In 2012, NFDS held a Waterfest to thank Sainsbury’s (Ringwood) Management and staff for the generous sponsorship that the local branch had given. That inaugural Waterfest has since become an annual event, now involving several southern branches of the store.
The 2014 Waterfest took place in August. The two-seat Hansa 303 Class boats had been on the water all day during a normal Sailability day. That activity ceased as 4pm approached and Sainsbury’s staff and families from the southern area started to arrive. This year’s event would also be used for the ceremonial launch of our two new boats with representatives of the sponsors and associated families in attendance.
Seven boats were entered for racing and crews safely in the boats with NFDS Volunteers accompanying them. After a little milling around and inevitable confusion at the start line, the first heat commenced; all seven boats crossed the line and headed up the lake in a brisk wind. Having started slightly earlier than planned, the competitors were allowed to sail two laps before being timed across the finish line. Then, a quick change of crews before sailing a second qualifying heat. The start and finish line had deliberately been placed close to the embarkation pontoon so, as each boat passed, they could be targeted by the water pistols and other fiendish devices of the younger (and not so young) family members and work colleagues. Needless to say, an outbreak of morale was experienced at this point.
After the second heat was complete, quick calculations of elapsed times were made and the slower crews eliminated. The quickest seven were made ready and without further delay the final race began. By this time the breeze had become quite gusty and close racing resulted in several changes of lead as two laps were sailed over the same course as the heats. The first three boats crossed the line within one minute of each other and the remainder followed close behind. One lonely boat that had almost been lapped was invited to retire by the safety boat, otherwise that crew would have missed their tea.
Once all had returned to shore, the new boats were launched. The first, with a yellow deck was named ‘Little Buttercup’, a character from G&S HMS Pinafore and in recognition of the Gilbert & Sullivan Group that had generously raised much of the funding for its purchase. Dousing the hull with bubbly by G&S President Brian Ford, was preceded by a short rendition by the G&S representatives.
The second new boat with a blue upper deck, had been named ‘Blue Peter’ in memory of the late Peter Bircham who had spent many happy years as a NFDS Volunteer. Members of Peter’s family were present and the launching ceremony was performed by his daughter Pat who emphasised the enjoyment that her father had derived from contributing to New Forest Sailability.
Winners of the sailing races were then announced and commemorative plaques presented to the top three crews by NFDS Hon President, Eric Blyth. The organisers of the event were thanked for another successful Waterfest and then enjoyed a splendid spread of refreshments that had been laid on by the volunteers.
New volunteers are always required. Call the clubhouse on Tuesday or Friday, 10am to 4pm: 01425 470365 www.newforestsailability.co.uk