Friday 23rd May 2003: There was nothing clear or bright about the dawn on Friday. It was raining, windy, and foggy, all at the same time. The weather men said the strong South West wind would increase and there would be more rain - lots of it.
At 0800 the Annual Royal Escape Yacht Race, promoted by the Sussex Yacht Club, Shoreham and The Old Ship Hotel was due to start between the two piers. There would be a champagne breakfast at The Ship. I would be better off there I thought.
The zip broke on my waterproof jacket. There were five of us on board the Millie D, a Nicholson 35. We were all old friends but upset that David Cranstone had been taken ill the day before. He was our most experienced sailor. Our engineer, electrician, cook and confidante.
As we approached the start, the Mayoress of Brighton broke radio silence and wished us all good luck. “We’ll need it” I said as I looked for my gloves and tried to mend my jacket. I was cold, wet and apprehensive and the race had not begun.
The next 20 minutes were exciting. It always is at the start, but especially with some 90 boats all at close quarter. Dominic, our helm, did a good job at the start despite the crews’ failure to follow the countdown. Never mind, we were off with the leaders.
The race is some 62 miles to Fécamp. We rounded a race buoy, off King Alfred and headed out to the Greenwich Light Vessel in mid Channel. Millie D was now pitching into the sea, just off the wind. It was hard going. Andrew steered a good course and in some four hours we were close to the Light Vessel. Some of our crew, but not Skipper Jonathan, were feeling ill. Was it better to stay on deck, be cold, wet and drenched every few minutes or go below for a warm-up and feel even worse?
Back to Charles II. All agree he had a difficult childhood. He lived with his father in Oxford until the Parliamentarians defeated the Royal Army. Charles I stopped to face the music and lost his head. His son slipped off to the Continent. Now our hero, a real chip off the old block, was back in Scotland within a few months. At the age of 20 he accepted the Scots’ offer to be their King; raised an army and marched on London. Maybe the English were not too keen on the Scots. And, without popular support, he was defeated at Worcester. His escape is quite a story. Hiding in an oak tree, dressed as a maid - true or false? The fact is he was 6ft. 3”, had a dark face and a very long nose. He must have been recognised many times but nobody betrayed him.
Ten hours into the race we were in sight of the French coast. The wind had moderated and twice we changed sails. We had made good progress and the crew cheered up. We would be in Fécamp in time for dinner. Bifteck, tarte aux pommes, fromage, even boisson compris.
Ninety boats had set out from Brighton, some had retired but most arrived in good order. Of course we all enjoyed telling each other about our adventures. On Saturday there was a celebration dinner at the Hotel Normandy. The French Yacht Club and its Commodore made us very welcome. Their Commodore made a speech: “According to the press we are enemies but underneath we are real friends”.
Sailing is not an elitist sport. It brings all kinds of people together to share in a common adventure. The Sussex Yacht Club and Brighton Marina Yacht Club make new comers welcome. “Well how did you do, Parker?” - I was afraid you weren’t going to ask. We came second in our class and third overall. Our crew are pleased with themselves and we have won some handsome prizes.
Summer 1660, London: Captain Tettersell sailed the Surprise up the Thames. King Charles II was now King of England. Captain Tettersell was made an officer in the Royal Navy and given an annuity. Later he purchased the Ship Inn, Brighton.