Welcome to Cadet week 2019,  I am Ben Woodcraft and I am your race officer for the outside fleet.

I started sailing when I was ten and have sailed all sorts of boats since then. I am looking forward to Cadet Week just as much as you are and take great pleasure in watching you racing and having fun. ‘ The art of the sailor is leave nothing to chance’ so if I have any tips for you it will be –make sure your boat is prepared. Read sailing instructions and know your course

You don’t want to be following other boats as they may be going in the wrong direction. Try to get a good start and always sail your own race.

The other top tip is never collide with another boat even if you have right of way better to call for people to do penalty turns. Remember these boats cost your parents a lot of money. I could go on but I won’t so good luck and have fun.

And remember this

‘There are good ships and wood ships, the ships that sail the sea. But the best ships are friendships and may they always be.’

From an old Irish Toast

Ahoy to all ye Pirates and ye elders!

Avast with ye books ‘n’ studyin’ and with ye confoundin’ X Boxes n’ Play Stations, for ’t is time for Mersea Cadet Week 2019!

‘t is an honour t’ be part o’ the dedicated Cadet Week Crew that works fingers to the bone all year t’ make ye Cadet Week so enjoyable ‘n memorable.  With a healthy mix o’ fun ‘n competition, learnin’ ‘n laughter, we aims to bring’em all ashore ‘appy, if a tad muddy!

We have four Optimist fleets: Gold, Ruby, Emerald ‘n Diamond!

Diamond Fleet be our first-year sailors, most will be new t’ sailin’ ‘n’ racin’. They be ‘avin’ fun activities and simple races with plenty o’ support ‘n’ encouragement from coaches, ‘n th’ support ships.

Emerald Fleet be aimed at our second-year sailors ‘n those who already had a wee bit o’ racin’.  The courses will still be moderately short ‘n’ set t’ match ability o’ th’ majority o’ the fleet.

Ruby Fleet be aimed at sailors who are in their third ‘n fourth year sailin’.  (This matches the Bronze ‘n’ Silver DSC Sunset Fleets.)  Courses will, usually, be set in th’ more open waters alongside Gold fleet.  The racin’ will be a wee more competitive ‘n challengin’. However, again courses will be set t’ match ability o’ the majority o’ th’ fleet.

Gold Fleet be, our top Optimist fleet with races for the more experienced sailors ‘n’ keener racers.  (This fleet matches those in DSC Sunset Gold Fleet plus any more confident/experienced sailors in Sunset Silver Fleet.)

Our aim is to have maximum fun subject to safety. We’ll get lots of races in but we be a’ measurin’ our success by the smiles not the miles.  It be about the sailin’ and not the bailin’!  We will aim to include some fun sailing activities that are not pure races.

Although we all hopes for a glorious week o’ weather, ’tis Jolly ol’ England, so sailors must be prepared for what’er the Blackwater throws at ye.

Make sure you come to the ‘Pirate Parley’ each morning for a debrief on the prior day, and to hear our plans for the day to come.


  • Be organised – Get down the HaRRRd in plenty o’ time. T’is always lots to do!
  • Take some water ‘n a snack aboard with ye;
  • Take care of ye rubbish. Look after the Sea and the Sea will look  after ye!
  • If the sun be out, wear a hat and use good quality sun cream – High Factorrrrrrr!
  • If it gets cooler, grab a woolly hat ‘n extra warm sailin’ clothes. A warm Pirate be a ‘appy Pirate!; and
  • Each day, pirates must sign-on, Tally on ,Tally off th’ water and then sign-off!

To all ye pirates ‘n elders, ‘ave  ye’ a fine Cadet Week 2019!

Chris Burrrrrrrrrr

By Richard Pattison [i]

Pirate themed events and parties are popular and fun.  After all pirates are romantic swashbuckling heroes; aren’t they?  Chuck in some desert islands, battling the odds against officialdom and authority, some treasure and you have the makings of the pirate story.  Popular pirates from Treasure Island’s Long John Silver to Jack Sparrow represent mystique and appeals to our rebellious and independent nature.   As a bonus, it’s easy to dress up as a pirate, a stripped tee shirt, eye patch then a bandanna, tricorn hat and a neckerchief.  A bit of “yo ho ho”, a stuffed parrot, some “pieces of eight” or other treasure and you are away.  Party on!

This popular image though hides a sinister reality; pirates were and are some of the most barbaric and unpleasant people who roamed and still roam the seas.  The romantic notion of piracy masks a harsh reality.  For hundreds of years pirates were the scourge of the sea, ruthless and vicious they respected no one and attacked the weak and lawful for their own pleasure and robbed them to line their own pockets. Their victims were often abused before being killed or condemned to misery as slaves for the pirates themselves or sold to the highest bidder.

As an island and trading nation, we have always maintained a strong interest in maintaining the freedom of the seas and have often been at the heart of coalitions in antipiracy.  The Barbary pirates of the Mediterranean were active for several hundreds of year and as well as the “Med” ventured far into European waters, even raiding English coastal towns to capture slaves.  By the early 18th Century The Royal Navy and others had virtually stamped out their piracy and although it briefly resurfaced, it was finally eliminated by a combination of treaty and Naval action.  But just as one threat was ebbing, so another was rising, this time in the Caribbean.  Several European nations had interests in the Caribbean and the story is more complex.  In particular, Britain, France, Spain and The Netherlands had established trading colonies in the region and its borders and each sought to strengthen its own position whilst weakening the others, reflecting the battle for supremacy that was being fought out in Europe.  Each licensed Privateers – a sort of unofficial navy – to further their own interests and these often behaved little better than pirates.  One such was Henry Morgan who despite several atrocities was eventually knighted and made Governor of Jamaica.  On top of these were the pirates themselves who owed no allegiance to any country but were only interested in their own self-interest.  Infamous pirates like Captain Blackbeard and Bartholomew Jack, thought to have attacked more than 400 ships, were hunted down by the Royal Navy and killed in battle.

Piracy though has never completely gone away and continues to this day.  In 2009 Paul and Rachel Chandler from Kent, a couple in their late fifties were sailing off the East African coast when they were attacked and kidnapped by Somali pirates.  They spent over a year in captivity and were only released after a ransom of over half a million pounds was paid to secure their freedom.   A few years later Judith Tebbit from Bishop Stortford was held for 6 months and only released after an undisclosed ransom was paid. Her husband Paul had been murdered by the pirate gang that kidnapped them.

As aspiring sailors you may well have heard of the extraordinary yachtsman Sir Peter Blake.  He competed 5 times in the Whitbread and was race winner in the1989-90 race when his yacht, “Steinlarger 2”, took line, handicap and overall honours in all 6 legs.  He held the Jules Verne Trophy from 1994 to 1997 and led New Zealand to successive victories in the America’s Cup.

He was shot and killed by pirates while monitoring environment change on the Amazon River on 5 December 2001. He was 53 years old.

So enjoy the party, but in the morning remember the party was fun but pirates aren’t.

[i] RP is a local sailor who was once involved in considerations as to whether to carry arms and ammunition as an antipiracy measure along the South American coast including the Amazon Basin.  His skipper had been a friend and competitor of Sir Peter Blake during the 89-90 Whitbread.  When Sir Peter was killed they were mid way across The Drake and off the Amazon only about 3 months later.  The article is the result of a chance meeting with Dominic Barnes on the hard.)

By Sir Richard Matthews

Then as now back in the early 1960’s, Mersea Cadet Week was one of the highlights of our sailing season.

Back in the day, I won the 1st overall Viking Trophy in 1962 and again in ’64 and my best mate at the time Nigel Banks won in ’63. Interestingly, our last WMYC Commodore Michael Wheeler won in 1961.

Andy Green, who now sails with us aboard Oystercatcher XXX111, won in 1989.  Andy went on to become a world ranked match racer and America’s Cup trial helmsman, and is now a sports commentator. You may have heard him during the Olympics, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean races.

In the early 60’s most boats were of the local handicap type and my boat Swallow was a very old 14-foot lugsail dinghy formerly owned by the local sailmaker Ken Gowen.  Despite my dad’s best efforts at stiffening her up she twisted when sailed hard and always leaked like a sieve. I remember she had a heavy iron centerboard and her boom and gaff were made of bamboo.  There were a few class dinghies around such as the Fleetwind, but most boats were a bit like the brig/fishermen’s open boats are today. The 12ft clinker built Sea Ranger was a popular choice for parents who could afford to buy new.

The races started and finished off the WMYC line which in those days was the flagpole and a line on the clubhouse roof, which I think can still be seen. There were a pair of very fine canons on wheels that fired 12 bore blank cartridges with a big bang and lots of smoke.

At low water races started on the far side of the middle ouze mud and on windy days it was great fun seeing some of the less experienced cadets getting into a muddle and mounting the mud before capsizing or even trying to sail over it.

Having had a run of success in 1964, whilst still just cadets, Nigel Banks and I took on the job of actually running the event. We were a little like poachers turned game keepers but everyone had fun which was the number one objective. In those days, the YC ladies met for bridge on Thursday afternoon and with the wind onshore complained through the steward that the starting guns were disturbing their bridge.  Nigel and I thought “hang on we are running a regatta here and this is a yacht club”. We reckoned we would be fireproof as far as complaints were concerned and mischievously decided that on that day every single boat would get a canon when finishing. The bridge players abandoned their game, left in disgust and we never heard another word. Everyone enjoyed that day and all the tail enders were especially happy getting a canon from the lawn on finishing.

A few years back I had the opportunity to speak at the end of week prize giving and started by asking for a show of hands amongst the large number of parents present if they had taken part in Cadet Week themselves. About fifty percent put their hands up proving that our Cadet Week really has become an institution.

In truth, Cadet Week today has become much more competitive with class dinghies providing an accurate benchmark of individual performance. Tall oaks from little acorns grow, and we all know that some Cadet Week sailors have gone on to do great things in sailing, Mersea’s own golden girl Saskia Clark also sails with us on Oystercatcher. No doubt some of this seasons Cadet Week sailors may well go on to become championship contenders but for most of you I hope sailing will simply be about having fun on the water with your friends.

After a lifetime of sailing having fun is still my number one priority and I hope you will join me in this philosophy. I heard it said that sailing is a disease for life for which there is no antidote. Racing, cruising, or just messing around in boats, sailing can be whatever you want it to be –above all stay safe, have fun and enjoy Cadet Week 2019.

Very best wishes to you all,

Sir Richard Matthews

‘Splice the Main Brace!’-it’s our Pirate themed Mersea Cadet Week 2019

‘This is the week you will always remember as the week you (definitely) took part in Cadet Week.’

 A rather apt, misquote from Captain Jack.  Somehow Mersea Cadet Week gets better every year.  Also, from the film, ‘This is either madness or brilliance’ (The piles of sailing gear all over the house, garden and car and the warm feeling inside that is impossible to explain to the land lubbers in your life, will be proof of this).

For those new to Cadet Week you are in for one of the best weeks of your life! We are a fun, welcoming and supportive team. By team I mean everyone involved in the week: Cadets, Parents, Sponsors, Committee, both Clubs, Residents and Businesses. Welcome again to those returning. Some families have been involved for decades!

 Mersea Cadet Week is proof that ‘Not all treasure is Silver and Gold’. The true treasure is friendship. Sailing, and particularly sailing here, creates life-long and deep friendships. We are delighted that the prize giving this year, with a fair wind, will be with Saskia Clark MBE and her lifelong friends she made on this magical island through sailing.

Mersea Cadet Week is one of the UK’s longest running and largest Club sailing events in the UK. This is something the whole Island should be very proud of. The Viking Trophy was first awarded in 1934 making the event 85 years old this year. Look out for a piece by Richard Matthews on the early days.

We are very grateful to all our sponsors, particularly Micro Scooters and The Royal Hospital School. Their support means that Mersea Cadet Week continues to be the cheapest Cadet Week on the East Coast.

‘The Code is more what you would call guidelines than actual rules.’ Sailing has always been a self-policing sport where sportsmanship and fair play underpin the sport we love. Congratulate those who do well and support those who may need it. There is nothing more heart-warming than seeing an older Cadet helping a younger sailor up the beach with their boat or spending 10 minutes in the morning offering rigging or sailing tips.

Please can you be also ‘PROUD Pirates Against Plastics’ this year by continuing to look after our waters and waterside by disposing of your rubbish responsibly. Mother ships will have large flagons of water for you to refill your own reusable water bottles and I would ask all sailors to join the committee at the Yacht Club on Saturday 3rd August at 9am for the ‘big tidy up’.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the Mersea Cadet Week Committee for their passion and dedication to Mersea Cadet Week. It takes a whole year to plan this event. If you see them during the week, please say thank you as it goes a long way. They represent everything that is special about ‘The Tropical’ that we are lucky enough to call home.

‘Follow your gut and achieve your goals. Carpe Diem, me hearties!’

Dom Barnes