I travelled to the Suffolk Coast for the third and last of this summer’s Eastern Counties Beach Rugby series. The weather was kind at Clacton and Gt Yarmouth and although the sun only put in fleeting appearances at Southwold it was warm and the sea was very calm encouraging many of the competitors to have a dip.
Southwold is one of the longest running beach rugby tournaments in the country and although this was billed as its tenth anniversary I have a feeling that it has being going for a year longer than that. My first visit to Southwold for beach rugby was in 2006 when it was open to all ages, but the weekend party format that naturally led to all-day drinking wasn’t really suitable for children. I was in charge of Leisure Rugby at Eastern Counties and was trying to promote Beach Rugby so I suggested to the organisers that Southwold should become an adult-only event as it would only be a matter of time before someone put in a complaint that could jeopardise the event’s future.
Southwold Rugby Club’s committee took the advice on board and now every year between 40 and 60 teams come from all over the country for a weekend that starts with a party on Friday night at the camp site, the tournament itself on the beach, then a themed party on the Saturday (this year it was the Olympics). I haven’t been brave enough to stay over preferring to come for the day, but it is an ideal excuse to visit the renowned Crown Hotel for lunch accompanied by a couple of pints of Adnams!
This year’s 47 teams were a mixture of those that have been coming for a numbers of years along with a few new entrants, and as you would expect with adult sides, the desire to win was stronger that at the more family oriented events. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see a red card brandished at the first game I watched. The rest of the games were played in a much better spirit and everyone was happy when they caught the shuttles back to the Rugby Club to shower.
Click here for pictures from the day
I spoke to some club officials to congratulate them on yet another well run event, in particular Nina Roe who has taken over from Dermot Chapman as the main coordinator, and it was interesting to hear from them how things have changed over the years. In the early years most things were given voluntarily; the vans used for the shuttles between the beach, the venue for the camp-site, so costs were generally pretty low. Now, the transit vans are hired, the location of the camp-site (which has changed a few times over the years) is very good but comes at a cost, and the club has been forced to increase the charges to teams and players. However, the facilities at the beach, club and camp-site are much better and for a weekend of partying and rugby it is still very good value.
At the club I met up with the players from the Camul team made up from Colchester Grammar School Old Boys, some of whom I used to coach when I was at Colchester RFC. My good intentions of saying a few thank yous and well dones before leaving late afternoon for home were undone as we talked about old times, the fateful moment being when we invented a new drink, The Grinder. A pint glass with ice and a shot of Jack Daniels to which is added cider. Try it, it is surprisingly good, the spirit countering the sweetness of the cider.
A couple of Grinders later I agreed to go back to the camp-site to check out the facilities which included a bar in a large marquee and plentiful Portaloos. Thankfully I managed to resist the temptation to stay over and I was once again grateful that Hilary was on hand to get me home.
So Beach Rugby in Eastern Counties is over for another season with over 100 teams taking part and well over a thousand people enjoying the sun, sea, sand and the unique core vales of Rugby. I look forward to supporting next year’s series of events.