On Good Friday 1963, twenty-two hopefuls gathered at Wraybury Lake S.C. for the first meeting for Mirrors ever to be held. The weather
was perfect for the occasion - warm and sunny with perhaps a force three breeze. Some of the competitors had, of course, some racing experience, but subsequent events were to suggest that they were in the minority. For some of the others it seems likely that this was the first time afloat for boats or their crews. Be that as it may, at least one was observed earnestly consulting his instruction booklet to find how to rig it.
To be fair, it must be admitted that, once on the water, no one was seen to consult the booklet to find how to make the boat go. In fact in at least one case the difficulty seemed to be the very opposite - how to stop the beast. Once launched in the off-shore wind, it carried its surprised crew straight across the lake until it was stopped by the trees on the other side. This was followed by another, the crew this time being even more powerless being somehow left on the bank.
Most of us have discovered at some time that the Mirror can have a mind of its own. There was yet another demonstration of this when another boat confounded its helm by stubbornly refusing to sail at all. There was of course much good advice from the bank - as always all the experts were ashore and all the idiots on the water! Mysterious and conflicting instructions (back your jib, ease your kicker, harden your main . . . ) came in quick and confusing succession from the many well-wishers. It may have been Mr. Jack Holt himself who, having come to see the trouble he had started, saw that what was wrong was merely a tiller held so far over that the rudder was virtually a plate on the transom. Perhaps the centre board was also out but one forgets.
Most boats succeeded in navigating to the start line which was mercifully not too far from the launching ramp. The start itself one remembers as a much more polite affair than one sees these days and soon they set off in a stately procession round the lake lead by John Taylor in M14. The serenity of the affair was only disturbed for some competitors when they were painfully introduced to the characteristic Mirror curtsey as they negotiated a narrow strait with shallows.
Half way round the first lap, knowledgeable onlookers noticed that John was sailing the wrong way, including in his course an extra buoy. Present day Mirror men are quick to take advantage of such a lapse but not here. The rest of the fleet sportingly followed the longer course. The series was of only two races. The second much the same as the first except that by now people seemed to be finding their way a little better. Both races were won by John to take the Pioneer Trophy and the Marlow Plate. These prizes have since been awarded each year at the Nationals, the first I believe under a different name for the overall runner up.
Among those present, sailing "Appy Arry", was old Bill Jermy who won the first Nationals but who alas retired from sailing last year. Sailing M11 was Sid Morriss who of course is still very active and has never missed a National Championship.
Perhaps some members who are new to the game will be encouraged by this account not to be too bashful about their inexperience when considering whether to attend the next Area or National Championships. It is no exaggeration to say that, not so very long ago, I noticed that most successful of Mirror sailors (who I shall not embarrass by naming) carried, on either side of his boom, a label "P" and "S" to indicate to him his tack!
Editors Note: This report is part of the article "Where it all began" by Harry Taylor M14 & 27320 which appears in Reflections
The story was also recorded in the Daily Mirror so the following report text is © Daily Mirror. Also thanks to the www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk .
The following story, by John Smith, appeared in the Daily Mirror, Saturday 13th April 1963, page 9
What a winner!
The Daily Mirror's sailors pushed the boat out yesterday —and what a rip-roaring regatta it was ! Sparetime sea-dogs who can hardly tell a jib from a mainsail got all togged up like Uffa Fox and set sail in their Mirror-class dinghies at Wraysbury, Bucks. And families who had built the boats in back gardens, spare bedrooms and even the front parlour whipped round in the red- sailed vessels to turn Wraysbury Lake into a working man's Cowes. Dad took the helm, mum trimmed the sails, and the kids kept a look-out to windward.
It was the first-ever race meeting for the Mirror dinghies, which were specially designed by yacht designer Jack Holt, TV handyman Barry Bucknell, and "Yachting World " editor Bernard Hayman.
And it was the first-ever race for some of the weekend sailors who rocketed round in boats with names like—" 'Appy 'Arry's." " I knocked my dinghy together in the top bedroom upstairs," said builder-decorator Mr. Sidney Morris, 48, of Wood Green, London. " When it was finished I had to push it out through the bedroom window." Mr. Morris added: "I have never done any sailing before, but I have always wanted to have a bash. I have read the instruction books that come with the kit, and l am getting on fine.
The novice yachtsmen dropped some sailing clangers---but who cared ? In the first race eleven of the twelve boats took the wrong turn at the first buoy and were all at sea for a bit. It couldn't happen at Cowes, but they laughed it off at Wraysbury, where the race meeting was organised by Wraysbury Lake Sailing Club. The race for the Pioneer Cup was won by schoolboy John Taylor, 19, of Thorney Island, Sussex, with his mother, Mrs. Ella Taylor. as crew. " We built the boat in the garage," said Mrs. Taylor. " It is a lively little craft, and so safe. Ideal for the family sailor." Mr. Frank Morton, 38, of Ilford. Essex, took his wife, Lilian. and six-year-old son Kevin for a spin. were doing well until they got tangled up with some trees on the lake bank.
But after sorting out the tangle Frank baled out the boat and said: " I think I am gradually getting the hang of this sailing lark. " The boat is a real winner and must be introducing hundreds of people like myself to sailing for the first time." Mirror sailors got top marks from veteran yachtsman Mike Flint of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club. "No one dropped any really bad clangers," he said. " They all obeyed the rules very well, considering many of them are beginners." " This boat is an ideal introduction to sailing. It is easy to handle. It is safe and it is inexpensive."
Editors note: We only know the first place in both races.
Thanks to Neil Cooke for these photos, one of which appeared in the Daily Mirror newspaper, so they are probably all © Daily Mirror