St George's Day Regatta Weekend

Yarmouth: Friday 19th - Saturday 20th April

On a bright and breezy weekend in April a crew made up of Old Dauntseians and current Dauntsey’s parents joined 'Jolie Brise' to compete in the St George’s Day Regatta. Sailing from Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight they competed against other pilot cutters: 'Polly Agatha', 'Annabel Jones' and 'Amelia J'.

The sky was blue, the wind was fair and at the end of the  two day series 'Jolie Brise', true to form, came first overall and Skipper Toby Marris was presented with the winning trophy at the Solent Yacht Club in Yarmouth.

Please see a full report of the weekend from Angie Howard below.

Photo gallery - please click on the thumbnails below to view larger images.

Another win for Jolie Brise at the St George's Day Regatta Weekend!

Thursday April 18th
We arrived in sunshine at the Hamble Marina – passed gleaming white sailing boats to the end of the jetty where Jolie Brise was moored, her sleek vintage black hull and wooden mast looking very smart. The forecast was for strong winds so, being lazy landlubbers with just a smattering of crewing experience, we were somewhat nervous. My husband John, and I, deposited all our suitcases, bags and bedding on board (no-one laughed) whilst Toby Marris, the Skipper and Adam, his number two, waited for us all to gather – there were 5 ex pupils Johnny, Becky, Clare, Rob, Luke and Ned and one other parent, Debby making a crew of 10.

With time and tide moving fast, Toby issued orders to set sail and calmly asked me to take the tiller, which meant steering Jolie Brise backwards through the Marina, turning round 360 degrees, then heading out to sea. I really felt a sense of accomplishment knowing we hadn't hit any of the other boats. This must be one of Toby's talents when teaching pupils to sail – if you give them a chance and believe they can do it, they will. Suffice to say it boosted my nautical confidence no end.

Firstly, Jolie Brise is festooned with ropes or 'sheets' which are secured around wooden cleats : the boom is laced with ropes holding the mainsail and there are six or seven other sails to hoist. Basically, all you have to do is know what the wind and the tide are doing and keep all these 6 or 7 sails taut to set sail. We were shown how to pull ropes to raise the heavy terracotta sails (stretch up hold the rope and fall backwards, usually involving 2 or more people) then 'tail them off' by securing the thick rope around a wooden cleat (this was my job but it's not as easy as it seems...)

As we headed for the Isle of Wight the swell became very high, water poured in along one side of the boat (this was normal but thank goodness we had brought wellies) and as we changed our positions, slackening ropes on one side to tighten the ropes on the other (and repeating this countless times), the boat pitched so steeply it was like climbing a vertical wall to get to the other side. At this point I realized how unfit I was.

A photographer joined us on the seas, steering his rib and taking photographs of the Birthday girl for August's issue of 'Yachting World'. It was exhilarating and exciting, but immensely hard work, as we raced towards Yarmouth and the calmer waters of the Marina where we berthed for the night. Jolie Brise's interior has been newly painted and polished for its Centenary year and it gleams, below is a galley/saloon, with a loo and a fridge – everything is made of wood. In the stern are Toby and Adams' quarters and some spanking new navigation technology. Forward of the galley are 8 bunks – very comfortable, although mine was a bit tricky to squeeze into and get out of.

That night we had a safety briefing whilst Adam and Toby took it in turns to cook us a Thai curry. It was delicious but I was so tired from our exertions that afternoon, I couldn't keep my eyes open and had to retire to my bunk.

Friday April 19

After a leisurely breakfast in the saloon we prepared for a 10 o clock race. The sun was shining and the wind wasn't as strong as the day before. We were near to the start line at 9.30am when someone noticed the top sail needed fixing as some sheets had become looped. Someone had to climb the mast to fix a halyard – thankfully Becky said she was game so ropes were attached to her and she was hoisted up and up and up. It was a tricky manoeuvre as time ticked towards the start of the race. Becky had sailed on the Jolie Brise several times whilst at Dauntsey's, and told us tales of a North Atlantic trip where the waves were 40 feet high and she would have to steer the boat for hours at night in the pitch dark with the boat surfing up and down gigantic waves. Toby said that it was the only time in his career that he wondered if Jolie Brise would flip over. Back to the calmer waters of the Isle of Wight, with minutes to spare, Becky slid down the mast and the race began – our competitors were other pilot cutters: Polly Agatha, Annabel Jones and Amelia J. As we negotiated the first buoy we shot past Polly Agatha - with only 10' of water between us, we were so close we were able to see the shocked faces of the crew! As we raced ahead for the next buoy cups of coffee and biscuits were served. It was all very relaxed and civilised, where was all the screaming and shouting I had expected? Annabel Jones and Amelia J were left to bring up the rear. As the race continued we fell into a routine; decisions were made, Toby calmly issued orders and we scurried about pulling, heaving and tailing for all we were worth.

Before we knew it we were racing again in the second race. The sky was blue, the wind fair, it was perfect and we soon found ourselves 10 minutes ahead of the other boats. The odd thing about racing, it seemed to me, was that you never really knew whether a race had started or whether you had mistakenly crossed the starting line (in this case you are penalised/disqualified?) and the same confusion for finishing – we crossed the finishing line (which isn’t a rope - but a sign on shore) which you have to line up with. At the end of the day we found Polly Agatha was in 1st position and we were 2nd because Jolie Brise has a handicap.

That night in high spirits we went ashore, found a Bistro and had a very loud and jolly evening before retiring to race again the next day.

Saturday April 20

The sky was a clear, azure blue with a light breeze. We ate a breakfast of scrambled eggs whilst the boating banter ensured everyone was in good spirits. At 10.15am we lined up, trying not to cross the starting line too early, all the boats milled around eyeing one another up, a bit like jousting and at one point we sailed very close to another boat but Toby and the skipper on the other boat, Annabel J, waved and teased each other. We cruised effortlessly across the water and found ourselves finishing the race 10 minutes ahead of the next boat.

We thought we might have won this race. With the blue sky, sparkling sea, and a colourful line of dinghies on the horizon, it was the first proper summer's day of the year. Up on deck we ate lunch of baked potatoes and Bolognese sauce, sunbathing and waiting for the last race of the afternoon. We were told on the ship's radio that the start time had changed as had the course – it was much shorter, making twists and turns more difficult in a large boat. There were to be 3 circuits and we headed off in pursuit of Polly Agatha, managing to overtake her as we skirted round a buoy and amiably cheered. On the second circuit Toby told us, to our surprise, that we had touched a buoy, this meant we had a penalty and had to turn 360 degrees in the race which would slow us down dramatically. Polly Agatha looked on in surprise as we dropped behind to turn circle pulling out very close to them. They claimed we had forced them off their path and objected by hoisting a flag challenging our manoeuvre. In retaliation, Toby hoisted a flag to challenge them to the delight of our crew, as we headed off for the next buoy. But they had managed to overtake us and were cheering at their unexpected lead. Following in hot pursuit to do the last circuit we noticed that Polly Agatha was dawdling which seemed odd but we didn't worry unduly as we were keen to make up for our 360 degree turn and swiftly headed for the last buoy. It was at this point that we heard over the radio that Polly Agatha had only done 2 circuits instead of 3. It was a lucky mistake for us and we sailed triumphantly over the finishing line.

That night at the Solent Yacht Club in Yarmouth Toby was presented with the winning trophy –Jolie Brise, true to form, came 1st overall. There was some amiable camaraderie amongst the crews once the competition was over, the other teams cheered and guffawed and the Club reverberated with laughter. Toby declared it was the custom for the winning boat to entertain the other competitors so we returned to the boat carousing into the night. The galley was packed to bursting and I was slightly concerned we might sink; but as the three times winner of the Fastnet and many other illustrious triumphs, I'm sure Jolie Brise had seen celebrations like this all before - and survived.