Rugby School wins the Arrow Trophy 2012

The Old Rugbeian Sailing Club equalled the historic record number of Arrow Trophy wins as it secured a stunning third victory ahead of a twenty boat fleet in the 2012 edition of the leading independent schools regatta. Sailed out of Cowes over the weekend 6-7th October, the OR Team displayed highly consistent crew-work and some outstanding tactical knowledge to beat a fleet where the levels of sailing and standards of racing have notably increased.

The nucleus of the sailing team has been together since 2005 but the OR Team has consistently developed over the years, encouraging younger OR’s to participate whenever it can with the annual OR Match against the school at Draycote Water in the Summer Term being a key recruiting ground for future development of the OR Arrow Team. Notably this year, Rugby’s skipper, Oliver Dix (Tu + W 00-05), stepped into the limelight for the first time in his own right fully supported by the “A” Team and the results speak for themselves. Olly has matured as a sailor into a wonderfully smooth helmsman and an authoritative skipper with a deep understanding of the vagaries of match-racing and it is a joy to watch him sailing and leading the team so well.

However a helmsman can only ever be as good as his crew, and this year we were lucky enough to have on the boat, the following: (on the bow) Henry Clarke (M 93-98), Will Jones and Polly Fairbanks (nee Bielecka) (St 96-98); amidships: Charlie Cruise (C97-02), Tom Davidson (SF 97-02), Ed Scutt (M79-81) and Kate Johnson (nee Mayo) (B 93-95); Mainsheet: Ludo Bennett-Jones (W 04-09), afterguard: Oliver Dix and Magnus Wheatley. In short, there were no weak links and from the outset it was clear that Rugby were in an elite few boats capable of winning. The Arrow, however, is a tricky regatta to win. You can’t win the Arrow on Saturday but you can certainly lose it so we had to be at our best right from the outset. 

Saturday dawned cold and rainy with a reasonably consistent 10 knots of breeze. The schedule for the day was for four short, sharp fleet races followed by a lengthy ‘round-the-cans’ fleet race zig zagging across the mid-Solent late in the afternoon. The secret with the short races is consistency and boat positioning to try and maximise on inconsistencies throughout the fleet with some schools have stunning success followed by mediocre results. The Old Rugbeians stayed calm and collected as they posted middling results consisting of a 6th, 7th, 3rd, 6th in the first four races (plus an outstanding protest in race 2) and knew that a good result was required in the long, final race as the evening drew in.

And what a result it was! There was a feeling on the boat that we had very good boat speed and were working well as a unit together; however none of us could have predicted just how well we would go when we were released from the tight, packed short races into clear air and tidal conditions. Rugby started well but then had a poor middle beat before clawing back into the lead as the first mark approached and never looked back. The OR’s sailed away from the fleet in a fading breeze to record a ‘horizon job’ some 8-10 minutes ahead of the chasing pack – in fact we were fully packed up with the mainsail stowed and half way down the Medina River before the next boat finished! A very satisfying feeling!

All was now set for the Sunday showdown as Rugby qualified in 3rd place overall for the match-racing which saw the top four boats advance whilst the rest of the fleet were separated off for a one race, long course for the Charterhouse Bowl. Rugby however, was pitted against last year’s winners Charterhouse, a well-drilled team from Ampleforth and an invigorated team from Radley. We had one goal – to win the Arrow Trophy!

In a light and shifting breeze on the Sunday, it was all down to tactics and crew-work with Olly really calling the shots as an expert match-racer. There was a sense that Olly was always well within his limits, even if privately he was just as tense as the rest of us, but he guided the team to four outstanding victories, never giving up even on hopeless situations and always either trying to extend the lead or minimise the losses. It was a tactic that saw the Rugby boat as the class act in the field as we easily beat Radley, scored a penalty onto Charterhouse before defending like crazy and scored another penalty on Ampleforth in the pre-start manoeuvres negating that race and affording a simple win.

The best of three final against Charterhouse was always going to be a tough one to complete as the light north-easterlies were struggling to fill over by Calshot Spit, however the first race did get away with Rugby losing the start but spotting the breeze better to lead by quite a margin at the top mark. From there on it was a case of holding our nerve to the finish line and not putting a foot wrong. After an agonising final run against the tide, Rugby gybed onto starboard right on the finish line and recorded the win. Some ten minutes later, Charterhouse crossed after agonisingly drifting against a foul tide slowly to the line and it was clear to everyone that the day’s racing was now over.

After a brief skipper’s chat on board the committee boat, it was decided to abandon racing for the day and award the Arrow Trophy 2012 to Rugby School. The victory means that we are now tied with Winchester and Bradfield on three wins apiece in the competition, surely an historic fourth in 2013 is now the ultimate goal and with this team…who knows?

As always, our thanks go to the Arrow Trophy organising committee, the race officers and umpires who selflessly gave their time and to the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club for their continued support of the event and for hosting the annual dinner on the Saturday night.

A quick word of promotion. If you are an OR and would like to come and join the team to participate in the Arrow Trophy or the annual match against the School then do please get in touch with either myself as President ( or to the Commodores of the OR Sailing Club: Oliver Dix ( or Henry Clarke ( The OR Sailing Club will do all that it can to financially assist those under 25 who would like join and are  very keen to encourage the next generation of sailors through the ranks. The Club is lively and regularly organises dinners and social events so do please come and join us – young or old – you are most welcome.

Magnus Wheatley (Sh 88-90)
President of the Old Rugbeian Sailing Club