Seventeen Dragons were to contest the 2011 RCYC Dragon Easter Regatta. That number included Gitane (Colin Brereton), Merlin (Rob Riddell) and Mystere (James Peters) all the way from the fledgling Abersoch fleet in North Wales. All three of these boats made something of a return to East Coast waters, each having previously raced out of Lowestoft. Making the much shorter trip from the Medway, we had a single visitor, Scimitar (Julian and Claire Sowry), and from the Solent fleet came Alecto (Charles Cronin). A challenging series of ten races were scheduled over four days, with a combination of 'round the cans' and 'windward leeward' courses providing a good early season test of boat skills and stamina.
Friday morning started with a teasing Easterly breeze that initially allowed boats to make way over the flood tide before the decision was made to return all crews to the bar for lunch - none having made the first mark rounding despite best efforts. Conditions improved for Race One to start from the club line with Avalanche (Mark and Mandy Wade) out in front for the majority of the race. Under pressure from second place Scimitar, Avalanche hit the mud, and even though yours truly was over the side in a flash, Scimitar lead Avalanche to the finish.
On Saturday the fleet managed two races from the club line after a three hour postponement, Avalanche winning Race Two and Flame Again (David Hall) winning Race Three. Going aground was a feature of Saturday's racing with Varfor Da Da (World Champion Tim Tavinor) showing us how to go aground in a number of different ways only to be outdone by Hands Off (Mike Holmes) who ended up highest and driest. The long postponement was all too tempting for the ...Magic crew (names omitted due to super injunction) who were clearly visible enjoying the sunshine and Chablis outside the Oyster Smack. Although ...Magic ended 'lunch' to participate in the first race of the day they were mysteriously absent from the second race.
Flame Again went on to score a hat-trick of 'bullets' by winning Races Four and Five, the first of four windward leeward races on Sunday. Races Six and Seven were won by Beauty and the Beast (Rob Campbell). The racing was challenging, in light conditions beating against the tide and there was much to decide in each race. Where to start? Which shore to take upwind? Which leeward mark to round? When to tack into the tide for the finish?
This was to be the last day of racing for the Welsh and Medway Dragons as tides were not favourable for lifting boats out on Monday. The Abersoch Fleet enjoyed some time leading the established river crews off the start line but none were able to hold on for a podium position. James Peters came closest with a fourth place in Race Four. The Abersoch visitors probably tacked their boats as much in three days on the Crouch than they would in a season out of Abersoch.
Racing began on Monday with Beauty and the Beast leading Flame Again by a single point and Avalanche by two points. The fleet of 12 remaining competitors were faced with a small course run from a start line at Jubilee to a windward mark almost at Branklet. Starts were very competitive, and despite impressive boat speed from Flame Again, who scored second and third respectively, it was Avalanche that finished first in Races Eight and Nine. With Beauty and the Beast recording a fifth and a sixth it was Avalanche with a slim points advantage going into Race Ten, but being a two discard series, there was still a contest between these three boats. Race Ten was eventful, and although Hands Off built and maintained a healthy lead to round off an otherwise quiet series, places changed in the fleet more than in almost any of the previous nine races.
Avalanche had done enough to win overall from Flame Again then Beauty and the Beast. Spindrift (Gary Harrison) finished fourth counting only top five placings, ahead of Varfor Da Da in fifth place. The win for Avalanche was a fitting reward for Mark and Mandy who, in their first major role as Fleet Captains had organised a fantastic Easter Regatta. At the prize giving Mandy was quick to pay thanks to the Race Committee and support team, the RCYC, the Crane team, the visitors and local fleet.
On shore stamina was further tested with a great RCYC programme of dining and dancing.
Full results are available here...
Noddy (Andrew Norden)