completed the first 2 laps but then decided to call it a day as his capsize had taken a lot out of him in the first race.

Race 3: By this time the temperature had dropped and with the strength of the wind and spray it was getting cold despite the lovely sunshine. However our three Grafham sailors again showed their sailing skills amongst the combined fleet with the F18s and completed the third race with Hugh first, Mark second and Neil third. 

Coming In I must thank both Hugh and Mark for helping me get my boat ashore and for looking after me as by this time I was not feeling great due to my medical condition and side affects of medication. My hands were white with no feeling and I was shaking and breathing very heavily. Thank you both for your help and concern. 

Day Two: Again we were met with the same champagne conditions; the only thing that would of made it better would have been another 5 or so A class sailors to share the experience. 

Races 4 & 5: All ended with the same result with Hugh in first place, Mark in second followed by Neil then Gordon. Neil and Mark had a battle for the first couple of laps with positions changing, however Mark pulled away and finished well ahead by the end.

Race 6: Only Mark and Neil stayed out for the final race as Hugh had won the TT and Gordon was happy with his day’s sailing. Mark sailed well and won the last race and underlined that his new boat a Tool that he bought from Steve Pooley has loads of boat speed and he will be giving Hugh a run for his money in the future. 

Overall Result

First        Hugh McGregor  GWSC

Second   Mark Rushton    GWSC

Third       Neil Klabe           GWSC

Fourth     Gordon Upton    Rutiand SC

Everyone had a Great time at Rutland and would like to thank the race officer and safety team for all their hard work. 

Try Paddleboarding for free!

During May we are giving all members the opportunity to get afloat on a club paddleboard. We are offering current club members free 1-hour sessions on our fleet of one-man boards throughout May, including all of the bank-holidays. The boards were a huge success at our junior summer camp last year and we want to encourage all members to give them a go. To book your session please contact the office. Come along and have some family fun!

Chandlery Sale

The big sale in the club chandlery is now on. While stocks last, we are offering current club members a full 50% off on a range of over 50 selected chandlery items. In addition, club members get the normal 10% off non-sale stock including ropes, shock cord, shackles, screws, bolts, wheels and burgees. New for 2023, the club is stocking a range of Gill gloves, hats and other accessories. The club chandlery is located on the top-floor next to the office and is open during normal office hours

Gill Dart 15 Winter TT

The Gill Dart 15 Winter TT at Grafham Water got underway in near perfect sailing conditions for the 13 hardy competitors braving a cool, fresh mainly South-Westerly breeze with a steady 22 knots on the start line for race 1 of 3 scheduled back-to-back races.

Our race officers for the event were the ever-efficient team of Nigel and Fiona Denchfield, kindly assisted on the day by Grafham cat sailor Tony Stokes.  With the assistance of the superb mark laying/rescue team from GWSC a trapezoidal course was set with the beat approx. 850m (extended for race 3 to 950m). The Dart 15’s were the first fleet away with a fairly neutral line seeing all boats starting on starboard tack.  The breeze was steady and predictable although some gusts that would catch out any ‘sheeted in’ sailing techniques. The first beat saw Mark Aldridge around the windward mark in pole position, closely followed by Steve Sawford, Jenny Ball, Charles Watson and Jon Pearse.  Race 1 continued around the trapezoid in much the same order with some foresight needed around the mark rounding to allow all club racing classes room given our approach and exit angles were differing.

Race 2 was efficiently underway with a similar start line and again it was Mark Aldridge who took a central approach to the beat making it first around the windward mark.  Following closely were Dart 15 Association Chairman Ed Tuite Dalton, Charles Watson, Jon Pearse, Simon Farthing who had now woken from winter hibernation and Steve Sawford.  The downwind leg saw Farthing gain some places as Sawford was also gaining throughout lap 2, but not enough to get past our Chairman who was holding a solid 2nd.  Jenny Ball who clearly doesn’t like 22 knots was sailing strongly quietly moving up the fleet and finishing lap 2 in 4th position.  Lap 3 became lively with some good gusts and Aldridge buried both bows approaching the wind ward mark in a poor attempt to sail upwind of an ill-positioned fishing boat and was extremely lucky to keep it upright.  In the fleet Jan Elfring managed a pitch pole whilst Jacob Aldridge having not sailed a Dart 15 or anything else for that matter for 7 years was going well and enjoying the conditions and having a good 3 race battle with Ray Gall, with Yahoo!! coming out on top. Race 2 finished after 3 laps with Aldridge, Tuite Dalton, Sawford, Ball, Farthing, Watson and J.Aldridge being the first 7 boats over the line.

Winner Mark Aldridge receiving the trophy from Judith Black

Race 3 saw a slight softening of the wind and a longer beat now up to 950m in an attempt to keep the fleets apart a bit more.  Sawford was first to the windward mark having tacked slightly earlier on the first beat and was just ahead of a charging Watson and Pearse who had tacked off even earlier and were fast approaching on Starboard tack. A careful mark rounding was needed with these boat speeds and the odd capsized Laser to contend with. 

The top reach still provided entertainment for our loyal band of spectators and as the boats rounded mark 2 the order was Sawford, Watson, Farthing, Aldridge and Pearse.  The downwind leg was now favouring a starboard tack although Aldridge ducked the leaders and took an inside line to make the post of some extra pressure and reached mark 3 now in the lead with Sawford, Watson, Pearse and Farthing in hot pursuit.  Lap 2 was underway and as the boats circulated once more ahead of the final lap of the day the order was Aldridge, Farthing, Watson, Sawford, Ball and Pearse.  Some tactical sailing ended race 3 as the finishing order was Aldridge, Farthing, Watson, Sawford and Ball.

A by now weary fleet retired to the shore for some boat packing up, a hot shower, some excellent food courtesy of Lisa and crew in the GWSC wet bar with prize giving to follow in the GWSC Top Bar.

Winner of the Gill Dart 15 Winter TT was Grafham sailor Mark Aldridge who received the Chris Black Memorial Trophy and a Gill voucher from Judith Black, with Steve Sawford (Rutland Sailing Club) 2nd receiving a blue Gill wet bag and Simon Farthing 3rd (Grafham Water Sailing Club) also receiving a prize of a Gill Hat.

The full results can be viewed here and more photographs of the event can be viewed at the Grafham Water SC Photo Gallery.

Report by Mark Aldridge

Instructor Training Weekend

Launching the Training School’s fleet of Picos

22 Dinghy Instructors and Assistant Instructors attended the training school’s annual Instructor Training weekend on 25th-26th February. A variety of sessions were run by Chief Instructor Matt French and Chief Powerboat Instructor Mark Boyes, ably assisted by Powerboat Instructors Andrew Lawman and Ian Fairclough, as well as Senior Instructors Russell and Nathaniel. 

On the Saturday, the DIs and AIs fine-tuned their powerboating skills, focusing on man overboard, picking up a mooring, coming alongside and planing. They were praised for their sensible and careful approach to the manoeuvres. On the Sunday, names were picked out of a hat to run specific sessions from the RYA Single-handed method. Archie, Olivia, Electra and George were the lucky names pulled out! They ran excellent sessions, assisted by AIs Jack, Skye and Matthew. They were then given feedback by SI Russell, along with Megan and Mandy, who are both doing their SI course in March. After each session, all the Instructors shared ideas and offered tips to each other. The Instructors also practised their land drills and gave each other feedback. 

The weekend was a resounding success. It was very useful for all the Instructors to brush up their skills ahead of an exciting season ahead. We are very lucky to have such a large, strong group of Instructors at our training school.

Gill Partnership

The club is pleased to announce that our partnership with Gill is continuing in 2023. Launched in 2022, the collaboration includes event sponsorship and joint marketing initiatives to raise awareness of water sports in the community. Club members will benefit from exclusive products and early bird product launches.

Created in 1975, Gill is now an established and trusted technical apparel brand, with their latest range being put through its paces by the Great Britain Sail GP team, led by Sir Ben Ainslie. The 2022 Gill product range spans everything needed for any type of water sports from wetsuits and offshore clothing through to watches, sunglasses, gloves and changing robes.

As part of the partnership, Gill will be sponsoring selected Open Meetings and Club events as well as providing special prizes to club members. Further information will follow in the club newsletter and membership renewal documents. You can access the Gill website here.

Sunshine for the 40th Annual Grafham Grand Prix

Sunny conditions greeted competitors for the 40th annual Grafham Grand Prix, sponsored by Gill, on Monday 2nd January. This was the first time the event had been held for three years.

A good turnout of 117 boats entered split across three fleets, with multi hulls and keelboats as well as a large variety of dinghies. There were 24 boats in the Fast fleet, 48 in the Medium fleet and 45 in the Slow fleet. Wind was from the West/ North West and a gentle 8 to 10 knots.

Simon and Katie Horsfield won the Slow Fleet

The Slow fleet was won by Simon and Katie Horsfield in their 2000 (discarding a first place) with Jon Emmett second and Ben Flower third in their ILCA7s.

The Medium fleet was won by the Osprey of Peter Gray and Geoff Edwards with David Hall and Paul Constable second in their Fireball and Josh Wilce third in his RS300. The fast fleet was won by Ben Clegg in a Musto Skiff, with Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane in a 505 in second and Ollie Groves and Martin Penty third in their RS400.

Congratulations to club members Tim Evans, Ian Walters and Ewan Birkin-Walls for finishing 5th, 10th and 11th in the slow fleet, Simon Kneller/Dave Lucas and Colin Glover for finishing 12th and 14th in the medium fleet and Jon Sweet/Reece Webb and Tony Stokes/Thomas Hales for finishing 4th and 6th in the fast fleet. Special thanks must go to club sponsor Gill for the supply of the prizes. The full results are here and more photos can be viewed here.

Thanks to the race officers and race teams led by Nigel Denchfield as PRO and Slow course CRO, with David Williams CRO on the fast course and Eric Joyce CRO on the Medium course. Well done to the Grafham staff and shoreside volunteers, and the catering team who put on a post-race pasta dish much appreciated by the competitors coming  ashore in the cold albeit sunny conditions. Next year’s event is scheduled for Saturday 30 December 2023.

Report by John Aston

Christmas Pursuit Race

Gill Autumn Series Prizegiving

Twelve boats competed in the Christmas Pursuit race on 18th December. Snow was on the ground and the wind chill temperature was a cold -4 deg C. Rigging was challenging and sailors were kept busy defrosting mainsheets and pouring hot water into mast steps. The event was won by Peter and James Curtis in their RS500 who had an impressive lead, followed by Alaistair Farman in his RS600 and Dave Lucas in his Solo. First Youth sailor was Harry Lucas and Thomas Matthews was awarded the endurance prize for sailing for the longest time in his Topper. Photographs here and full results here. Thanks to John Aston and the race and safety team for running the event despite the extreme conditions.

The Pursuit Race was followed by the prizegiving for the Gill Autumn Series in which over 90 boats competed. Full and final results for the series can be seen here. Lisa and her team then served up a full three-course Christmas lunch which was enjoyed by all.

ILCA Inlands at Grafham.

GWSC hosted the ILCA Inland Championships on 5th-6th November and welcomed a huge turn-out of 67 ILCA 4s, 77 ILCA 6s and 44 ILCA 7s. Grafham was strongly represented including many young sailors who have recently moved into the boat. Congratulations to Tim Evans who posted the best GWSC result with an 11th place in the ILCA 6 fleet. Phil Bevan was 20th in the ILCA 7 fleet, with Team Grafham sailors Electra Reeves and Adele Burbidge 45th and 47th respectively in the ILCA 4 fleet.

Read the Y&Y report of the ILCA 4 class here, including a personal perspective written by our own Skye Collard.

The Island is emerging!

Update 3rd January: The water is continuing to rise and the risk of grounding has now gone. The red and yellow flag is no longer flying and there are no restrictions in place.

Update Sunday 13th November: Water is now being pumped in and the level is rising. The Coxswain is still flying a red and yellow flag to warn sailors that the western end of the lake is still shallow. Please do not sail to the west of the line shown in the picture.

Saturday 3rd September: A little-known fact about Grafham Water is that there is a shallow area offshore from the Fishing Lodge. In previous droughts it has almost broken the surface and in 1976 it actually did emerge. The area is rapidly becoming shallower and we are expecting it to appear again. A warning marker will be laid in the location, and you are warned to keep well clear as it is already shallow enough to cause damage to foils. The approximate GPS co-ordinates are Lat: 52.17935N Long: 00.19628W

As of Friday 2nd September the approximate depth is now 1.84m at this point (approx. 6ft).

Otmar Pozniak

We are sad to announce that Otmar Pozniak, long time member of GWSC, keen Lark and Laser sailor and rescue volunteer, died peacefully aged 90, on August 26. His funeral will be held at Norse Road Crematorium, Bedford on September 29 at 2.30 pm.  . 

Team Grafham Triumph at Ely SC

Congratulations to the Team Grafham Laser Radial sailors who put up a great showing in the latest Cambs Youth League event in light and fickle conditions.

In race 1 Adele Burbidge opened out a good lead over the Optimists and Toppers, coming first on hanicap.

Race 2 was dominated by the Optimists but race 3 again favoured the Lasers as the wind died after they had completed the race. Counting a first and a third, Adele took second place with 4 points, tied on points with the winning sailor.

The next event in the league is on 24th September at Paxton SC.

Flying Fifteen Inland Championship

34 Boats arrived in glorious sunshine at Grafham Water Sailing Club for the Gill Flying Fifteen Inland Championships on 28th/29th May. The fleet included boats from Dublin and County Antrim who made the journey across the Irish sea and the boats ranged from the beautiful and exquisitely maintained “617” and “817” to the pretty much brand new “4102”. As a qualifying event for the World championships next year in Freemantle, enthusiasm was running high with the whole fleet launched early and ready for the first start.

The forecast for Saturday was light, northerly breezes and as the fleet assembled in the starting area at the west end of the reservoir, the wind was settling at 7-10 knots. Although the sailing instructions gave options for 3 different courses, OODs Nigel Denchfield and Phil Bevan had already advised during the briefing that windward-leeward would be the default option for lighter breeze. Keen to lay down an early marker, Ian Pinnell and Ian Cadwallader led the fleet at the first windward mark of race 1 and despite some snakes and ladders managed to secure their first bullet from Draycote pair Simon Patterson & Simon Thompson. Race 2 saw another Draycote pairing at the front of the fleet, this time Jeremy Davy & Martin Huett picking their way through the shifts and patches of breeze to take the second race from Justin Waples and Jackie McKellar in second and Richard Lovering and Matt Alvarado third.

By race 3, the OOD began to lose patience with the fleet’s over-enthusiastic starting habits and promptly produced the black flag after the first recall. 4 boats were sent ashore for early pasta before the fleet finally got away at the 4th attempt. Pinnell & Cadwallader made the most of the strongest wind conditions of the day to take their second race win, getting past Charles & Charlie Apthorp at the end of the last beat with GP14 maestros Andy Tunnicliffe & Andy Smith completing the top three.  (Interesting fact from the Race Officer- one boat he never spotted on the start line before the gun was Ian Pinnell/Ian Cadwallader’s…..mmmmmm…might be something in that !)

Sunday’s forecast was for a slightly stronger 8-15 knots and a similar northerly direction. And in fact it was blowing 20 knots straight out of north as the fleet launched. First out of the blocks were Richard Lovering and Matt Alvarado with Shane MacCarthy and Adam Froggart second and the ever consistent Pinnell and Cadwallader 3rd. Race 5 produced yet another different race winner – Burghfield Sailing Club’s Ian Linder & Kevin Sweetman sailing off into the distance with the Apthorps holding off MacCarthy and Froggart for second. A 5th place for Pinnell & Cadwallader was enough for them to secure the title with a race to spare and never ones to turn down an opportunity for an early finish, they headed ashore to rehearse their speeches and do their makeup. Meanwhile back out on course the wind was getting tricky to read. Huge shifts and big pressure differences were producing massive gains and losses throughout the fleet. Lovering and Alvarado seemed to have it mastered though, winning the final race from Hamish McKay and Adam Lawson. Crucially this second race win for the Hayling island duo was enough for them to secure overall on countback from Jeremy Davy & Martin Huet who had to settle for third overall on this occasion.

The classic boats had great racing on day one, but with the strong northerlies the two older boats decided not to launch, Mark Greer and Andrew Connellan from Middle Nene taking the overall win.

In the silvers, Jordan Aspin and Jason Benn in 3130 took the top spot.

Quote of the day from one of the competitors between races “Loving the Flying 15….fantastic racing”

A Tale of Two Tractors

Those of you who have visited the Coxswain’s shed in the past few months may have noticed that the club has a shiny new (to us) tractor. Our previous tractor had served us well for many years, but was starting to become more and more unreliable, so the search was on for a newer one. This took a while, as the type of tractor we need is more suited to the Welsh hills or moorland country than the wide open spaces of East Anglia.

However one was found and after a service and being fitted with a new boom it took up its post outside the Coxswain’s shed. Meanwhile the ‘old’ tractor was taken away for a major overhaul and on Monday 9th May it made its triumphant return to Grafham on the back of a low-loader. The plan now is to alternate the two tractors on a weekly basis and also will allow us to double up launching/recovery activities at busy times. Many thanks to Andrew Lawman for managing the process, welding and delivery activities.

Grafham Belle Relaunched

Tim, Adrian and Gordon (left to right) received thanks for their hard work

Our longest serving committee boat, beloved of many, Grafham Belle, has spent the last two and a half years in the maintenance tent next to the Coxswain’s shed. She needed major work to keep her afloat and with huge thanks to Gordon Oscroft, Tim Berridge and Adrian Rose, she was relaunched to run club racing on Sunday 1st May. Major repairs were carried out to her hull, including fitting a new keel band. The cabin was removed and replaced and all the mechanics and electrics were overhauled. A new coat of paint inside and out completed the job.

A gathering outside the Coxswain’s shed marked the relaunch occasion, with Gordon, Tim and Adrian each being presented with a bottle of their favourite tipple.

GWSC and Gill have announced a new and innovative partnership.

Read more here.

Gill Easter Egg Regatta

Twenty-nine boats entered the eighth Easter Egg Regatta, sponsored this year by Gill, on the Friday and Saturday of Easter weekend. The sun shone, but on Friday the wind refused to blow. There were three fleets: Optimists, the Optimist Regatta fleet and a Handicap fleet made up of six Laser Radials, two 2000s, a Laser 4.7 and a Topper 4.2, all members of GWSC’s Team Grafham.

After a postponement, Race Officer Nigel Denchfield managed to get one race away before sending the fleets back to shore.

Saturday dawned with much more promise and the fleet set off promptly for a 10:30 start in the first of four races. The generous prizes donated by sponsors Gill, and the prospect of the best Easter eggs for the leaders led to keen racing in all three fleets.

In the handicap fleet, Adele Burbidge dominated in a Laser Radial, taking three first places ahead of Matthew Donley. Grafham sailor Jacob Jull was the overnight leader in the Optimist fleet and also won the final race, but three wins by Will Mears of Corinthian Otters saw Will take the overall first place.

The Regatta fleet was dominated by Ruby Coster from Royal Lymington YC who won every race.

No-one went away empty handed as there were Easter eggs for all participants.

Gill Sprint 15 Winter TT

Sixteen Sprint 15s joined the club racing starts on 13th March for their annual event racing for the Chris Black memorial trophy. Read more here.

Cam Cup 2022

Grafham Water SC again hosted the Cam Cup on 26th/27th February. This event is organised by Cambridge University Cruising Club who can regularly be seen honing their team racing skills on the lake. The Cam Cup is an annual invitation team racing event, and this year 21 teams competed for the coveted trophy which was won by Rutland SC. Read a full report of the event here and view the dramatic photos taken by our photography partner Paul Sanwell here.

Race Officers and Rescue Drivers Seminar

The 2022 Seminar was hosted by Andrew Lawman, Nigel Denchfield and Roy Harold on 12 February and was attended by 10 race officers and 12 rescue drivers. Topics on the agenda included safety incidents at GWSC and nationally, drysuit care, how to rescue wing foilers and correct radio procedure.

Nigel ran a refresher session in the afternoon for Race Officers, and a practical refresher day will be held on Saturday 9th April for adults with a youth refresher the next day on 10th April.

After the discussion came dinner consisting of Lisa’s lamb curry (the best meal she makes in Andrew’s opinion) or garlic chicken or veggie curry, followed by apple pie or sticky toffee pudding.

Andrew has made a video highlighting the activities of race officers and rescue drivers, which you can watch here. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a race officer or rescue driver, or other volunteering opportunities at the club, please visit this page

Ovington Inlands

The Ovington Inlands, open to all boats of the Musto Skiff, 505, Phantom, OK and Flying Fifteen (but not necessarily Ovington built) classes, took place on 19th-20th March.

Click on the following links for Photo Gallery and final results.

Solo Fleet Video

Chris Brown has made a great video promoting the club and its Solo Fleet. It features interviews with club and national Solo sailors and great footage of the fleet on the water.

New Year Club Regatta

Congratulations to Tim Evans, winner of the New Year Regatta in a Laser Radial. Second placed were Matt Reynolds and Olly di Bartolo in a 4000 with Simon Kneller and Ashley Painter third in a Flying Fifteen. Forty-two hardy crews ventured out in windy conditions to sail three races on a variety of courses on Sunday 2nd January.

The results for the Regatta can be found here and you can read a full report here. See the event photo gallery here.

New Website

You can read more details about the new website and how to navigate it here.

Here are a few pointers to help club members particularly to get the most out of the site.

Firstly, top right of the Home page just underneath the banner photo, is a very useful area. It contains a direct link to the Members’ Dashboard and also a ‘stop press’ list of latest items of information. Important updates will be published here, usually with links to more information.

The Members’ Dashboard is designed to make life easy for you. At the top it includes direct links to all the most important pages across the site, allowing you to sign on for club racing, see the latest results, go to DutyMan to sign up for a duty or see the current DutyMan vacancies, check what the club Safety Flags mean, sign up for coaching and check the current club opening times.

Below that it brings together the two most popular areas of the Website, namely the Webcams and the Weather data, which between them account for about 95% of all visits to the site. This includes links to the local weather forecasts and the dials and graphs of current and recent weather conditions.

So the Members’ Dashboard gives you one-click access to all the essentials that club sailors need.