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Racing Evelyn 

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There is a busy racing calendar each for Evelyn and all the B and C Class Working boats.

As well as the weekly regular club races which many participate in there are special events and many local annual regattas hosted at a number of locations from Fowey to the Helford. Of special significance to Evelyn for example is the Point and Penpol regatta which is where she was originally built in 1898. Additionally, stemming from the original prize of a barrel of beer for oyster dredgers taking part in summer races, several pubs and organisations will arrange annual events. The Point and Penpol regatta has its challenges due to shallows and the Pandora Inn Cup provides a great spectacle as working boats race across the finish line close to the pub pontoon!  Other competitions include the (“World”) Working Boat Championships - a series of back to back races typically in June over three days, and Evelyn competes in the Thursday evening series hosted by St. Mawes Sailing Club too.

Racing is generally along the lines of the rules of racing provided and governed by PoFSA, with modifications agreed by the Falmouth Working Boat Association. One example of a special rulle applies to Staysails which for this fleet can only be hoisted 5 minutes before a start and must be lowered immediately after the finish. This is for safety due to the restricted visibility and speed they provide.

 

Whilst the length of the hulls overall is only 26-28 feet Evelyn has an additional 12 foot fixed bowsprit, as do all other B Class boats, which is a substantial piece of solid wood around eight inches in diameter. This means safety (and excitement) are considerations at starts and when close manoeuvring with other boats! With shallow draft hulls, long fin keels and considerable extra ballast to compensate for the doubling of sail area to 1,000 square feet (compared to less than 500 sq ft for a dredger) racing manoeuvres have to be made decisively and in plenty of time.

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As no electronic equipment is permitted on working boats, other than a hand-held VHF radio, the skippers and crews very much have to set their race strategies and tactics based on experience and a feel for their boats, the race day conditions and knowledge of the local waters’ depths and tidal currents. Decisions have to be made about sails and rig depending on the wind direction and strength, about size of foresails, whether to fly the topsail or even to reef the main.  Races typically take place in the relatively sheltered Carrick Roads, with some exceptions such as the Helford and Portscatho regattas. Fowey Royal Regatta always provides a warm welcome for us and this includes a passage ‘race’ there and back too.

 

The Falmouth Working Boats Association has adopted a performance-based handicap system that gives every boat in the fleet a fair chance of winning some silverware during the year.  The Handicap Committee is charged with setting and reviewing handicaps, and usually does this three times each season. At this time Evelyn’s handicap is set at 1.010 reflecting her past performance and to a degree it is along the lines of the other wooden boats in the B Class Fleet - the newer fibre glass hulled boats, often with higher freeboards tend to receive lower (i.e.more punitive) handicaps.

 

The last comment on racing has to be that the post race prize-givings and celebrations are an integral part of the history and culture of these boats: For over a hundred years the warmth, camaraderie, speeches and especially the singing have been a very Cornish feature of working boat racing. Long may it continue!

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