Last year the Flying Fifteen open meeting at Burnham attracted five competitors - this year Justin Waples promised to double the entry and he nearly made it, nine competitors, eight visitors! Burnham had a lot to live up to as the previous open meeting, the European Championships, took place on Lake Garda and even the stoutest promoters of Burnham must admit that Lake Garda has the edge for scenery...
After a gruelling week of racing, Chris & Tom, Mad Sparks, GBR 3994, finished the regatta in 8th and Justin & Iain, Bright Sparks, GBR 3954, were in 13th place. Next stop, Burnham on Crouch...
The competitors arrived at the marina on Saturday morning and were met by ‘Burnham at its best’, a light force 2 and clear blue skies. Rigging and launching down the slip was very simple and in no time at all the boats were in the water.
The fleet sailed in an informal sprint race up-river for the first race of the day, which was won by Pip Hudson. Principal Race Officer Edwin Buckley set two races around the cans on Saturday.
Race 1 started as a reach in around 8 knots and the race looked set until the fourth mark where a decision had to be made as to which side of the river to take to counter the strong ebb tide. Both Waples boys opted to take the south shore, where John Hanson said to crew (Andy Ramsey – local Burnham Squib sailor) "I take it we will follow them then", to be met with a curious response of "I have no idea why they are going that way!" And so it transpired the north shore proved to be the best option with Hanson, Hopson and Hudson taking the first three positions.
Race 2 involved more of the same but now the wind was beginning to die. Andy Clark sailed a brilliant first leg to lead the fleet by some considerable distance and extended throughout the race. As we drifted down-river under a limp spinnaker we were met by a RIB lying flying a flag next to one of the marks. The leading boats were rounding up and dropping their spinnakers, so it was a reasonable assumption that the race was shortened. However as we set off home we saw the committee boat moored up and obviously expecting a finish. This caused quite a kerfuffle, and the race was on again. The dash for the line mixed the results up somewhat with Hudson taking the win from Hanson and Clark.
Dinner on Saturday night was excellent with all 18 competitors sitting outside at the same table, recounting stories of the day's racing. We were also joined by Edwin and the Admiral of the RCYC. It emerged that Andy Clark’s crew, Agnes, had been hit on the head by the boom of her boat, not once but twice!
Day Two was cloudy with more wind, proving that the river throws up something different every day. This time the fleet raced informally race down river from the club line to a starting point near the Roach. There was a little confusion as to when we were supposed to start and two boats decided to start with the flags, but five minutes early.
The remaining three races were back to back using a windward-leeward format, and each race lasted 45 minutes. In Race 3 Justin Waples got the jump on the fleet to take the victory from brother Chris and Hanson in third. The conditions were an improvement on the previous day, with a gusty 10-15 knots and decent waves to work downwind. Chris and Tom took Race 4 by a considerable margin from Hanson and Clark. Race 5 followed a similar pattern with close racing throughout the fleet but it was not until the final beat that the final positions overall were decided. Justin followed Chris over the line, but Hudson managed to sail through Hanson to take third.
Then it was back home to the Marina where again recovery was an easy affair. No one had any idea of the final results until prize giving at the RCYC. Chris Waples won the event on count-back from John Hanson who sailed an excellent regatta with Justin Waples taking third on count-back from Pip Hudson.
It was a fantastic weekend, sailing with a variety of race formats. The weekend offered the varied sailing that Crouch gives, with cunning and guile equally as important as boat speed. Huge thanks must go the Race Officer and his team who set a great course in demanding conditions, and to RCYC for their fantastic hospitality as always.
Hopefully see you all in Burnham next year where we could see up to twenty boats...