Yachting on film

Maritime Film Festival – January 2020

Sailors are used to getting windswept, wet and cold, but even we sometimes draw the line at doing this in mid-winter and can be reluctant to venture outside in the midst of winter gales. So what better than watching other doing it on film? To enable sailors to get their ‘fix’ of sailing the Woodbridge Riverside Trust and Woolverstone Project therefore put on a unique new event – a Maritime Film Festival. With nine films across three days, there was something for everyone.

Each film had either a talk or preceding short film and in the spirit of the traditional cinema experience, there was always an intermission with ice cream and drinks available. The ice cream sellers were even appropriately dressed for the occasion, though the sight of the Chair of Trustees in a pinny may have reduced rather than increased ice cream sales!

The talks were all by experts in their field and the festival was opened by the Mayor of Woodbridge. In his best Chinese, he welcomed us to the first film – The Yangtse Incident. Rear-Admiral Roy Clare introduced the film and helped set the context for it. Though it tells the story of an incident during the Chinese Civil War in 1949 involving HMS Amethyst, it was actually filmed in 1957 on the River Orwell and Stour with HMS Ganges at Shotley standing in for the Chinese gun emplacements.

The next film was Riddle of the Sands (1979) – a classic tale written by Erskine Childers prior to the First World War predicting the potential for German invasion across the North Sea. The original producer – Drummond Challis – introduced the film telling us the tale of how he ‘persuaded’ Michael York to take the starring role along with Jenny Agutter and Simon MacCorkindale.

Over the following days we had Hollywood blockbusters (Adrift and The Mercy) along with documentaries (Deep Water and Life on the Deben) and the festival finished with the recent Oscar shortlisted and BAFTA nominated film Maiden – the story of Tracy Edwards, a 24-year-old cook on charter boats, who became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989. Having the film introduced by one of the original Maiden crew gave us a great insight into the lengths they had to go to to even get to the start line of the race. Not only did they get to the start, but they came second in class overall – confounding all the critics and doubters in the process.

The two organising charities – ourselves and the Woolverstone Project, who offer sailing for the disabled in Suffolk would like to thank our title sponsor – Claire Rowell Wealth Management from Woodbridge and all the other supporters and sponsors – Seamark Nunn, Dolphin Sails, Suffolk Sails, Fenn Wright, Suffolk Cottage Holidays, Fox’s Marina and Boatyard, Volspec and Suffolk Marine Safety. Their support was a keystone to the success of the festival. With 687 tickets sold across the 9 films, the event was a great success.

So, we are looking forward to next year. What are your favourite maritime films? What would you choose for next year’s festival – perhaps Master and Commander? Or is Waterworld more to your taste? Whatever you fancy, look out for the 2021 festival – it may well be there.

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