BDA Classic and Vintage Championships Aldeburgh

Seven Dragons took part in the Aldeburgh Dragon Open meeting over the weekend of 22 – 23 June 2024. There were two Classics; Harkaway and Inditine, three Vintage; Basilisk, Panther and Nooka and two open meeting-only contenders Naiad and Hands Off.

The locals were delighted to be visited by Hands Off, sailed by Andy Moss, Tim and Teresa Wilkes. Indeed they had brought with them weather which blessed the weekend with excellent windward-leeward courses in Force 3 to Force 4 winds and wall-to-wall sunshine on Sunday.

Hands Off started the regatta by showing the locals how to do it with an immaculate port tack flier in the first race. She won the race after a brief interlude in which Basilisk led, only to go irretrievably aground, from the evergreen Harkaway, sailed by Tim Hannon and the Chalker family.

Thereafter the local form book reasserted itself and Basilisk won the next two races. The second one was a straightforward victory. The first depended on a very long port tack out of the tide along the west side of the river, often in water which can only have been very few inches below the keel, judging by the shape of the quarter wave. Harkaway continued her very consistent run with two second places so that at the end of the first day she led by two points from Hands Off.

Sunday started with the sad news that Andy Moss was unwell and that Hands Off would therefore be unable to compete. This left the event open to the locals. It became a tussle between Basilisk and Harkaway. In the first race of the day Basilisk led convincingly, only for a malfunctioning spinnaker pole so to distract the helmsman that she went hard aground, though luckily able to refloat in third place. This allowed Mike Hayles in Naiad to win from Harkaway. Moral: The helmsman’s first duty is to look where they are going!

Harkaway won the second race after an over-enthusiastic Basilisk was recalled at the start. The third race was won by Basilisk, though she never really shook off Harkaway’s attention.

The event showed that a well-sailed Classic, Harkaway built in 1947, was definitely capable of competing very effectively in an event below the very top flight, but still populated by much newer boats and some very experienced helmsmen. She has a remarkable characteristic of being able to point consistently a few degrees higher than her opponents. Very useful on an estuary with bends in it.

Throughout the fleet, there was close racing even if the leaders weren’t challenged and much entertainment and rivalry were had. In the end, Basilisk sailed by Patrick Gifford, Martin Spall and Andrew James, won but her invisible opponent, the mud, had an excellent regatta which it arguably won 2-1.

The Aldeburgh Open Meeting, sometimes also the BDA Classic and Vintage Championships, has now taken place for three years. We have been lucky with the weather each year and it has proved to provide excellent, very close racing of a kind which it is hard to find elsewhere. More visitors would be very welcome and we believe that we can always provide a rather different weekend with some very competitive racing.


1. Basilisk
2. Harkaway
3. Naiad
4. Nooka
5. Hands Off
6. Panther
7. Inditine

VINTAGE WINNER Basilisk – Patrick Gifford, Martin Spall, Andrew Jones

CLASSIC WINNER Harkaway – Tim Hannon, John Chalker, Tim Chalker

  • Patrick Gifford

Image credit: Fleur Hayles – see more here

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