Sponsored by Holt, dinghy sailing's leading performance hardware manufacturer, the Endeavour title is a prestigious one to both compete for and to hold. Holt also offer a mammoth first prize cheque of £500 to the winning team, matched by a further £500 donated straight to the John Merricks Sailing Trust, a further incentive to win.
Last year, Nick Craig became the Endeavour champion for the second year running and he was clearly aiming for a hat-trick in 2006. He was up this year against RS200 sailors Roger and Katrina Gilbert, Paul Bayliss from the RS700s, Firefly sailors Steve Tylecote and David Ellis, Mirror national and European champion Hector Cisneros and the Solos supermo Jamie Lea who was benefiting from Adam May's crewing skills. Certainly a wealth of sailing talent to make your heart beat faster at the start.
The Endeavour is steeped in history: The event itself was born in 1961 as Robin Judah's idea for a competition to reveal the year's dinghy champion of champions. Beecher Moore, one of Holt's founding partners, provided the trophy - a scale model of the J-Class, Endeavour, which in 1934 he and his fellow RCYC members had crewed in the America's Cup.
This year, Kim Allen's race team were planning a programme of eight 30-45 minute windward/leeward races over the weekend, with five on the breezy Saturday, three to follow on Sunday and seven to count. Kim offered no apologies for loading the bulk of the racing into the breeziest day. "It's a tough event," he commented. "It's not called The Endeavour for nothing." However, with 23 brand new Xenons, provided for the event by Topper, each crew would be competing with identical equipment - boats which Nick Craig called "perfect" for the event.
The strong spring tides meant it proved to be a weekend for tactics, while the mixture of wind strengths focused everyone's attention on boat handling skills - from heavy weather gybing to light wind roll tacking. It became a true test of all-round racing capability and every competitor had conditions where they were really able to shine.
The racing began with strong wind against tide and choppy waters on the Saturday. There were plenty of capsizes, with Nick Craig and crew James Stewart one of the first casualties. Despite a good recovery, they could not catch Paul Bayliss and Jane Olive (RS700) and Roger and Katrina Gilbert (RS200).
As the weekend progressed and the wind moderated, Nick and James pulled themselves together and won four of the remaining seven races. This allowed them to discard their first race result, becoming Endeavour 2006 champions - Nick's third consecutive win to equal Ian Southworth's record.
Roger and Katrina Gilbert from the RS200s were not far behind and achieved second place overall - though from the second race their cumulative points after discard never placed them ahead of Nick and James. They relished the breezy weather on Saturday morning but also had a stunning victory in the lighter winds of Sunday's first race, which they won by nearly three minutes.
Jamie Lea from the Solos, with crew Adam May, must have been disappointed with their results on Sunday - an OCS, a 7th and an 18th ruined a previously steady bank of seconds and fourths. Initially vying with Roger and Katrina for second place, their lack of consistency meant they had to settle for fourth. Hector Cisneros and his crew Graham Williamson took advantage of Jamie's plight and happily snapped up third place.
There were some fabulous younger sailors taking part in their first Endeavour this year. 15 year old Cadet national champion, Katrina Brewer, was the only lady helm. She put in a very encouraging performance, even in the windy conditions where she and dad, Andrew, were a little on the light side. Topper sailor Bleddyn Mon and his crew Tom Humphries had some rigging disasters on Saturday which scuppered their day. However they proved their worth on Sunday with a strong 8th in race 6.
The competitors all enjoyed the event enormously, citing the great conditions, stunning race management, fabulous boats and support from all the organisers and sponsors as reasons for its success.
Ben Dunton was pleased to announce Holt's continuing sponsorship for the Endeavour in 2007 and we'll have to wait until then to see if Nick Craig can make it four out of four.