Tyne Bridge Festival

Tyne Bridge Festival weekend-
Saturday morning at RNYC saw the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing from the East. There was activity on the pontoons as a small fleet prepared to race down to the Tyne. Jamie was pacing about, gathering names and trying to work out start times for a stern chase. This is a race whereby start times are allocated, according to handicap and the winner is the first over the finish line. Jamie had his own handicap, being rather hung over and suspiciously open to bribery!
The race began at 10:30, with Jorvic and Honey Bee getting off first. Kandula was due to leave at 11:00 just behind Honour Bound. Due to the wind conditions, Doug changed to his spinnaker handicap and actually started after me. Also racing was Nemis, Silk Purse and Emigre.  Auf Wiedersehen, Pet also joined the race, starting about an hour behind everyone else. I understand that AWP started so late because they were looking for their kettle and other cruising accoutrements. Nevertheless they had passed us before St.Marys lighthouse and sped off into the distance. I understand that they finished the race, winning by a country mile. A country mile is MUCH longer than a nautical mile. Never mind (I thought to myself) they want to come and play with the cruisers, their overnight stay on the quay won’t be as comfortable. Silly me.
Those who were carrying anchors entered the river and mustered at Herd sands for lunch. The boats were prepared with bunting, flags, burgees and other paraphernalia. The crews donned their fancy dress and the flotilla formed into a small convoy for the trip up the river. We all formed up behind Josephine of Hoo.
Those in the convoy were-
Josephine of Hoo
Kandula
Tumbleweed
Emigre
Honour Bound
Silk Purse
Trillium
Double Scotch
Nemis
AWP
Tresor

Doug was obviously trying to save fuel at this point, and so tied Honour Bound to the stern of Emigre and was towed all the way to Newcastle.

The best dressed boat award went to Honour Bound. But this should have been a joint award, as they were still tied to Emigre as they came under the bridge.

The evening’s entertainment was fantastic.  A sound and light show with fireworks, flames and a lighthouse sculpture; Mixed with the usual amount of alcoholic beverage. There were huge crowds on the quay side and the boats from RNYC gave them a great spectacle.

Sunday morning came (rather too quickly) and was bright and sunny again. The fleet departed at 12:05 and made its way down river for the traditional race back to Blyth. What actually happened was some boats left straight away and some hung about, waiting for a car transporter to get passed, before starting the race. The race degenerated into a time trial from Tyne piers back to Blyth. Emigre, Honour Bound, Jorvic, Honey Bee, Silk Purse and Kandula left the piers, hotly pursued by a BIG BLACK CLOUD, that looked rather ominous. The wind was light and shifty. The sky was getting darker. After about half an hour it became dark. I was looking North towards our small fleet (I was at the back as usual). Suddenly I saw a frenzy of flapping sails as Silk Purse, Emigre and Honour Bound were hit by a squall. I saw some hasty reefing going on. Before we could react on Kandula, the squall hit us too. Kandula took the force of the wind, leaned over and under full sail set off like a banshee with its arse on fire. You have to love there Westerly Fulmars. Mike Swann managed to shout over the noise of the wind..’shall we reef’… I shouted back, ‘just hang on mate’…Karen disappeared below deck and Mike and I hung on. Then the rain hit. It came down in a solid sheet of water. It was painful. We were soaked in a split second. The rain got harder, in more ways than one. It started to hail. I couldn’t see another boat. I couldn’t see the sea, sky or horizon. We were sailing flat out, blind in about 35 knots of wind. I caught glimpses of other boats, all flying along in the most amazing conditions I have ever been at sea in. I have experienced high wind and rain, but never like this before. I thought the end of days had come. The thunder and lightning came crashing in. The lightning strikes were all around us. We switched off  the electrics, in case of a strike.  We were now relying on the compass only. The storm seemed to last an eternity.  Lightning came right through the cockpit. Luckily I was the only one in the cockpit at the time and we weren’t struck. I understand that other boats were not so lucky!
As the rain lifted and the sky cleared, we were about 2 miles off shore, and in the lead! Then as quickly as it had come, the storm was gone. The sun came out and the wind stopped. Not a breath. We were effectively drifting. If we could drift in the right direction, we could still win! Despite the conditions, we were still racing!
I could only see Jorvic and Honey Bee. Three of us with the same idea. Come on, DRIFT…..it was so frustrating. Jorvic fired up first. Two of us in the race…..I can WIN. Then Honey Bee, sails down motor on. YES, we just need to get over the finish line. Not a chance. We would still be out there now. Steve came onto the radio reporting a huge pod of Dolphins. That was enough for us. We rolled away the genoa and started the engine. We were surrounded by the biggest pod of Dolphins (or Porpoise) I had ever seen in the UK. They played in our bow wave and dodged around out keel for about 25 minutes. It was truly magical and a fitting end to a great weekend.
Well done RNYC. A fantastic weekend once again. For those that missed it…..you missed a great event. There are always more events to get involved in. Once again I cannot promise exciting sailing or near death experiences. There are not always Dolphins to welcome us home. I can however guarantee great company, a good laugh and experiences that you should not forget, but cannot always remember!
See you next time guys, it was a thrill!