We took a short break from preparing for our voyage up the East Coast to go down to Brixham for the Heritage Sailing Regatta and Brixfest event. When we arrived we went down to the Heritage Pier where the Brixham Trawlers, Luggers and other traditional sailing craft were assembling. We also noticed a couple of traditional vessels that looked as if they would not be taking part. First was the Brixham Trawler Vigilance, which was moored in the old harbour with a large section of her stern deck and bulwarks missing. The second was the coble True Vine, which was sitting on the hard, looking resplendent with her shiny new paintwork but very much high and dry. Given that she was there on Friday evening and the regatta started the following morning, it seemed she would be sitting this one out. Imagine my surprise when I opened the curtains early on Saturday morning to see her distinctive shape moving across the harbour to the Heritage Pier. We had met True Vine’s owner, Colin, a couple of years ago when he was painting her the hard and wanted to tell him how fine she looked and how nice it was to see a traditional vessel from the north east down in Brixham. He told us how he had been a fisherman and had started in a traditional coble. When he moved to Brixham he had found True Vine near Plymouth and had restored and rigged her.
After breakfast we went down to the Heritage Pier and saw Colin busily getting True Vine ready to sail. He told us she had been craned in at 0600 that morning and when I asked if he had enough crew he said he had a couple of friends coming down, but invited us to join him. Unfortunately Sally had not been feeling well and thought going to sea in a small open boat probably wasn’t wise, but she encouraged me to take up Colin’s offer. I quickly returned home to get some gear and was soon back eager for my first sail in a coble. We were able to sail off the pier under the mainsail while Colin prepared the jib. We needed a bit of engine to manoeuvre out of the busy harbour but once out in the bay there was plenty of room to play. The wind was very changeable that day with some very strong gusts early on, such that we changed to a smaller jib and put two reefs in the mainsail. She was very comfortable with this rig and we had some exciting sailing. Because it was the first sail of the season there were a few snags that meant we were a bit late starting and then unfortunately as we reached the first race mark the wind died away completely. We shook out all the reefs, but there was still not enough to get us going. As this was affecting everyone, the organisers decided to shorten the course and a very helpful motorboat came along and the mark was moved so we were on the right side of it! However there was still too little wind and Colin decided to call it a day.
We were resigned to having to motor home but, once we got out of the very sheltered bay, there was a bit of breeze and we were able to sail back into the harbour. I know how disappointed Colin was not to have got around the course, especially as we were going so well earlier on in the day, but we had a great day out amongst a fantastic collection of traditional sailing vessels. We also had a wonderful evening at the prize giving and then went on to the Old Market House for a delicious meal with Colin and Jenny to whom we say, ‘Thanks so much, you and beautiful True Vine certainly made the Heritage Regatta 2014 very special for us!’