Bessie Ellen at Torquay for the King’s Cup trawler race - Sat 28th May 2005
After an on/off saga of the availability of booking this 100 year old Plymouth built ketch again, due to the last minute cancellation of a Torquay charter, some members and friends of the SWMHS were able to sail with owner Nikki, and skipper Darren. The forecast was so uncertain that a number of possible members did not turn up, as it turned out much to the relief of Nikki, as due to heavy weather only 12 passengers were allowed to board. However excess numbers were accommodated on the Dutch Iris - a slightly larger vessel built 1916 of metal with more modern rigging and gear. (Judith Godfrey will take up the story of the Iris crew.)
With wind force 4/5, gusting 6, we left the security of Torquay harbour shortly after 1100 hours. Under only 3 out of 7 sails, and with a reef in the mains’l, the skipper reckoned that the old lady was doing 7/8 knots. The actual trawler race commenced at 1300 on a triangular course starting off Brixham. On board were two ‘supernumeries’ recording the race for TV (about 4 minutes were broadcast on local television on the Tuesday following). Somehow Bessie missed the starter gun and brought up the rear of the race, deciding not to complete the third and final leg by returning to Torquay, landing at about 1700 hours. Despite this the afternoon’s sailing was far from dull. At one time we thought that the Dutch Iris was sporting and had lowered her mains’l to let us catch up - not so. She had stopped to examine a tear in her sail. With other, smaller, vessels racing Bessie now sailing in wind force ¾ (the weather having moderated and the sun increasingly shining) decided to have her own share of excitement and had to take sharp avoiding action as two vessels approached on her starboard quarter. As per the ‘rules of the road’ we bore away and the lead 25 footer passed astern of us. However the other, in trying to pass in front of us did not make it and bent her bowsprit on our midships - oops! No harm seemed to be done. We later learnt that two of the trawlers had also collided during the race! In these sailing conditions we did not see the inshore power boats racing, but personally I took a great many photographs of trawlers and other small craft, and they seemed to revel in fresh sailing weather. The Vigilance took the winning gun at c.1550, having had quite a tousle with her sister, the Provident. Anchored in the relative shelter of Torbay was the Russian sail training full rigged ship, Sedov I wonder what the trainee professionals thought of the ‘tiddlers’ racing? The Sedov looked like a very grand Duchess dressed in white; lets hope that Torbay will again host a full tall ships race shortly.
Thanks must go to the Bessie for another exhilarating sail; I can thoroughly recommend this to SWMHS members. You can help to work the ship, or just relax, watch others, or take pictures. And finally, the food, as usual, was top rate - roast pork and potatoes being served during the race to a hungry, appreciative crew. The only one on board not convinced by the day’s events was, however, the ship’s cat - he spent most time in his bunk; seen it, done it all before!
Reported by Martin Hazell
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