Appendices to Making Waves, A History of The Royal Yacht Squadron 1815-2015

Philip Hunloke on the Babbacombe Regatta

Philip Hunloke describes a stormy race in the Babbacombe Regatta of 1933
(published in The Field; this passage is to be found in J.B. Atkins, Further Memorials of the Royal Yacht Squadron, Chapter XV)

The wind began to blow with very heavy puffs off the cliffs, and just before crossing the line [at the end of the first round] we carried away the clew of our jib. After a certain amount of trouble we got it down, and crossing the line, gybed over to go to the next mark. We were opening away steadily from the other boats, and by this time we were three minutes ahead of the second boat, Shamrock. On the broad reach to the next mark we got up our third jib. We discussed whether we should carry our spinnaker; but as the sea and wind were both getting up I decided not to do so. When we got to the mark we had great difficulty in getting in our sheets in order to come on a wind. It was now blowing so hard that I had the greatest difficulty in steering her. I was waist deep in water, and the spray broke over my head and half blinded me and I had to have a lashing round my waist to keep me on board. It was more than one man could do to steer her single-handed, so I got the second mate to help me, and we both had as much as we could manage.

We were now so far ahead of the other boats that it was only a matter of sailing her easy and doing one’s best to prevent anything being carried away. Before we got to the second mark of the second round I noticed that Astra and Velsheda had given up, but Shamrock was still coming on a long way behind. We got round the second mark safely and bore up for the line.

It was blowing so very hard that we were completely smothered with water and I was very anxious about our gear and rigging. We had our sheets eased off as much as we could. We were able to do this as we were on a reach. Shamrock rounded the weather mark about five minutes astern of us. In a lull I looked astern and saw Shamrock lying almost on her beam ends, and a second or two afterwards the skipper shouted to me, “Shamrock’s mast has gone!” It struck me that she had her sheets in too hard. I was preparing to come round and go to her assistance when I saw that a mine-sweeper was going to her.

As I was the only boat left in the race I wondered whether I ought to go round for the third time, not only risking the lives of my men but also His Majesty’s yacht. As Britannia rarely gives up for weather I should have gone on. I prayed as I have never prayed before that they would stop us at the end of the round and not make us go a third time. The wind that came off the cliffs was so terrific that I could hardly steer her. Although the main sheet was eased right off she kept coming up into the wind. We seemed like a toy boat which one sees on the Round Pond, and we had little more control than the owners of these model yachts have once they have started them off on their course. On nearing the line we met the 12-metres who were crossing our bows and I had an anxious time keeping out of their way. We were now very close to Flica which just crossed ahead of us. The owner, Mr. Fairery, told me afterwards that he had never seen such a beautiful sight as Britannia going along at about 14 knots nearly under water.

As we crossed the line, to my great relief, the gun went off and the letter “S” went up practically at the same moment. Thus finished one of the hardest races I have ever sailed. The captain and crew behaved magnificently and so did the ship. It did G.L. Watson, who designed Britannia, great credit that a 40-year-old boat could beat all the new ones; also great credit is due to Mr. Nicholson, who designed and built the mast and rigging.

***

Return to Appendix 1 Contents List

Return to the Appendices