Remembering a race for the Silent World Trophy

It was the last day of the 2011 Championships at Hayling Island S.C. - the race for the Silent World Trophy. A beautiful sunny day with just a light breeze.

As WICKED had lost her mast in the previous race I was on the shore, looking at the leaders returning after the race, which was won by Tim Fells and Chris Downham. As they came ashore I congratulated an elated Chris, saying "I know how you must feel - I was in your shoes on this day, 39 years ago". . . .

. . .Falmouth 1972 was the first championships in which Patrick Blake and I sailed together. We had a new boat, MYTH ISLE, a beautiful dark green Rowsell-built Hornblower, which was showing great promise. Coming into the champs (which were held in late June) we had already won 4 Silver Tiller events and we were up for it. But so were several other teams, including Spud Rowsell and Jon Turner, Francis Williams and Derek Scheffer, and of course, David Speirs, crewed by Roger Taylor.

The entries were a little down on the record 220 boats of 2 years previously - but that was only because the Falmouth organisers had decided that 150 was the maximum number they could handle! The event was over subscribed. In the first race we got a perfect start at the port end and led for much of the race, but the dear race officer (Robert Lee-Warner) called us out to say we were over at the start. That took the wind out of our sails a bit, and we let Speirs through, but finished the race second. We protested the decision. The pin end person admitted she could not see the start flag come down, but she said we were definitely over the line at the gun; I did some calculations to do with the length of the line and the speed of sound at sea level, but to no avail - we were disqualified. So that was our discard!

After another 3 races we were well in the hunt, never having been out of the first 3, but then came Thursday - one of those days when the wind came and went, and from every direction. David Speirs won this race, while we were in the teens. That meant that barring a miracle, David had it in the bag.

Friday, the day of the race for the Silent World Trophy, dawned cold, wet and windy. 20 to 25 knot winds out in Falmouth Bay spurred us on to one grand finale. We knew that we could win in this kind of weather, but the main problem turned out to be one of navigation - the visibility was less than half a mile at times. We shot out of the leeward end of the line, pointing high, but Francis and Derek did better and we rounded the first mark on their transom. The first reach was very tight and both boats downed spinnakers before the gybe mark. We rounded with just a few feet between us, and pounded off on the slightly broader reach. I grabbed the pole from under the foredeck just as Pat was leaning in to play with that full width mainsheet device that he favoured at the time: the pole hit him square in the starboard eye. Polyphemus wasn't in it - he issued a great bellow and nearly collapsed in the bottom of the boat. I said something like "stop being a wimp and get on with the race", or words to that effect (earlier in the season, Pat had taught me the use of the F*** word, which I had never uttered before, and indeed have (almost) never used since). To his credit, he pulled himself together ("You've got TWO eyes, haven't you?" must have helped), and we stormed after Francis.

The breakthrough came on the third beat. For some reason, Francis decided not to cover us, and went inshore, while we steered clear of a tanker moored in the middle of the course and kept to port. At the weather mark we were ahead, and it stayed that way until the finish. After we crossed the line we hung about to see where Speirs was. He approached the line in 5th place, which meant that we would have won the Champs had we not been disqualified in the first race. It was the only time that I have deliberately done self harm - in frustration, I whacked the shroud with my forearm so hard that it REALLY hurt. But then Pat said that Speirs had passed Graham Pike on the line, so he would have won after all, which left me strangely relieved.


We had further successes with MYTH ISLE in 1972, but Harry Haynes pipped us to the Silver Tiller. I planned a new design for 1973 - the Hexagon. Pat sold Myth Isle to Tony Lane - a good sailor, but not someone who would give us competition, or so we thought. The 1973 Championships were held at Poole, and our new Hexagon, MYTHYLATED SPIRIT, was one of the favourites to win. The first race was held in light winds, and we were up there in the lead. But no, there was one familiar looking boat ahead of us - MYTH ISLE. Tony won that first race, with us in second place, only 3 seconds behind, which was why we came second overall that week - but that's another story.

Post Script

MYTH ISLE was later sold by Tony Lane and many years later ended up in a very sad condition on eBay.

Patrick, crewed by Jill, came 10th in the 2011 Silent World Trophy race. He must have sailed in nearly 50 of those races to date, but I don't know how many he won. It's at least one. . .

Copyright K Callaghan, 2012.