Shoreham RAFA Airshow is the last one of the year for us and also one of our favourites. As it is usually the weekend after Dunsfold it gives us the excuse to spend the days between chilling out on the edge of Chichester Harbour. This year the weather wasn’t up to its usual August standard and instead of walks around the sea shore and barbecues in the sun we spent several days sheltering from wind and rain.
On Friday morning we left Cobwebs for the drive along the coast to Shoreham, via Tesco for a supply top up. Our arrival at Shoreham is rather different to the usual greeting we get when turning up at airshow check-in – “Where are your passes, make sure you keep them on display…..” etc. At the Shoreham gate we are greeted with waves and hugs from Sarah who is always on the gate and works as a volunteer and Vulcan enthusiast. We are the first to arrive and when we locate our pitch are concerned about its small size; our gazebos are 3m x 3m and we have two side by side, this pitch is only 4m wide….oops! When Brian, who is Event Manager, arrives we go in search of organisers to see what can be done. A walk around the site and we are offered a different pitch that is unsuitable but eventually, after a little discussion, we are told to pitch between the bar and the food outlets, closer to the flight line and a brilliant site without any space restrictions.
By this time Sean has arrived with the van loaded with gazebos and what stock is left after a very busy Clacton Airshow the previous week. Despite strong winds the gazebos are soon erected and pegged down, tables assembled and stock laid out ready to trade next morning. We weren’t restricted by the pitch size in our new location so we were able to use three gazebos giving us a 9m frontage and plenty of space.
We stayed on the airfield, pitched behind the stand, so were ready for the off when the other volunteers arrived. After a quick group photo we were ready to meet the crowds as they descended on the show ground.
The stars of the show on Saturday were due to be the BBMF Lancaster accompanied by the visiting Canadian Lancaster, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and our Vulcan XH558. Unfortunately the Canadian Lanc suffered an engine problem the previous day and had to cancel but there was still by far the largest crowd I have ever seen at Shoreham. We were busy all day and quite a few of our lines sold out early.
As usual we shut up shop just before Vulcan was due to display and went outside to watch. We usually make our way forward to the display line but the crowd was so dense that this time we had no chance. Eyes scanned the sky for the first glimpse as we heard that she was passing Worthing and suddenly she was steaming in from the sea, low and fast. A cheer went up from the huge crowd as she came in over the airfield, at first quiet and then roaring as Kev Rumens pulled her up and round in the first wingover. The whole crowd were on their feet for the first time that day and there wasn’t a murmur from them, just complete silence. Whether it was the confines of the Downs and Lancing College that made a difference I don’t know but the display seemed much closer and more dynamic than usual as ‘558 swooped and climbed through the routine, bellowing as Kev pulled her up into another knife edge wingover and briefly howling as the power was applied. By now there were ‘ooh’s’ and sharp intakes of breath from us and the crowd as the old girl strutted her stuff. All too soon it was over as she did another spectacular climb with Kev pulling her over until she seemed to be inverted. Spontaneous applause broke out as she flew away to the east and along the coast via Eastbourne and Hastings, north to overfly her sister at Southend Airport and home to Doncaster.
We were inundated with eager customers for quite a while and by the end of Saturday our stock was looking a bit thin on the tables and our donation buckets were feeling heavy. A successful day all round.
A peaceful night on the airfield and on Sunday we were all ready to do it all again. The difference this time was that we didn’t have a Vulcan in the show as the organisers had only booked her for the one day and boy, did it show. On Saturday there had been traffic jams and packed car parks as people flocked to the show. On Sunday there were no reports of queues or problems parking and the crowd was substantially smaller. All the Vulcan fans had been the previous day which meant that business was very slow for us.
As we had sold so much on Saturday we decided to shrink the display space into two gazebos which we just about managed to fill with stock. We spent much of the day watching the flying displays and we were packed up, remaining stock counted and the van was ready to leave at 6pm-a record time after an air show.
We stayed on site for the night rather than attempt the long trek back to Suffolk and had an easy drive home the next morning.
Just a few days to turn the motorhome around and then off to France….whoopee!