With a storm forecast for the same weekend of this year's Arrow trophy, 9 old Salopian sailors set off from their homes with both some excitement that we could have some high wind racing but also some trepidation that the whole thing could be called off. If you're unaware, the Arrow Trophy is an annual yacht race that takes place in Port Solent just off the Isle of Wight. Competitors are made up of alumni from 25 independent schools from all across the country.
Shrewsbury decided to make an early start of it by taking our yacht out for some much-needed practice and sunshine before the weekend's scheduled storm.
This year's crew had our youngest ever skipper William Matthews (Ridgemount 03-8) ably supported by the very experienced Simon Jenkins (Moses Hall 74-79). Friday provided an opportunity for those that could wangle themselves out of work to get to grips with Sunsail's new yachts, the F41. Which if like me that means nothing to you are best described as tanks with sails on. Officially they're described as race cruisers but for our "keen" racers, they sailed more like bathtubs than something you might encounter at the America's cup.
After the rest of the crew had met us in Cowes on Friday evening and we had acquired thick heads from a "dark and stormy" drinks reception we set off on Saturday morning for some racing! With some serious gales blowing and 30 knots, the yacht was quickly up to speed even with 2 reefs in the sail and the crew was out on the ledges acting as ballast. The morning consisted of two races rather than the normal 5 or so due to the high winds forcing the rest of the days sailing to be cancelled. Something the crew was certainly not too unhappy with as it was getting to the point where many didn't know if they were sailing on the water or underneath it like a submarine. All the while Tim Becker (Riggs 77-82) was keeping spirits high by regaling stories to warm the soul of his time at the school in the 1970s.
Once back safely in port, the Shrewsbury crew hunkered down in a warm pub, glad to be somewhat dry and out of the wind and the rain. Dressed in our finest and a few pints down we headed for the annual Arrow Trophy Dinner.
Quickly the Shrewsbury table was surrounded by the ladies from Rodean, who were very keen to ask after one of our crew members who will remain nameless (SH 03-08) who wasn't in attendance this year but had serenaded them with his good looks and humour two years prior. You can take the boy out of Shrewsbury!
We set off on Sunday morning for a final race before the storm came rolling back in. Our performance improved as we got to know the yacht better. Despite our spinnaker pole breaking in Saturday's high winds we still managed to keep the Headsail out whilst running with the wind by utilising the 6' 6" Mark Oates as a replacement pole! With Simon Jenkins sniffing out every last bit of wind he could find as we ran downwind on the final leg we managed to gain 4 places and a respectable 6th position.