The 1991 Rally was hosted by the Isle of Man yacht Club at Port St Mary from 13th to 17th July. This year a cruising event was included in the programme to encourage non-racing Folkboat owners to participate.
The Rally started with cruises in company from Howth and the Menai Strait. Eight boats arrived in port St Mary on Saturday morning, five from Ireland, two from the Straits and one from Fleetwood. Two boats from the NW had to turn back because of strong winds.
Following a wet start on Saturday, we had ideal sailing weather for the next four days. On Sunday there was a cruise in company to Castletown, arriving just in time to fill up at the local pub. The first two races were to Derbyhaven and back to port St Mary on Monday. The best cruising boat competition was held on Tuesday and was won by Mike Maguire in Spook IV followed closely by Robin Pinners Neomys and Egon & Liane Freidrichs Tumbleweed. Egon ran away with the Best Meal for Four competition serving a sumptuous five-course meal, which included Manx, kippers with home baked bread and pork flambé!
The racing concluded on Wednesday with two races over an Olympic course. The final result being close with Sean Colbert in Vinge shading it by a quarter of a point over Seamus OCarroll in Vitesse and Neil Soffe in Anouska both on five and a half points. The crews race was won by Neil Soffe jnr. in Anouska.
The Rally was enjoyed by all, and its success was largely due to the excellent organisation and hospitality of the IOMYC for which the credit must go to Janet Harkin and Commodore Norman Williams.
Sea Folkboat Rally 1991
The rally this year was held in Port St Mary, Isle of Man from 13th to 24th July. My two sons and I travelled to North Wales to Neomys on the Friday evening, had a pint in the Gazelle, and stored all the gear on board by which time it was dark, even though it was only two weeks after mid-summer. The forecast was SW 4 to 5, visibility good, so we slipped the mooring under jib and ran NE past Gallows Point, and Beaumaris to rendezvous with Spook IV in Friars Bay. Mike Maguire was waiting for us and after hoisting full main we set off in hot pursuit., the boat going like a train at six knots on a broad reach with a force 5 wind. In the pitch dark we managed to avoid the unlit navigation buoys and took our departure from Puffin Sound at midnight, lee rail just awash, and the boat feeling very comfortable.
Not having sailed Neomys on an overnight passage, I began to find one or two shortcomings the compass was not lit and I could not see the mast head Windex- the latter not surprising as daylight revealed that it and the VHF aerial had been blown away! No wonder I could not raise Holyhead Coastguard to report our passage. However Spooks comforting stern light was just ahead and we were able to keep station with her. By dawn another problem my battery was flat. However the wind had moderated to force 4 leaving a lumpy sea, after the gales of the previous week.
The Isle of Man began to emerge by 0500 only to disappear again in a rainsquall. We did not see it again until Chicken Rock appeared on the port bow about 3 miles away, so we altered course for Port St Mary. By then we could make out two more Folkboats coming up astern from Ireland.
With the flat battery the engine refused to start even on the handle so we had to execute some very short tacks (about two boat lengths) to tuck in behind the harbour wall and berth at 1000 alongside one of the earlier arrivals. Arent Folkboats manoeuvrable thank goodness.
After renewing old acquaintances and meeting new friends it was time for a zizz before lunch. That evening there was a reception provided by our hosts, the Isle of Man Yacht Club in their very comfortable clubhouse good food and drink and excellent company. Our hosts also provided a most thorough briefing session each morning going over not only the race course but the local tides and eddies and weather conditions.
On Sunday we set off for a cruise in company in light winds and sunshine the six miles to Castletown where we berthed alongside the picturesque harbour. The afternoon was spent by some in the pub and by others in Castle Rushen one of the most complete medieval castles in Europe, which has been beautifully restored and comes complete with furnishings, sound effects, and smells. After that we had a gentle return cruise to Port St Mary, then back to the Yacht Club.
Monday was the first day of the serious racing, a race to Derbyhaven. Im afraid our mainsail jammed in the mast track and as a result we were late for the start. Although we caught up by the first windward mark, a decision to shake out our reef in the easing wind produced another jam, and we trailed the fleet around Land-Ness Point, and through the overfalls. It was a fine sight watching the boats take the waves in fine style, Spook IV carrying her spinnaker a shade too long perhaps and getting laid almost flat at one point. The sheltered natural harbour at Derbyhaven provided a welcome respite for lunch before the race back. This time we had a much better start, and although the wind was easing all the time we came back in fine style on the ebb tide. The waves outside Derbyhaven were even bigger, the boats looking like the famous of a Folkboat almost clean out of the water, as we fell headlong over the back of the waves. This exciting bit was very short lived however, and no water broke on board. Neomys almost scored her best position in this race a 3rd which proved to be useful because this race was used as a tie breaker.
On Tuesday we had a very easy day, the morning being devoted to the Best Cruising Boat competition two members of the PSMYC came on board and checked us for safety gear, knowledge of seamanship and whether the crew could navigate home if the skipper was disabled. The scoring was very high and most of the boats, although racing, were equipped with a full cruising inventory. Spook IV was declared the winner.
At lunchtime the second competition was for the skipper who could produce the best meal for three on a Folkboat. The fleets efforts of spaghetti, Irish stew and local Mackerel paled into insignificance compared with the menu ion board Tumbleweed. Egons menu was as follows:-
Each course being served with a different wine.
We all decided that the meal was so good that Egon could judge next years competition. Egon is a most interesting person. German by nationality, he and his wife left Cologne where they were both teachers and started up a bakery and café in Arklow in Ireland. His boat was built in East Germany, registered in Beamauris in Wales and now wears an Irish Ensign. His children were both born in Ireland. We visited him in Arklow a few weeks later and I can vouch for his baking and his pastries. No wonder he won the cooking competition.
The less said about the crews race that evening the better. With an excellent start we were lying a close third, but the skipper got the tactics wrong. We stood out too far in the tide and trailed in last again. My sons reckon they should have won but for me.
To round off the gastronomic delights of the day the Yacht Club organised a barbecue and sing song that evening. After a fine night in the bar it was a good job that it was nearly HW springs by closing time. Its 30ft down the ladders of the harbour wall at LW!
On Wednesday we had two Olympic course races but the wind was light and both were shortened. We made two very good starts, but after that our tactics were fatally flawed (again) and we spent 15 min in the afternoon race beating alongside the windward mark against an ever increasing tide, while the rest of the fleet sailed away. However the downwind leg was memorable for the two basking sharks we sailed alongside. They were relatively small as these sharks go at about 15ft apiece, but they looked big enough from a Folkboat
That evening we went to the dinner and prize giving at Port Erin a most convivial evening with good food and company. We came away with a 5th overall, a 3rd for the Derbyhaven race and a very fine crystal fruit bowl for the best newcomer. Vinge from Malahide was 1st, with Anouska and Vitesse from Howth 2nd and 3rd respectively. Some boats headed for home on Thursday but the wind was in the south and promised to veer to the West, so we stayed on and finally left at 0400 on Friday morning so that we could pick up a fair tide off Anglesey. It was something of a shock to wake from a warm sleeping bag, cast off in the dark, round the harbour wall 200 metres away and find we were off on another broad reach in a force 5 once more.
Again we had an excellent crossing and arrived back at Beaumaris by lunchtime when my sons devoured a whole loaf of toast and marmite.
It is a pity that the weather was so unsettled just before the rally. I think some boats had second thoughts because there were only eight crews in total compared with 15 or so when the event was held in Ireland. However it was a great week and good to see old friends and meet new ones. Thanks are due to the Isle of Man Yacht Club who were such excellent hosts and whose organisation would take some beating. Next year the rally, by popular vote, is to be held in the Menai Straits, the first time in Wales for many years. Make sure that if you sail a Folkboat in the Irish Sea you join us next July.