In his latest blog, Born Again Boater Nick Burnham cheats on his new Skibsplast with a day out with the annual Fletcher Rally
One of the key benefits of Torbay as a boating arena is shelter from prevailing westerly winds, making it an ideal venue for the annual Fletcher Rally, now firmly established and into its fifth year.
What a shame therefore, that on the first grey morning of last year’s event a fresh Easterly wind had used the whole of Lyme Bay to build up a relentless rolling swell, packaged by a fast flowing opposing Spring tide into short high peaks interspersed with valleys deep enough to lose a Fletcher speedboat in.
Very professionally organised by Robin Coomer and John Sheperd, the first day’s program revolved around a run to Dartmouth ten miles down the coast.
With the swell bang on the nose as we headed for Berry Head, six of the 25 boats that set out decided discretion was the better part of valour and doubled back. The rest pressed on, spurred on by the safety and support of being in a large group.
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Opinion on the best way to deal with the conditions was divided into two camps: drop back to displacement speed and tough it out, or drop the hammer and try to blast across the top.
Either way, by the time we made the River Dart, no one was in any doubt as to the amazing sea keeping characteristics of these great little boats, least of all me, having cadged a ride with Jamie Cousins aboard his immaculate 1989 Arrowhawk 19 Classic.
Jamie hung his hat firmly in the latter camp and opted for speed and power to tackle the rough conditions.
With a huge skull and crossbones aflutter (it was Pirate Week in Brixham) we passed the whole fleet in a frenzy of spray and aerobatics, the newly re-built two and a half litre V6 Mariner 200hp howling mellifluously astern, to arrive a good ten minutes ahead of the pack.
For many it was the season’s first shake-down cruise, for some more literally than others, to which a grinning Duncan Wallace attested as he held up a few pieces of dislodged trim.
Berthed at a pre-arranged reserved pontoon, the gang headed for Dartmouth and a well deserved lunch, returning to be greeted by several of the remaining fleet who had taken advantage of slack water and the resultant reduction in swell to come round and join us just as the sun was breaking through.
Heading back I sought the sanctuary of a Regal cruiser that had tagged along (all are welcome, Fletcher optional) to bag some photos.
And with the sun out, and conditions now fun bumpy rather than scary bumpy, it was an exuberant pack of little Fletchers that jumped and frolicked and played in the surf like dolphins on the run back to Brixham.
That evening a smaller group headed for nearby Elberry Cover for a beach barbecue. With the mood mellow and tales of the day’s adventures rife, it was the perfect end to a day of fantastic fun and camaraderie and, with real regret, I slipped away to leave them all to another two days of the event.
If you fancy joining the fun this year over the Bank Holiday weekend of May 23-25, head over to the South West Fletcher Rally website for full details plus forum chat and more photos.