Background to the Champagne Challenge

The Champagne Challenge was originally conceived by ESC member Mike Saunders in 1992. Being a senior figure in Fulfords Estate Agents he produced Fulfords flags and used it as an advertising medium to great effect, so that the event grew quickly. It was conceived as a “fun event” and from the outset the sailing instructions advised that the handicapping was secret and would be adjusted so that champion helms did not win the race year after year.

To add to the appeal, the event was split into 2 classes, starting half an hour apart. The slow or comfort class started first and this included many of the 1970s bilge keel boats like Westerly centaurs and little Hunter Horizons. The fast class always attracted the bigger yachts who were usually to be seen in major coastal regattas but always the winner was surprised that they were in the “chocolates”, which helped keep everyone’s interest.

Mike was canny enough to realise that offering a “champagne reception” had a certain cachet (even if it wasn’t champagne), and that made the event very attractive, especially if you have no entry fee and a very attractive wife to present the prizes. To widen the appeal even further, he added novelty prizes for things such as the oldest or youngest competitor, the boat with the most children or the boat with a dog on-board. People quickly realised that this was a great way to celebrate the end of the sailing season especially as the path to Brixham was rarely a difficult one.

By the late 90s, the fleet was typically 40 boats and this peaked about 2008 with nearly 60. Today we still get 40 – 50 boats of all descriptions and from all parts of the river and sometimes from clubs down the coast. Despite having had a succession of sponsors, the nature of the race has not changed and the appeal of a 3 hour race (or not, as you choose) followed by a sociable gathering on the Brixham pontoon, followed by a champagne reception and a relaxed meal in the yacht club, has not diminished. This is truly an event for young and old alike, for real cruisers or out and out racers and is probably the biggest one day sailing event in this part of England. (Round the Island race doesn’t invite everyone to drinks and dinner in the evening.)

We hope you will come along and enjoy it, especially if you’ve never been tempted before.

Recent Winners


2010 Paul Goody  Chris Rhodes
2011 Rick Newcombe Mike Horwood
2012   Rex Frost  Bob Green
2013   Steve Best  Michael Griffin
 2014  Mark Jenkins  Nick Martin
 2015 Malcolm Lynn Bob Green

2016 Results

Fast Results

Club Results

 More Pictures

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