All three of The Island Trust’s vessels arrived in Torquay on Monday 17 April to join a gathering of other sail training boats for the Torbay Small Ships Race, organised by the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) and kindly hosted by the Royal Torbay Yacht Club. With the colourful dressed overall flags flying and decks tidy for the onlooking crowds, the trainees made the most of the time on Monday afternoon exploring Torquay, enjoying hot showers or a visit to the beach, while the sea staff contended with far more exciting things like safety inspections and the skippers briefing.

The event proper started on Tuesday, with a practice period in the morning, allowing us time to train everyone in the skills needed for racing, and also gave us the spectacle of several of the larger Tall Ships arriving into the bay ready for the start of the Rendez-Vous 2017 race to Portugal. Gusty conditions made for some exciting sailing, but as forecast the wind was dying off in time for the start of the first race. Pegasus made a quick start and was the first boat in the fleet to round the first mark, leaving the other traditional boats behind, as well as the modern yachts. However, by the time the other boats had rounded the first mark, the wind had all but gone completely, and some highly skilled and patient sailing saw Moosk creep close inshore and keep moving slowly but in the right direction while many of the bigger boats drifted with almost no steerage. Not that this dispirited Tectona’s crew, who could be heard singing and dancing across calm Torbay! While the modern yachts got around the course, the race had to be abandoned due to lack of wind, so our finishing places and times were taken in relation to positions at 1600 that afternoon. The lack of wind meant it was unseasonably warm, so on return to Torquay the crews of Moosk and Tectona anchored and went for a (very) cooling swim in the sea, while Pegasus’s crew voted that showers were a far more sensible option.

Once back alongside, the crews attended a party and prize giving at the Royal Torbay Yacht Club, where it was announced that in class B, the traditional vessels, it was an Island Trust clean sweep with Moosk coming first, Pegasus second and Tectona very close behind in third. More impressively however, Moosk also claimed the Richard Langhorn trophy, awarded to the vessel which best demonstrates the ‘Spirit of the Race’ and is voted for by the crews of all the other boats taking part – so an achievement to be rightly proud of! The evening finished up with a spectacular buffet, and some games, which allowed the crews to meet and socialise with young people from all of the boats taking part, and indeed from areas all over the UK.

Wednesday morning dawned with both nice weather and a fair sailing wind, and all the boats slipped early for a parade of sail; an opportunity to move in line close past the harbour entrance at Torquay and along the sea front, with crews waving, cheering and generally showing off their impressive boats to the gathered crowds and cameras. After this, it was time to head to the start line for the second race, following the same course down to Goodrington Beach before an upwind leg to Brixham and then back across to the start line off Torquay to complete the lap – this time there was enough wind to sail, and all of the boats taking part put in an impressive performance, working hard to tack, gybe and change sails as conditions dictated, and this time the whole fleet managed to at least complete one lap, before it was announced by the race control that a shortened course was being used, and a new finish line was set up off Brixham due to time constraints. This time Pegasus was first across the line in class B, making good speed in the conditions, and finishing in style with a fantastic Mexican wave as the finish line was crossed, followed by Moosk second in class, and Tectona – again keeping the podium an all Island Trust affair.

From here the fleet dispersed, Tectona to sea to catch a fair tide to Salcombe, Moosk anchoring for lunch, and Pegasus diving in to Brixham for a jubilant ice cream stop. One last treat was in store for the trainees, as the Tall Ships were now gathering on the horizon, ready for their race start to Portugal, and this proved an excellent chance to do some more waving and photo taking as part of the huge fleet of yachts and other spectators that headed out of Torbay to wish them well. Judging by feedback from the trainees at the end of their voyage, the race was a huge success, bringing them together as crews, and giving an insight into a whole new world of small (and tall) ship racing. Thanks to ASTO and the Royal Torbay Yacht Club.

Craig Young, Skipper Pegasus