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News at Whitstable Yacht Club

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Found in the archive - Film of ‘Black Thursday’ in 1961

One of several reels of film recently found in the club archives, this short video shows footage of the Prince of Wales Cup race held on the Thursday of the International 14ft Dinghy Class championships held at Whitstable Yacht Club in July 1961. It became known as “Black Thursday” as the fleet was decimated by high winds. Ian Wild, who was 17 at the time, was there: “If I remember it correctly I was helping on the committee boat which was “Cod” Kelsey’s shrimping trawler from the harbour. I jumped into one boat we were rescuing to help bail it out as the crew were exhausted.”

The Prince of Wales Cup, which was first run in 1927, was regarded as one of the premier dinghy events in the world and it was a great honour for Whitstable Yacht Club to host it. It attracted over seventy entries including three from America. From the sail numbers we can identify 667 Bolero sailed by M Birkett, 702 Pyewackett sailed by T Carol, 746 Hilarity sailed by H Binyon and 760 Full Cry sailed by C Bennion. As can be seen, the International 14s carried very little buoyancy at the time.

Jack Knights, one of the leading yachting journalists of the time, described it in the Daily Express as follows:
“Rescuers were just in time to save Margaret Griffiths, crewing for her husband John when the Griffith’s boat Wagga Wagga capsized during the Prince of Wales Cup race at Whitstable yesterday. The race for the championship of the international 14ft dinghy class began in a howling gale. There were 50 starters but only six finished. Many boats capsized just after the start and many more on the first round. And at the end of it all it turned out that the race committee had abandoned the contest two-thirds of the way through. But nobody saw the small signal flag through the spray and the rain. Before long, one boat began to stand out – Audacity, sailed by her designer David Miles of Clevedon. Audacity, with a lot of freeboard, looked all the time a certain winner so long as she could stay upright which she did. Second at the end was Hilarity, sailed by Hugh Binyon, with Stuart Morris in Gossip third. The race will be re- sailed today.”

From the International 14 website:
Another new design of 1960 was Audacity (732). David Miles and Gerald Durbin developed her from their successful one-design decked 14ft. Mercury class. She was constructed in a novel manner, being made in sheet ply but with moulded sections where the sheets joined at the turn of the bilge, giving the appearance of a moulded hull. She was somewhat lower priced than the Proctor boats and boasted one of the first successful Wykeham-Martin roller furler jibs. Her deep hull was to prove of great benefit at Whitstable in 1961. In some of the wildest conditions in which an attempt has ever been made to sail the P.O.W. she was leading the survivors of the fleet, 7 out of 50, by a leg and a half, when in the fourth lap, the race was stopped. During the race, the seas were reported as being 6ft. and 7ft. from crest to hollow. At least one boat broke its plate on the bottom between waves. The wind was recorded at 35 knots, stronger in the gusts. After the race, the seven who were left were awarded special prizes, including Mrs. M. Birkett who was helming Bolero. The re-sail of the P.O.W. which was held on the Saturday was won by Stewart Morris in Gossip (767).