RHYC 175

On Saturday 16 June the RHYC organised on the river Orwell a Pursuit Race for dinghies and keelboats as part of its 175th Anniversary celebrations. The event was generously sponsored by Fox’s Marina and Chandlery. Some 30 boats started in order of a local handicap formula.   There were around 30 entries, including many different classes: Access303, Ajax, Finn, Hornet, Laser, National 12, Optimist, Solo, Terra, Wanderer, and Wayfarer, amongst others.  Amazingly, the ages of the skippers ranged from 8 to 89!

The event started at 12.00 hrs with the Woolverstone Project Access 303 and sole Optimist helmed by RHYC immediate past Commodores grandson (age 8!) leading off, closely followed by a bunch of visiting RS Teras from visiting clubs like Brightlingsea. At 60 minutes the WP Access 303  and Optimist were still battling it out for 1st place with the WP Access 303 crewed by Peter Hibberd and Luc taking the glassware.

At the 120 minutes stage the WP Access 303 still led this time from a RS Tera Pro with the other WP Access 303 crewed by Robbie Johns and Johnty Dickinson (at age 89!) being in  3rd place. 

During the final hour the Wanderer crewed by Mike Clayton and Pete Smallwood went on to win the overall event at the 175 minute stage followed at some distance by Simon Ruffles and Jon Russell in a Wayfarer and Will Patten in his Finn. 

The event was a great success and a lot of fun – thanks to the organisers and to all of the participants, both RHYC and visiting sailors, many of whom are keen for this to become an annual event.

Margaret Howard

Thanks to Johnty Dickinson and Hugh De Las Casas for this tribute to Margaret Howard – someone who all of us at the Project owe a debt to.

All of those at The Woolverstone Project and her many friends who knew her were saddened to note the recent death of Margaret Howard.

Without Margaret the Woolverstone Project would never have come into existence. She was a woman of remarkable inspiration and great organizational powers. She was Commodore of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club from 1992-1995 and it fell to her to organize their 150th anniversary celebrations.

As part of these celebrations, she persuaded three members, Johnty Dickinson, Simon Tozer and Peter Hooper to set up some form of recreational sailing for people with disabilities. It was to be called The Woolverstone Project. In the first year alone they had raised sufficient funds to buy their first two boats and held a National Regatta of Challengers at Woolverstone. This initiative proved startlingly popular and attracted both customers and helpers in amazing numbers.

Margaret gave constant encouragement to The Project as it grew to its present size and was always pleased that it remains firmly rooted in The Royal Harwich. The continuing success of The Woolverstone Project is a fitting legacy for a fine woman and she will be fondly remembered by many sailors on the East Coast.

There will be a memorial service for Margaret on Tuesday, 15th May 12.00 noon at the Church of Saint John the Evangelist, Great Wenham.

AGM 2018

The Project AGM for 2018 was held at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club on February 26th. During the course of the morning we heard a series of reports on the project’s activities during 2017. We also had a fascinating talk from Gordon Sutton and Bruce Moss on the history of the RHYC over the last 175 years. The club celebrates its 175th Anniversary with a series of events during 2018 and we are delighted that the club has chosen the project as its charity for fund-raising during this important year.

We also had a talk from Peter Willis of the Nancy Blackett Trust on the history of the Nancy Blackett and her connections with Arthur Ransome and the River Orwell.

The full minutes of the AGM are available from the link below:

A busy winter of work

Over the winter break, a team of volunteers have been hard at work refurbishing the shed and the clubhouse. The ravages of time meant that the shed had started to rot along the side and also on some of the front and back walls. The quickest way to get rid of this, seemed to be to get rid of the wall, which we did.


This meant that we had to put it back together again and we did this by cladding the inside first to try and weatherproof the shed as much as possible. Then we clad the outside in new timber.

In the meantime, Peter set about enhancing the inside and organising the storage. Everything is now hung up with specific storage places for all the equipment. At the same time, he added extensively to the racking in the container, so that all the relatively rarely used gear could be kept in there without getting in the way of the regularly-used kit like buoyancy aids and waterproofs.

The clubhouse also has had a makeover – both inside and out. The roof has been completely rebuilt by Team Bosun and the inside has been painted and refurbished, so should be a much friendlier environment.

The end result of all the work is shown below:

Awards 2017

December 11th was the date for our Christmas party. Luckily, following the snow of the previous day, the snow cleared enough for us all to get together. However, we didn’t manage to sail that morning, though, given an air temperature of around 2oC and strong winds, most people seemed relieved about that!

As part of the party Peter gave out the awards for the 2017 season. These were given as follows:

Gold certificates

  • Brian Perry
  • Chris Rubens-Townsend

Silver certificates

  • Alice Carter- Swallow
  • Andrew Dunnett

Bronze certificates

  • Andrew Seymour
  • Michael Bell
  • Cameron Sherman
  • Glen


  • Matthew Weller
  • Seb Marchei
  • Dan Smith

Helper Prize

  • Martin Lomax

Flossie Trophy

  • Chris Rubens-Townsend

Click on the thumbnails below for photos of the day and the award holders.

Judi Figgures MBE

We were saddened to learn of the death of Judi Figgures, former club member and a co-founder of Grafham Water Sailability. Judi passed away peacefully at her home in Huntingdon on Tuesday 28th November. Judy was a great support to the Project and supported Peter when he was acting as the Regional Organiser for RYA Sailability. She helped in advising the Woolverstone Project in its early days. Johnty Dickinson remembers her support:

“This is very sad news as Judy will be a very great loss to the disability sailing world not only in East Anglia, but also across the UK particularly to so many Challenger Sailors.

I first met Judy when we held our very first open disability sailing meeting in the first year of the formation of the Project. She brought down a team of Challengers from Grafham and demonstrated to us not only her sailing skills, but her gift of leadership. Through her own disability she had that innate ability to exude confidence to our own new sailors to the Project that day.

Joannie and I got to know her well over the years, as did many Project sailors – it was always a delight to be with her and her presence will be sorely missed.”

Leaving no stones unturned

On the last Wheelyboat session of the season, we had a lovely (if grey!) trip with Doucecroft School down the river to Pin Mill. This rapidly turned into a birdspotting trip as we spotted a flock of birds which had descended on a few of the moored boats. While it was a lovely sight, I was glad they weren’t on my boat – not sure what is the best cleaning product for cleaning guano off decks! After some research we reckon that they are turnstones but do let us know if you can identify them more precisely.

Racing for high stakes

Our annual Brandy Race for 2017 took place on 25th September 2017. While the day started with almost no wind at all, it obligingly filled in just in time for the first race. We put eight of our Access 3.03s on the water ready for the day and started with four of them on the water for the single-handed race. There was some close racing among the four participants with a good deal of place-changing during the race. Brian Parry though stayed clearly in front winning the Brandy Cup.

The next race was for the Manningtree Trophy – sailing with buddies. All eight boats started and with slightly more breeze, there was again some excellent racing. After three laps Andrew Seymour (sailing with Finnian Anderson) crossed the line close ahead of Daina Wilson (sailing with Jan Moss).

The final race, after a volunteers lunch, was for high stakes – a bottle of brandy. This race is a traditional one for the project, but no-one seems quite clear on its origins. It does seem a tradition that people want to maintain though – I can’t imagine why! The racing was once again close. Paul B started with a clear lead, but he missed one of the marks and dropped a few places with John W rounding the second mark in first place. However, the chasing pack were snapping at his heels and John N moved into the lead – a lead he maintained through to the end winning the Brandy Trophy.

The overall results were:

Brandy Cup

1. Brian Parry
2. Gil Mason

Manningtree Trophy

1. Andrew Seymour with Finnian Anderson
2. Daina Wilson with Jan Moss
3. Tyler Woods with Doug Chesterman
4. Matthew Weller with John Norman

Brandy Race for Volunteers

1st John Norman
Runner –up– Jan Moss

For some pictures of the day, click on the thumbnails below.

Egret in Secret Water

IMG_4502The Walton Backwaters was a favourite location of Arthur Ransome’s and he visited them frequently on his yacht Nancy Blackett. He used them as the inspiration and setting for one of the books in the Swallows and Amazons series – Secret Water. Given that 2017 is the 80th anniversary of his book We didn’t mean to go to sea, we decided as a project to do some special days out on our wheelyboat as part of the celebrations. After joining in with the Pin Mill Jamboree in May, we decided to follow it up with some days out in Secret Water.

So on Friday 22nd September we headed over to Titchmarsh Marina. They kindly allowed us to load up on the outer pontoons which were ideal for our wheelyboat. From the marina we headed up the Twizzle (named Swallow Creek by the Swallows and Amazons) and round into Hamford Water. The tidal world of the salt marshes is a home for a wide range of wildlife and we were delighted to spot egrets among the various birds – spotting egrets from the Egret seemed appropriate! It is also an internationally important breeding ground for Little Terns and a wintering ground for Dark-bellied Brent Geese, wild fowl and waders.

From Hamford Water we headed round into Oakley Creek past the island named Peewit Island by the Swallows. With Tony Burrows as our local expert, we found some of the local seal colony basking in the sun on the mud banks at the edge of the creek. They seemed remarkably laid back (literally) around us and also were totally unperturbed by the fact that they were basking close by the edge of a gunpowder factory! We drifted slowly past them on the tide and towards the head of the creek turned slowly round to head back to Hamford Water. We turned right back into Hamford Water and then carried on round Horsey Island (Swallow Island) by following Kirby Creek (Goblin Creek). At the bottom we drifted slowly past another group of seals and then slowly started our crossing of the area named the Red Sea by the Swallows and Amazons. This large area is very shallow and spends more time as mud than water. The Swallows called it the Red Sea because of a causeway which runs across between the mainland and Horsey Island – they crossed this to find the native settlements and almost got stuck by the rising tide. We managed to cross the Red Sea fine, though most of the way across we could have walked given the depth of the water!

We stayed overnight at Titchmarsh Marina and then on Saturday repeated the trip for some more members and friends. While the weather wasn’t quite as good, we still had a great trip and the seals once again obliged watching us carefully as we headed past.

Thanks to Tony, David, Carl and Kate for crewing us for the two days and particular thanks to Titchmarsh Marina for generously hosting us for the two days. The marina was an ideal base for us to explore this beautiful area.