The Endeavour title is a prestigious one both to compete for and to hold. First raced in 1961, it annually crowns dinghy sailing's champion of champions. Reflecting its stature, a team of truly world class suppliers supported this year's event, with Topper, Hyde Sails, Seldon, Henri Lloyd, English Braids and Marlin Ribs joining Holt as event sponsors. Holt themselves have a strong historic connection with the event - one of their founding partners, Beecher Moore, originally donated the beautiful trophy, a scale model of the J-Class Endeavour.
This year's fleet comprised 28 current national champions, with high-calibre names such as Roger Gilbert and James Stewart (Merlin Rocket), Rob and Peter Greenhalgh (International 14), and Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne (National 12), all anxious to make their mark. Holt were again offering a generous first prize cheque of £500, matching it with a further £500 donated straight to the John Merricks Sailing Trust, giving the sailors even more of an incentive.
In the days running up to 6-7 October, it looked like the racing at at Burnham on Crouch might be hampered by light winds. However the weekend actually brought good breezes of force 3-4, ideal for the fleet of Topper Xenons. The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club organisers were as delighted as the competitors that the full eight race schedule could go ahead. However, just in case the wind failed to materialise on Sunday, Race Officer Kim Allen scheduled five of the 30-45 minute windward/leeward races into Saturday's programme.
In race one, with an easterly force 4, the tide turned just before the start, pushing the fleet over the line and resulting in a general recall. However, they were away with the next attempt and Steve Tylecote was already well ahead of Nick Craig by the end of the first windward leg. He maintained this lead until the end, keen to make his intentions felt. The Fireball team of Tom Jeffcoate and Mark Hogan bagged second place. Nick Craig and Steve Dunn took third, and Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne blasted through to take fourth.
It remained Tylecote and Lewis' day as they went on to win the second race, took second place behind Roger Gilbert and James Stewart in the third, and again won the fourth one with the tide slackening considerably.
The wind increased to 17 knots for the fifth and final race of the day, allowed Craig and Dunn to wrestle their first victory of the day. Tylecote and Jeffcoate, both with consistent results to that point, took a tumble down the fleet, with an 8th and 14th respectively.
With the series operating just one discard, this left the overnight standings showing Tylecote in first place with 5 points, Craig in second with 12, Jeffcoate in third with 14, then Gilbert with 18.
After the customary Endeavour dinner on Saturday night, Sunday dawned with a gradually strengthening breeze, increasing to a chilly 15 knots by the start of the day's first race. With the course on the Crouch giving competitors a choice of more wind, less tide; or more tide, less wind, the downwind legs in particular became more tricky.
Keith Escritt and Elaine Marsh (Vortex) made the best decisions of the first race, leading the way and taking the win from Gilbert and Stewart. Tylecote had a dreadful first lap but fought back to tenth, while Craig finally struggled in at 22nd.
The second race of the day was a similar tale. Gilbert and Stewart took the win, separated from Escritt and Marsh by Steve Cumley and Eluned Jones (Lark). Tylecote came in with a sixth, but Craig could produce only a 17th. With the scores so erratic, the competitors can be forgiven for not being sure who was in pole position going into the final race. However, the results saw Gilbert move up to just two points behind Tylecote; and Escritt rocketed ahead of Craig up to third, boosted from an overnight sixth place.
So going into the final race, Gilbert needed to beat Tylecote by three places to claim the title, while Craig needed to beat Escritt by six places to take third.
The Race Team paused to move the course to the mouth of the Roach to cater for the northerly-shifting 10 knot breeze. Then, with the wind ever decreasing and the tide slackening, the fleet got their final chance to stamp their marks on the event.
It was Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne who really took that chance. They rediscovered their first race form from Saturday, and this time led the field all the way. Meanwhile Craig, Tylecote, and Chris and John Gill (Europe) battled it out for second to fourth positions. Tylecote took the second and the Gills picked up third, leaving Craig with fourth. Gilbert crossed the line in seventh.
Overall, Tylecote triumphantly took the Endeavour crown, with Gilbert second for the second year running. Together they knocked Craig from his winning series of Endeavour titles, but Craig will doubtless be looking to redress the balance soon. Meanwhile Tylecote, who was fifth in last year's event, is a highly worthy new champion of champions and fantastic ambassador for the Firefly fleet.
The prizegiving was a sparkling affair with a commitment from Ben Dunton of Holt for the next three years. Acknowledgement was made of the support of Topper together with Seldon Masts and Hyde Sails which has made the Championships unique for the past three years. Edwin Buckley, who has master minded the event for several years, was pleased to tell the competitors about the RYA Dinghy Sailing Show which takes place 1st & 2nd March 2008. This event will feature The Endeavour Championship and the role it plays in the encouragement of dinghy sailing throughout the UK.
The delight of the new Champions was evident to all to see and Steve Tylecote acknowledged that "just to come is an honour and a privilege!" He reckoned that it was a hard event and it would take a week to recover, especially when the Race Officer "slipped in the extra lap!" He and Toby Lewis went away with Henri Lloyd jackets, the Holt's special prize of £500 with another £500 to the John Merrick's Trust, but, best of all, the promise that their names will be engraved on the trophy.