I'm quite surprised to be writing this. A week before the Nationals, and due to a variety of circumstances, I hadn't been planning to go to Rutland Water. However, things changed and I ended up crewing for Keith Hatton in ST858. I've crewed 'Saint' in the past but never in a Nationals … an interesting experience !
Rutland is an attractive venue, a sort of cross between Bewl Water and Ullswater. Several of the old Hawker SC crowd camped together on the field across the road from the club. Fairly basic but an ideal location. The others opted for dormitories in clubhouse or accommodation in Edith Weston, the local village.
I don't know what happened on Saturday because Keith, Madeline, Lyn and I didn't arrive until Sunday morning. By the time we got our bearings, erected the tents, rigged the dinghy and got changed, it was time for the practice race. The conditions where okay and although we didn't know it at the time they proved to be amongst the best of the week.
Rutland SC required us to run our races and Tom Field, our class captain, was going to be our OOD for the week. Monday started with a bombshell with the news that Tom's wife Mabel had died over night. A kind of shock settled over the assembled fleet. Most of us had talked to Mabel on Sunday, it just didn't seem possible that she had gone.
The Monday race was immediately cancelled as a mark of respect. It's hard to explain the position of affection that Mabel held with us all. Like Tom she has always been there. Quiet but assertive with a wicked sense of humour, often aimed at Tom. Quite simply everyone in the association had a very soft spot for Mabel and she will be sorely missed. Tom and young Tom have lost a Wife and Grandmother and we have lost someone who, with her family, was the very essence of what makes the SigneT Owners Class Association what it is.
The rest of the week was a frustrating mixture of hot/humid, wet, very wet and little or no wind, and races posponed to another day. In contrast Rutland SC was excellent. It had great facilities including a good restaurant. To ring the changes we also ate out in Stamford and at a local pub on a couple of nights. The AGM and the Prize Giving where conducted by Jenny (Secretary) and Steve (Sailing Sec.) with customary efficiency and humour. The evening entertainment at the club included a variety of quizzes and a last night Barn Dance which quickly identified the 'two left feet brigade'.
The 2002 Nationals will not be remembered for it's sailing, it will, unfortunately, be remembered for the untimely loss of a friend.