QUAY MARINAS CONWY RIVER FESTIVAL REPORT 2014
It was bound to happen sooner or later - a year of too much wind (or too little). The last time the River Festival had a bad spell of weather was in 2006, so 8 years of generally benign conditions can't be bad going. But this year was definitely Feast or Famine, and on the first Sunday the Festival had to deal with both.
Sunday 10th August: Nobbies, Gaffers & Classics plus Blind Veterans UK Challenge Cup Races
The Nobbies and Gaffers, racing over on the West shore, were pretty lucky. They sailed a short reaching course in a light SE breeze, with Tom Middlebrook's beautifully presented Nobby Spray taking the honours from the sky-blue Comrades, owned by Bob Angell. In the Gaffers it was little Minelvia who came home first, ably helmed by Graham Carter.
For the handicap cruiser fleets, competing in the Blind Veterans UK Challenge Cup races out at the Fairway Buoy, it was a different story. Having struggled to set a course in the fickle and flukey conditions, Race Officer Rob Smith then had to shorten as wind - and time - appeared to be running out. But just as racing was coming to an end, the forecast remnant of Hurricane Bertha arrived like a slap in the face, chasing the fleet home in driving rain and vicious squalls.
The winner of the Olympian Class was the Yates brothers' Hustler 32 'Smokehaze', always a serious competitor. New entrant Paul Foulkes claimed victory in the Trojan class in his elegant Westerly Storm 'More Madness', and also took home the Telford Rose Bowl for best performance of the day. The Corinthian Low Handicap class produced the rare phenomenon of a dead heat between the game little Westerly Centaur 'Promises' owned by John Nicol and Phil Wilkes, and Tony Brooks's Westerly Berwick 'Amethyst'. A fine performance from the BVUK's own entry, 'Zephyr II' (a 29ft Beneteau), sailed by John Jackson and his young team, saw them claim the trophy for the Corinthian Novice class.
Handicap Series – Mon /Tues/Weds 11/12/13 Aug
The cruiser Series was badly affected by the persistent stormy conditions, with winds gusting to over 30 knots at times, which led to the cancellation of two out of the three classes on two successive days, while the OIympians bravely sailed inshore storm courses. Race Officer Pam Macdonald said 'We couldn't even take the Committee boats out, it was too rough to anchor'. Finally on the last day all three classes got a good sail in a fresh NW wind, finishing on Conway Yacht Club line. The Series winners were : 'Rebel', Cris Miles (Olympian NHC class), 'Talaris', Keith Munro & Dave Parkman (Trojans) and 'Promises', John Nicol/Phil Wilkes (Corinthian Low Handicap). Rebel completed an impressive hat-trick, taking both the Top Yacht Trophy and the Avanti Fastpal Trophy for the IRC handicap class.
In the shelter of the estuary inshore Race Officer Richard Stagg managed to magic up three good races over two days. Close competition between the Conway One Designs made for great spectating from the shore. The Series victory predictably went to Arthur Davies and Anne Grace's COD 'Seiriol', but not without a fight from David Warden Owen, who won the final race in his COD 'Margaret II'.
LA-LA RALLY Thurs 14 – Sat 16th Aug
16 boats signed up for the Rally, which was an encouraging response, though in the end a few boats failed to make it to Conwy because of the storm. Difficult sea conditions also affected the itinerary, so the first night was spent at Menai Bridge - rather than Moelfre as originally planned - where the entertainment consisted of a beach BBQ and a nostalgia trip to the Liverpool Arms (the LA of the Rally's title). 'Promises' won the sail over trophy while 'Joie de Vivre' picked up both the Cobblers Trophy (for losing his fender in the Man Overboard drill) AND the Seamanship Trophy (for a fine display of single-handed sailing whilst trying to retrieve it!).
The next day the fleet had a cracking sail down to Victoria Dock at Caernarfon, followed by a relaxing night enjoying the hospitality of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club, spectacularly located in Caernarfon's ancient fortifications. The return trip to Conwy through the Swellies was completed in record time due to the strengthening SW wind, reaching 25 knots at times, and by mid-afternoon on Saturday Rally Leader Colin Lee had 'counted them all back' safely into Conwy Marina
CONWY QUAY DAY – Sat 16 Aug
Quay Day this year was masterminded by Assistant Harbour Master Gary Johnstone and the Harbour Office team, and what a fantastic day it was! While the weather out to sea was distinctly autumnal, it was warm and sunny in the shelter of Conwy's historic town walls, and crowds estimated at between 1500-2000 people enjoyed an endless parade of diversions. Highlight of the day was the spectacular air-sea rescue demonstration by the RAF Sea King helicopter and Conwy Inshore Lifeboat, culminating in a farewell flypast.
It was a good day for the many charity stalls, including St David's Hospice, who reported record takings from their annual Duck Race. Other charities present included BVUK, RNLI, the Deaf Society and Cartrefi Conwy, while Colwyn Bay Jet Ski Club did a healthy trade in jet ski rides, raising almost £600 for charity. HMS Eaglet and HM Coastguard had impressive displays on the Quay as did Heart FM and other local businesses. There were traditional rides for children, several excellent shanty bands, a trad jazz duo, and a Real Ale tent organised as part of the concurrent Conwy Festival of Words - all of which made for a friendly and upbeat atmosphere!
Former Harbour Master Tony Mead kept up a lively and knowledgeable commentary on events as they happened, including the Ladies' and Men's rowing races which were won by Andrea Hughes and Scott Hughes respectively (not related, but both staff members at the Harbour Office!) with the irrepressible Dennis Wright taking the Seniors' prize. 'Everyone had a terrific day' said organiser Gary Johnstone 'All the stalls were busy, takings were good and everyone is keen to come back next year. It's hard work but it's worth it – Conwy Quay Day is back in business!'.
FINAL PRIZEGIVING & PARTY – Sat 16th Aug
The Festival culminated with a final night party at Conwy Golf Club, attended by well over 100 competitors, sponsors, guests and dignitaries. Cllr Ruth Parker, Mayor of Conwy, made her third appearance of the week to present the overall prizes, along with Anne-Marie Roobottom representing BVUK and Linda Roberts on behalf of Cartrefi Conwy. The prizegiving was followed by an excellent buffet and dancing into the early hours.
'Entries for the Festival have held up well despite the adverse forecast' commented CRF Chair Vic Edwards. 'Some of our visiting boats didn't make it because of the weather, but we hope they'll be back next year. Sailing conditions were particularly difficult but we tried to make the best of it and we think people will still have good memories of this year's Festival. It's fun, it's friendly, and it's fantastic value for money. But it's only possible only because of the continuing generous support we get from all our sponsors, especially Quay Marinas and Conwy Council'.